NEW ORLEANS – The American Civil Liberties Union was disconcerted by a Louisiana court’s refusal late yesterday to hold the Governor’s Program on Abstinence in contempt of a 2002 order requiring the state to keep religion out of the taxpayer-funded program.
“The evidence in this case is clear. By featuring religious materials and promoting one religious perspective on its official Web site, the Governor’s Program on Abstinence is violating the 2002 court order requiring the state to stop using public dollars to promote religion in any way,” said Louise Melling, Director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “We are troubled by the court’s refusal to stop the state’s proselytizing on the public’s dime.”
Under a November 2002 settlement, which in part incorporated an earlier court order, the governor’s program agreed to closely monitor the activities of all grantees and to stop using public money to “convey religious messages or otherwise advance religion in any way.”
However, according to court papers filed by the ACLU reproductive freedom in January, the governor’s program continues to feature religious materials on its official Web site, AbstinenceEdu.com. State-appointed experts advise readers, for example, that “abstaining from sex until entering a loving marriage will . . . [make you] really, truly, ‘cool’ in God’s eyes” and that “God is standing beside you the whole way” if you commit to abstinence. The Web site also features articles with religious messages, including one that states, “God chooses this one sin [sex outside of marriage] above all others as the most destructive to your soul and spirit.”
“If telling kids that abstaining from sex will bring them closer to God isn’t religion, I don’t know what is,” said Joe Cook, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana. “Taxpayer money shouldn’t be used to deliver sermons. Period.”
In recent years, the federal government has funneled hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars into abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, even though evidence shows that these programs do not stop teens from having sex before marriage and that they actually deter sexually active teens from protecting themselves from unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease.