Settlement reached in Louisiana abstinence case

BY Advocate.com Editors

November 16 2002 1:00 AM ET

Under a settlement worked out with the American Civil Liberties Union, Louisiana's taxpayer-funded program promoting abstinence for young people as a means to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases will be monitored more closely to make sure none of the money is used to promote religion. In July, U.S. district judge Thomas Porteous Jr. found that some grants from the Governor's Program on Abstinence were being used by recipients to promote religion, including such activities as prayer vigils at abortion clinics, skits that focus on Jesus Christ, Christmas youth revivals that focus on "virgin birth," and a program that used $100,000 in federal money to fund a program called "Passion 4 Purity," which is based on biblical concepts. Porteous issued an order that the program stop funding people or groups that convey religious messages or advance religion with GPA funds. That order was on appeal at the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals until the settlement was reached.

The state has agreed that recipients of GPA funds will be required to submit monthly reports certifying that the money was not used for religious activities. Also, GPA officials will conduct quarterly reviews of funded programs, and those violating the ban will not have their GPA funding renewed. The GPA's Web site, promotional materials, and requests for proposals will include a message stating that GPA funds cannot be used to promote religion. Money for the governor's program comes from the federal government under an abstinence-only education program approved as part of 1996 welfare legislation.

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