Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco is defending the state's abstinence-education program from charges that it continues to promote religion in violation of a 2002 court settlement. In July 2002, U.S. district judge Thomas Porteous Jr. found that some grants made by the Governor's Program on Abstinence under former governor Mike Foster were used to promote religion. He issued an order that the program stop such spending; program officials contended they had already done so. Louisiana appealed then dropped its appeal in favor of a settlement under which it agreed to monitor spending more closely, conduct quarterly reviews, and not renew funding for groups promoting religion.
The latest complaint by the American Civil Liberties Union focuses on GPA's Web site, AbstinenceEdu.com, not its allocation of grant money. In a letter to Blanco's office last month, ACLU attorney Louise Melling noted several links from the site to Internet resources that promote religious views. In a response Thursday, Blanco and Terry Ryder, her executive counsel, said that simply providing links to abstinence-related sites with religious content does not violate the settlement. "In each instance, GPA neither wrote not composed the articles. Additionally, in most cases, the GPA notice--'Faith-based content'--is located above the link," wrote Ryder.
Blanco defended two sites cited: one on which youths discuss their faith as a motivation for abstinence and another on which the script for a skit called "The Wedding" includes an officiant who makes numerous references to God. Louisiana ACLU director Joe Cook said the group's lawyers will look at Blanco's response and determine whether to file a lawsuit. "People can certainly base their decision about engaging in sexual activity on religious beliefs, but the government cannot convey that message and use tax funds as a vehicle to do it," Cook said. (AP)