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Abstinence Ed Group to ACLU: Produce Proof or Retract False Allegations
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 distortions.

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 were false."

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 wrong conclusion.

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 national platform."

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 presentation."

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 activity.

































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