ACLU Announces Settlement in Case Against Taxpayer Financing of Religion in Louisiana Abstinence-Only Programs

New Orleans – The American Civil Liberties Union today announced a settlement with the Louisiana governor’s office in a case challenging the use of taxpayer dollars to fund religious activities in the Governor’s Program on Abstinence.

“We are gratified that the governor’s office has agreed to keep religion out of state-sponsored sex education programs,” said Catherine Weiss, Director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project and a lawyer in the case. “This settlement should put other states on notice that using taxpayer money to promote religious beliefs violates the basic principle of religious freedom and will not be tolerated.”

Under the settlement, the governor’s abstinence program, also known as GPA, has agreed to monitor closely the activities of all the programs it funds.

ACLU Announces Settlement in Challenge to Government-Funded Religion in the Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Program the “Silver Ring Thing”

BOSTON — The American Civil Liberties Union today announced a settlement with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in a case challenging federal funding of religious activities in a nationwide abstinence-only-until-marriage program, the Silver Ring Thing.

“We are pleased that the government has agreed to stop using taxpayer dollars to fund the Silver Ring Thing’s religious activities,” said Julie Sternberg, a Senior Staff Attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “The ACLU supports the right of Silver Ring Thing to offer religious programming, but it may not do so using government funds.”

In today’s settlement, HHS agreed that it will not fund the Silver Ring Thing’s abstinence-only-until-marriage education program as it is currently structured and that any future funding is contingent on the Silver Ring Thing’s compliance with federal law prohibiting the use of federal funds to support religious activities.

What the Research Shows: Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs Don’t Work

There is no conclusive evidence that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, which teach students to abstain from sex until married and generally only teach about contraceptive failure, reduce the rate of unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Moreover, research indicates that many of these programs do not help teens delay having sex. The federal government has funneled well over half a billion dollars since 1997 into abstinence-only programs, steadily increasing funding in recent years to more than $165 million annually.

On the other hand, evidence shows that comprehensive sexuality education programs that provide information about abstinence and contraception can help delay the start of sexual activity in teenagers and increase condom use among sexually active teens.

REPORT: Putting Teens At Risk: A Report on Abstinence-Only Programs in North Carolina

ARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina Foundation and American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Foundation

Young people need and deserve complete, accurate, and culturally and age-appropriate
information about their reproductive health, including abstinence, pregnancy prevention,
and sexually transmitted disease (STD) and HIV/AIDS prevention. Sexuality education
in public schools is one way to impart important information and skills for students to
delay sexual intercourse and to use safer sexual methods when they do not choose to
abstain. In North Carolina, this is particularly crucial due to the following alarming
statistics:

• NC has the ninth highest teen pregnancy rate in the US.