The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has reached a settlement with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding the abstinence education program known as the Silver Ring Thing, which was receiving government funding despite the religious content of its materials. As part of the settlement, HHS will not fund the current version of the Silver Ring Thing, all possible future grants will require the program become fully compliant with federal law prohibiting the use of federal funds for religious activities, and HHS will closely monitor any future grants to the Silver Ring Thing.
Last August, as a result of the ACLU lawsuit, HHS withheld a $75,000 grant to the program because it “includes both secular and religious components that are not adequately safeguarded,” and the group was told submit a “corrective action plan” before receiving funds. The ACLU considers these actions and the recent settlement to be positive steps toward reevaluating government support of abstinence-only education programs. Daniel Mach, attorney with the ACLU on this case, said, “Today’s settlement should serve as a wake-up call for HHS to better monitor the abstinence-only-until-marriage organizations they fundÉ We will continue to fight any violations we may find.”