May 18, 2005 – The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts sued the US federal government Monday claiming its support of a Christian teen abstinence program amounts to promoting a form of religion.
The suit, filed in US District Court in Boston, criticizes the Department of Health and Human Services for granting more than $1 million in federal funds over the past three years to "The Silver Ring Thing" (SRT).
The 'abstinence-only-until-marriage' education program has held events in eleven states, using music and comedy skits to discourage teens from becoming sexually active. In the suit, the ACLU quotes SRT organizers as saying their true purpose is "to bring faith into the lives of students," to offer "a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as the best way to live a sexually pure life" and "to call our world to Christ."
The ACLU argues that HSS funds the program's religious activities and content in violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which has been widely interpreted to guarantee a strict separation between church and state.
The ACLU and the law firm that joined the suit, Jenner & Block LLP, are asking the court to order HSS to stop paying for the program.