ACLU Files Suit Over Abstinence Program, Citing Religious Content

May 17, 2005

Source: The Boston Globe

On May 17, 2005 The Boston Globe reported, "the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in federal court in Boston yesterday challenging the US government's funding of a faith-based abstinence program called the Silver Ring Thing, arguing that the public contribution of more than $1 million violates the constitutional separation of church and state. The nationwide initiative, which has held four events in the Boston area since 2002 and is planning more, urges middle school and high school students to forgo premarital sex and buy silver rings to symbolize their vow of abstinence. The three-hour events have drawn tens of thousands of young people since the program began 10 years ago. In its suit against the US Department of Health and Human Services, the ACLU contends that the program's primary aim is to spread Christianity... 'Federal tax dollars are clearly underwriting religious indoctrination,' said Julie Sternberg, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, which prepared the suit. The federal government can fund faith-based programs that perform social services, Sternberg said, but it cannot bankroll activities that explicitly promote a religion."