Abstinence Group’s Federal Funding Withheld

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has withheld a grant from the Silver Ring Thing, an abstinence-only education program, after finding that the program did not adequately separate the religious components from its federally funded activities. The Washington Post reports that Harry Wilson, associate commissioner of the Family and Youth Services Bureau, wrote a letter saying that the Silver Ring Thing’s abstinence-only education program “includes both secular and religious components that are not adequately safeguarded,” and the group must submit a “corrective action plan” to receive the $75,000 grant they were previously awarded.

Earlier this year, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against HHS for allowing over $1 million of federal money to go to the Silver Ring Thing, which promotes Christianity. In the complaint, the ACLU described the website, activities and materials of the program as “permeated with religion,” reports the Washington Post. ACLU Senior Staff Attorney Julie Sternberg said, “We are pleased that the Department of Health and Human Services [has] recognized that the Silver Ring Thing was blatantly misusing public dollars.”

Executive Director of the ACLU of Massachusetts Carol Rose hoped that this ruling was only a first step, saying, “The federal government needs to take a closer look at its funding of other abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. These programs have been proved not only ineffective, but also dangerous to the health and well-being of teens.”

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ACLU Press Release 8/22/05; Washington Post 8/23/05

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