The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against the state of Louisiana for allegedly using federal grant money to promote religious messages in a state-run, abstinence-only sex education program. "We're going to fight this to the hilt," Dan Richey, the coordinator of the state program, told Christianity Today.
The Governor's Program on Abstinence (GPA) uses volunteers to teach sexual abstinence to seventh-graders. It also helps establish abstinence clubs in high schools across the state.
The ACLU claims that Louisiana's misuse of federal grant money violates the constitutional ban on government advancement of religion.
The lawsuit came as the House of Representatives debated reauthorizing the federal Welfare Reform Act of 1996, which includes funding for abstinence education. The ACLU filed its suit on May 9. One week later, the House voted to reauthorize the program. The Senate will take up the measure later this year.
The original legislation granted $50 million annually to states for abstinence education programs. Louisiana, with the ninth highest teenage pregnancy rate in the United States, has received $1.6 million per year.
'Half truths and distortions'
According to the suit, Louisiana gave students materials that said the increase in sexually transmitted diseases has occurred because educators removed God from the classroom.
Richey said the allegations are "half-truths and distortions." He said the state received those materials from outside sources. The state distributed them to students who were participating in a mock legislative debate. The suit also faults the state for providing $109,000 in grants during the past three years to the Crisis Pregnancy Help Center in Slidell, which promotes a Passion for ...1
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