President Bush's abstinence-only education spending spree is coming under fresh scrutiny this week; the American Civil Liberties Union announced it is suing the federal government for giving more than $1 million in faith-based funding to Silver Ring Thing, a program that encourages teens to take abstinence pledges. The ACLU says the program has used the fed funding to preach about God, hand out Bibles and give teens a silver ring inscribed with Scripture to symbolize their chastity vow. Over 30,000 teens in the U.S., Britain and South Africa have taken the pledge, and program founder Denny Pattyn has vowed to put two million rings on teens' fingers by 2010. ("We don't ever want to take the gospel out of our message because we believe the power for abstinence is a changed heart," Pattyn has said.)
The group's message obliterates any separation between church and state, said Carol Rose, Executive Director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, in a statement: "The Silver Ring Thing is nothing more than a vehicle for converting young people to Christianity. Our taxpayer dollars should play no part in such a program."
San Francisco-based freelance journalist Julia Scott writes about water and energy issues for various publications. She also covers the environment for Bay Area News Group, a chain of newspapers in Northern California.