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Exported 'purity'

We’re polluting the UK with our AmTaliban batsh*ttery — The Silver Ring Thing, a ludicrous virginity pledge organization that is critical of contraception, has set up shop across the pond. (Observer):

Hundreds of British teenagers are thought to have gone through courses organised by the Silver Ring Thing, created a decade ago by two Christian activists in Arizona as a response to rising teenage pregnancies. It promotes abstinence before marriage and sexual fidelity within it, using Bible teachings and DVD clips to emphasise the horrors of sexually transmitted diseases and abortions.

At the end of the course, children prepared to pledge chastity can pay £10 for a silver purity ring to be given to their spouse on their wedding day: even non-virgins can be ‘born again’.

US President George Bush has heavily advocated abstinence teaching, budgeting $170 million a year for it. However, research by Columbia and Yale Universities found while those who pledge chastity may delay first sex, 88 per cent of them eventually break the promise, and are then less likely than non-pledgers to use contraception.

The chastity rings have rubbed school officials the wrong way and the jewelry has been banned as a violation of the dress code policies, which prohibit jewelry. It’s not a pretty sight, as the fundies are objecting to the ban on religious freedom grounds.

But the decision by one of the country’s top state schools to ban American-style ‘purity rings’ – increasingly worn by Christian teenagers to symbolise a pledge not to have sex before marriage – has prompted not just a standoff with local parents, but a debate over religious expression and sex education.

Heather and Philip Playfoot have spent almost two years in dispute with Millais School in Horsham, West Sussex, over their 15-year-old daughter Lydia’s ring. While the school’s uniform rules forbid jewellery, they argue that the rings – given to teenagers who complete a controversial evangelical church course preaching sexual abstinence – hold genuine religious significance.

The conservative political element has jumped into the fray as well.

The issue has now been taken up by the Tory MP Andrew Selous, chair of the Conservative Christian Fellowship, who raised the wearing of purity rings with the Schools Minister Jim Knight in the House of Commons last week.

…Selous said while many schools banned jewellery he did not see a problem with purity rings, adding: ‘Given that the government is failing to achieve its teenage pregnancy targets, you would have thought that schools would do everything in their power to help children help themselves.’

However Keith Porteous Wood of the National Secular Society defended the school, adding: ‘If the school has the uniform policy I don’t see why it should make an exception for this. I’m deeply distrustful of these Silver Ring Thing-type initiatives: the research is quite clear that they don’t work.’

Personally, I don’t see a problem with these kids wearing the rings; it’s not inhibiting them from learning, nor is it distracting in the classroom if ignored. The significance of this story is yet another example of the ambitions of our fundies — exporting ignorance and a homegrown flavor of moralism around the globe. Sad.

Related:
* Fundies, one more time — virginity pledges are failing
* Falwell’s legal boy still pouting over Silver Ring Thing’s funding being yanked
* Virginity pledge org busted by feds for proselytizing on your dime
* Score one against abstinence-only ed
* Newsflash: fundies are f*cking before marriage

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding