God and Abstinence: State Funding for Religious Agendas


At
the Mississippi Department of Human Services’ summit entitled "Abstinence
Works: Let’s Talk About It," we didn’t talk about abstinence,
but we sure did chant, cheer, dance, pray and sing about it. At least
sort of. Here’s a few (of the many) things that stood out to me.

Before
the summit began, rap music blasted over the speakers. The 5,000 kids
in attendance spent their time inside dancing and singing along to Soulja
Boy’s  hit song "Crank Dat," the chorus of which repeats
"Watch me crank that soulja boy, then superman that ho," which most
young people know is a disgustingly explicit sexual innuendo. Shortly
after the Grenada Middle School cheerleaders performed their catchy
cheer "Stop, don’t touch me there! You know this is my no-no square,"
outlining the shape of a box around their short shorts. Talk about mixed
messages.


A rally held by the Mississippi Dept of Human Services uses taxpayer money to proselytize in favor of abstinence from sex before marriage programs. ACLU attorney Brigitte Amiri says this is illegal under the Constitution.

And
despite the fact the event was state sponsored and state funded, Reverend
Gary Bell led the rowdy group in prayer, closing with "in the name
of Jesus Christ." Performers sang about the glory of God and performed
interpretative dancing to Christian gospel songs. Judge John Hudson’s
speech quoted the Bible and reviewed the Ten Commandments. As for how
that relates to abstinence? According to Hudson, the commandment "Do
not commit adultery" directly translates to "Do not engage in promiscuous
sex, or sex before marriage." The constant and overzealous harping
on God and Jesus wasn’t just wrong because it ostracized anyone who
didn’t prescribe to a particular brand of Christianity – it was
wrong because it was illegal. Taxpayer and state money funded the event,
and last time I checked, it is illegal under the U.S. Constitution to
use those funds to promote a specific religious message or agenda.

The
main speaker, David Mahan, CEO of Frontline Youth Communications, spoke
for an hour and a half and amazingly kept the kids’ attention most
of the time. However, he provided erroneous information, employing allegories
and analogies to skirt around the subject. An example is: "Fire is
good in the fireplace," a witty allusion to sex within marriage. But
did he talk about the increasing rate of HIV infections within
marriages? No. He did, however, make misogynistic declarations such
as: "There is nothing more beautiful and nasty than childbirth. A
pregnant woman will rip the skin off your arm." He later mimicked
the teenage girls who call his wife, a pregnancy crisis counselor, in
the middle of the night: "At 3:30 or 4 in the morning, I answer the
phone… And the girl says ‘I’m a little embarrassed to say this,
but I think I might be pregnant. I don’t know how that happened.’"
He imitated the girl using a ditzy, high pitched voice.

He,
nor any of the speakers, offered information on what to do if abstinence
fails. Did he talk about proper use of condoms or birth control? No,
but he did make the offhand and scientifically unfounded comment that
condoms are "pieces of rubber that deteriorate in your back pocket.
They only work some of the time." But the medical community considers
an 87 to 98 percent effectiveness rate in preventing STIs and pregnancy
as more than "some of the time." And how was the LGBTQ community
addressed in the summit? Well, it wasn’t. In most states, certainly
Mississippi, same-sex marriage rights are not recognized, so how are
they supposed to handle their sexuality?

I
would like to know why scientifically valuable and life-saving information
is being censored and made unavailable, and to what end? Mississippi
has spent more than $16 million in abstinence only programs, yet the
state ranked number one in teen births in 2009, and in the top five
in numbers STD infections. Mississippi even took the number one spot
in 2006 as the state ranking highest in gonorrhea infections.

As
a college student, it’s not terribly difficult to remember the anxious,
insecure days of preadolescence and teenagedom. I tried to put myself
in the place of the kids who attended the pep rally – I mean, summit.
I would have walked out of the Mississippi Coliseum that day humming
a new tune or chanting a new cheer, but my level of sexual education
would not have improved. In fact, it would have been dangerously stunted.

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  • hatmaker510

    I am shocked at this blatant church-state violation! Unfortunately this is not an isolated incident. Government will continue such state-sponsored religion until they are called to the carpet. Thank you, Ms. Royal, for this article.

  • invalid-0

    Separation of church and state is a wonderful idea. Too bad we don’t practice it. Even Pres. Obama is using the “faith based initiatives and recently appointed anti birth control women to head up this program. Until we can separate out faith from governance we are doomed to experience the rising rates of teen pregnancy and std’s.

  • http://www.examiner.com/x-8257-SF-Energy-Policy-Examiner invalid-0

    There was news published awhile back claiming that Obama had put an end to federal funding for abstinence only promotion. ???

  • invalid-0

    I try not to stereotype entire geographic regions. I try really hard. But I am always astonished by what I see coming out of the American bible belt. I’m sure there are lots of nice people living there, but much of the time it seems like they must be from a different planet than my own.

  • invalid-0

    I live in MS and am finishing a degree in developmental psychology and human development/family studies. I want to get my MS in public policy administration. This breaks my heart, I admit I may be the only liberal in the state if MS, but we are not allowed to teach sex education in schools, only abstinence. The state should not be funding this, let the religious orgs, church youth groups, and churches teach this and let real science oriented unbiased health professionals teach REAL Sex education, disease, pregnancy, and prevention, SAFE SEX. Does it appear that A.O. is working in MS with our #1 teen pregnancy rate and extremely high STD rate, I say not. How much longer will this go on before people’s eyes are opened to the fact that this does not work?

  • invalid-0

    The phrase “what if abstinence does not work” is stupid. if you abstain from sex you don’t get pregnant. You can’t get pregnant without sex. So abstinence does not fail. Now the if the kid does not abstain then it’s not abstinence that failed but the kid. Also get off it that he said condoms don’t work all the time. By your own admission they don’t work all the time, so you are upset that the guy told the truth.

    Fine if you want to argue the separation of church and state issue, but that refers to the government establishing and MANDATING a religion. There was no religion mandated here. NO one told these kids they had to be Christians. Abstinence works for non-christian too. I am also quite certain that if a Muslim or Budhist, or Athiest came into the school and gave the message on abstinence you would have no problem. But since we are living in an Anti-Christian world you will fight us to the death. Quick side not though. Read the end of the book (the Bible), we win.

  • invalid-0

    Christians threaten me with eternal torture, but my calm atheist self wishes no bad-will on Christians. Why do you threaten me seth? What did I ever do to you?

    As for you second straw man, abstinence is a failed policy no matter which supernatural ghost orders it. All religions are equally BS to me. A bunch of outrageous claims with no evidence.

    Oh seth, I’m sorry the beauty and wonder of our universe isn’t enough for you. You just have to feel special…the center of the universe created by your god just for you to be tested. Or are you just filling your pants over the idea of death? I just wish you low-rent, under-achieving red states would return all the Federal dollars taken from Liberals states to subsidize your failure at capitalism.

  • invalid-0

    Make these backward states pay for the resulting glut of unwanted babies with no family structure. Stop picking my pocket Mississippi…wasn’t your war in Iraq enough?!

  • invalid-0

    This is exactly why I want to go into Public Policy Administration, I am a parenting educator and am trying to get REAL sex ed in schools as well. I am not originally from Mississippi, but I am from the south, and have lived here 11 years. Like I said before sometimes I think my husband and I are the only “liberals” in MS. I just don’t understand why we can’t teach these kids the facts and consequences and not just “bible based morality” if that worked we wouldn’t have the horrifying statistics that we have in this state.

    • http://trend-web.blogspot.com/ invalid-0

      I consider, that, on the one hand, it is fine, because already even all uselessness of “Church business” is visible to idiots, with another – it is clear, that now all state mass-media will start to tell on fault, that here this curly and is the real liberal and other liberals at us are not present.

  • invalid-0

    Over and over again statistics prove that abstinence only doesn’t work. Look up the research, there is even one study that found teens who took abstinence vows didn’t even remember taking the vow or had already had sex before taking the vow. Teenagers are hormone crazed, they are also (in Freudian terms) living in the Id (as in the ID, Ego and Superego) which means they live for instant gratification and pleasure without thinking of the consequences until after the fact. Medical Dr.s and psychology professionals will tell you the same thing.

    I was raised in a very conservative Christian home and church, but I know the feelings I felt as a teenager and fortunately my high school sweetheart who I am not married to was taught safe sex practices and I learned from him and never had bad consequences. Even with my strong faith, conservative values and raising, I fell into the same teen sex trap that many teens fall into.

    In the small church (about 75 people) I grew up in I know of 6 young ladies who became unwed pregnant teenagers. How much more proof do you need?

    • http://hi-architecture.blogspot.com/ invalid-0

      Basically kind and quiet at heart, they receive great pleasure, throwing down the public opinion and as fiduciary it likes a challenge to shock conservative people with the unusual behaviour. It reacts to extraordinary wide ideals, thanks to the strict moral foundations though it is necessary to understand, that it only its own foundations which can not answer at all to the foundations accepted in a society.

  • invalid-0

    The phrase “what if abstinence does not work” is stupid. If you abstain from sex you don’t get pregnant.

    Do you remember being a teenager? That’s a pretty big “if”, there.

    Abstinence-only works 100% of the time, up until the point it fails completely. There’s a reason we call it “Plan B”.

    PS Your “poor little persecuted Christian” stuff doesn’t fly here. Try going back to the more ignorant corners of the intertubes.

  • http://feministsforchoice.com invalid-0

    When are government officials going to stop funding this drivel? There have been numerous studies to show that abstinence-only education is a complete waste of money. In fact, one study that was released last week shows that students who obtain private schools with abstinence-only education are actually more likely to seek abortions than students who receive comprehensive sex ed.

    http://feministsforchoice.com/?p=202

  • invalid-0

    Sadly, the abstinence-only issue is about politics. Politicians know the statistics but they also know their constituents. In the South especially (I’m from Alabama, went to college in Mississippi, and taught high school there for a while), ministers hold a lot of power because their constituents listen to them (and yes, politics are brought up CONSTANTLY at the pulpit). Thus, the cries for government-sponsored abstinence-only programs are loud. And, if you don’t allow all these ministers who have harped on the issue for decades to speak at these rallies, you, Joe Politician, could endure the “shepherd’s” wrath and lose the vote of his/her “lambs.”

    Oh, and don’t think I’m attacking Christianity because I am a self-proclaimed Christian (though I’m gay, so to many people my opinions about morality may not count).

  • http://www.northshore.org/clinicalservices/neurosurgery/ invalid-0

    Oh my, that’s great. Way to interpret the commandment, thou shall not commit adultry into abstinence. Great article, you really point out what’s wrong with sex education in this country. People are still circumventing the issue, sad. A lot of kids aren’t going to follow the whole abstinence concept. We need to educate our kids about the risks associated with hooking up. The ones that are active need to be more responsible, I’m shocked by the whole hook-up with a random person at a party. This is why STD’s are spreading so much and it’s not only the kids. This is happening among adults as well because of the lack of awareness and care.

  • http://dynastyirondoors.com/ invalid-0

    I can’t believe the number of teen pregnancies in Miss. If I were a taxpayer in that state I would be up in arms over the number of families on state aid. Why can’t they make it necessary for the parents to try and support their children. This article was very eye opening.

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