Thursday, February 23, 2006

Federal government agrees to stop funding abstinence-only program

BOSTON - A nationwide abstinence-only program that uses a silver ring to remind teens to remain sexually pure has lost federal funding with the settlement of a lawsuit alleging it used the money for Christian evangelization.

The Silver Ring Thing, which presents its message though comedy skits and music, has received more than $1 million in federal funding during the past three years.

But it won't be eligible for more unless it changes its program to ensure the money isn't used for religious purposes, according to the agreement reached Wednesday between the American Civil Liberties Union and Department of Health and Human Services.

"Public funds were being used to fund a road show, really, to convert teens to Christianity," said Julie Sternberg, an ACLU attorney.

Sternberg said the ACLU supports the program's right to offer religious content, but not with taxpayer money. She added she hopes the lawsuit is a "wake-up call" to the federal government to more closely monitor the abstinence-only programs it funds.

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