Can we be good without God? The question seems somehow abstract, a topic for Atlantic Monthly cover stories and college seminars more than practical applications. So here's another question: Can we keep our pants on?

Ironically, the group that often answers "yes" to the first question says "no" to the second. And some believe that not only can't we stay chaste, but we should not.

"An abstinence-until-marriage program is not only irresponsible," U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said last year. "It's really inhumane."

South Dakota Planned Parenthood apparently agrees. Governor Mike Rounds last summer complained about the state library's teen website link to Planned Parenthood's hypersexual site TeenWire. So Planned Parenthood demanded that the library board also remove a link to CT sister publication Campus Life because it promotes abstinence. If you can't tell teens to have sex, Planned Parenthood says, you can't tell them not to have sex. Not that TeenWire is entirely against "abstinence." It includes such chaste advice as, "Some straight couples use anal sex as a way to preserve the woman's virginity."

Then there's NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, which in mid-July held a "Screw Abstinence" party. The event might be merely juvenile rather than creepy had it not come from an abortion-rights group, notes Focus on the Family's Linda Klepacki. "It's clear NARAL wants your kids to be sexually active because it's good for business," she says.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the National Education Association, and more than 100 other groups asked the Health and Human Services Department to remove its website because it said, "Abstinence is the healthiest choice for teens." The Associated Press said the groups complained ...

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In the Magazine

September 2005

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