More than two-thirds of children born to American teenagers today are born out of wedlock, and the rising teen birthrate is creating a new zeal to promote the familiar message of sexual abstinence before marriage.

Organizers of a Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) abstinence campaign hope some healthy peer pressure can help turn the tide.

"There was a girl here in Nashville who got up in front of a group and gave testimony that she thought she was the only virgin in her high school," says Jimmy Hester, who developed the program with Richard Ross at the SBC. "She'd had that feeling until she said something about this, and others rallied around her to say, 'I believe the same thing.' It's that support from their peers that's really making a difference in their lives."

The roots of the current program were planted five years ago when the SBC'S Sunday School Board prepared a curriculum for Christian sex education and began hearing from parents and teenagers seeking denominational guidance on abstinence. From their interest grew True Love Waits, a campaign to promote biblical sexuality and premarital abstinence for teens. "Parents were hearing messages—whether it be safe sex messages or whatever—that they just didn't believe were true to their faith," says Hester.

The program quickly grew beyond its SBC origins, even though organizers had not planned to take it outside the denomination for at least a year after its April 1993 unveiling. "Well, it didn't take 48 hours before that started happening," says Hester, "and the momentum since then has been unbelievable."

At the SBC annual convention in Orlando, Florida, last month, more than 102,000 signed chastity cards were placed in the lawn outside the meeting site.

That ...

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