State/Church Bulletin

Abstinence Program Unconstitutional
A federal judge in Louisiana ruled on July 25 that the state illegally allocated federal money to promote religion in its abstinence-only sex education programs.
The ruling is the most significant blow to Pres. George Bush's campaign to fund faith-based programs since a federal judge in January struck down funding of a Wisconsin faith-based program, in a case brought by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr. ordered Louisiana to stop granting money to organizations or individuals who "convey religious messages or otherwise advance religion" with tax dollars.
The lawsuit, filed in May by the American Civil Liberties Union, was the first legal challenge to abstinence-only programs created under the 1996 welfare reform legislation. Bush is asking Congress to extend the $50 million-a-year program and increase other federal abstinence grants from $40 million this year to $73 million next year.
Cities, states or organizations receiving the federal grants are required to teach that abstinence is the only reliable way to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. Grant recipients may not discuss contraception, except to mention the "failure rates of condoms."
The ACLU proved that taxpayers' money was used to distribute bibles, stage prayer rallies outside abortion clinics, and generally preach Christianity. Grant money, for instance, funded a theater group that performed before high school students using a character named "Bible Guy," who claimed, "As Christians, our bodies belong to the Lord, not to us." A center which received funding asked in its grant application for money to buy Christian music tapes, bibles and a book advising that Christianity can keep children out of gangs.
The misuse of tax dollars to promote religion through abstinence, which often includes antiabortion propaganda, is believed to be a nationwide problem.
The Washington Post reported in July that the Department of Health and Human Services awarded $27 million in new abstinence grants to many groups with religious affiliations.

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