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Faith Groups Up Abstinence Education Funding

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With Purity Balls and Silver Ring Things, Christian groups are taking the lead in abstinence education in the wake of federal funding cuts.

"With funding being cut from the government, you're going to see more responsibility placed on churches in the community to carry this banner," said Michael Polite, assistant pastor at Riverside Chapel Seventh-day Adventist Church in Nashville, which collaborated with several other Adventist churches for a Purity Ball recently.

At the ball, Polite used ballroom dancing to teach teenagers how to interact without being tempted to have sex and "how a woman should be touched and how a man should be touched, without being sexual," Polite told the Associated Press.

"It doesn't have to be any of that dirty bumping and grinding," said James Brothers, an instructor at Dance World of Nashville.

There are several Silver Ring Thing programs across the nation and worldwide that encourage young adults to remain celibate until marriage. Often called SRT's, the events use comedy, drama, music videos, and testimonies to promote abstinence.

"We try to relate to students on the level and the forms of communication they deal with everyday, and just talk to them about the realities of sexual activity," said Jason Burtt, who directs a nondenominational SRT group near Pittsburgh.

A bill pending in the U.S. Senate seeks $50 million for abstinence education, but even if approved, the measure would restore funding to less than half of the total under the Bush administration.

President Barack Obama's budget approves $114 million for a "teenage pregnancy prevention" initiative that will fund only programs with evidence of success. Critics of abstinence-only programs say there's no solid evidence they work.

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