Abstinence Ed Group to ACLU: Produce Proof or Retract False
By Jim Brown and Jenni Parker
April 5, 2006
(AgapePress) -- An abstinence
education group in Rhode Island is accusing the American
Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of spreading half-truths and
The ACLU has alleged that Heritage of Rhode Island,
producer of an abstinence education curriculum called "Right
Time, Right Place," employs in its curriculum a videotape
that makes specific references to "a relationship with
Jesus" and other faith-based issues. However, Heritage
executive director Chris Plante maintains that his group has
never owned or used such a video.
The ACLU complainants "have misinformation," Plante
contends, and "they have not accepted any of our invitations
to set the record straight." He says Heritage has called on
ACLU of Rhode Island officials to retract their claims, but
the civil liberties organization has not complied.
The abstinence education group has therefore "gone out a
little bit broader now" in demanding evidence and asking for
some pressure to be on the ACLU officials, Plante says. The
group hopes to compel ACLU officials simply to "sit down and
meet with us," he explains, to "review the videos that we do
use, and then come back out and say they were mistaken --
that the claims that they've made pertaining to the video
The Rhode Island Department of Education recently ordered
the state's public schools to stop using abstinence
curricula from Heritage after the ACLU complained that the
program contained religious content and thus violated the
First Amendment's so-called "separation of church and state"
or establishment clause. But according to Heritage's
executive director, the charge is based on a
misunderstanding that resulted when the ACLU leaped to the
The video the ACLU is apparently complaining about "would
be a Christian school version of a video that we use,"
Plante explains. "We use a video called 'No Apologies,'
which is published by Focus on the Family. When they
originally did the video, they did two versions -- one for
public schools and one for Christian schools. We use the
public school version."
The ACLU's War Against Abstinence Education
The abstinence education advocate says it is unfortunate
that the ACLU would allow "prejudice based on misinformation
direct their attack on the abstinence message." He points
out that, since September 2005, the civil liberties group
has been engaged in a national anti-abstinence campaign. As
part of this effort, he asserts, the ACLU has leveled
allegations against federally funded abstinence programs,
accusing them of being "based on ideology and religion."
The Rhode Island Chapter of the civil liberties
organization participated in this attack, Plante contends.
"It is becoming clear that the ACLU is more interested in
promoting their agenda than ensuring that teenagers receive
a balanced message that includes abstinence," he says. "When
the ACLU couldn't find any religious teaching in our
programming," he adds, "they bent the truth to fit their
Plant believes the Rhode Island ACLU saw a reference to
the "No Apologies" video in Heritage's lesson plans and
then, rather than checking the facts, simply made the
assumption that Heritage uses the Christian version of the
video. However, he insists that is not true.
"The video that the ACLU claims proves our religious bent
is not part of our program," the Heritage spokesman says,
"and we have never owned a video which contains the language
the ACLU claims." In fact, he points out, the curriculum
producer has several safeguards in place to prevent
religious perspectives from entering its instruction,
including having all of its employees sign an "Assurance of
Compliance" with federal standards prohibiting the
integration of faith-based content in its educational
materials. Also, whenever working with a faith-based
institution, Heritage requires that a "Memorandum of
Agreement" be signed.
"We strive to work with integrity," Plante says. "By law
our programming and materials must not include sectarian
instruction, prayer, worship or proselytizing. Any
institution we work with must understand that neither party
can address abstinence from a faith perspective during our
Heritage is calling on the ACLU to "retract its false
claims in the same manner they were initially proliferated,"
Plante adds. The time has come to put ideology aside, he
says, and to begin a dialogue between all concerned with
protecting children from the consequences of risky sexual