Morning Report 8/25/05
Fucked by the Abstinence Crowd

Right-wing Christian group said to wrongly get over on taxpayers to the tune of $1.1 million

Silver Ring Thing

Greased by Santorum, an abstinence-only group easily slid in and out of taxpayers' pockets — and bragged about it

The best-laid plans of Rick Santorum's fave no-teen-sex group to keep shagging the public have hit a snag.

Apparently, the whole abstinence thing promoted by the Pennsylvania-based Silver Ring Thing national organization is just another ploy to brainwash teens for Christ. What a shock.

OK, youth ministers, go ahead and try to stop teens from screwing. But first, why don't you stop fucking us taxpayers?

It was so obvious that even the Bush regime's Department of Health and Human Services had to formally instruct the Silver Ring Thing to stop fucking the public. Ceci Connolly of the Washington Post wrote on August 23:

    The Bush administration yesterday suspended a federal grant to the Silver Ring Thing abstinence program, saying it appears to use tax money for religious activities.

    Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services ordered the group to submit a "corrective action plan" if it hopes to receive an expected $75,000 grant this year.

The group's gotten more than $1.1 million in fed funds overall. Run by a guy named Denny Pattyn out of Pittsburgh evangelist John Guest's Christ Church at Grove Farm, the Silver Ring Thing denies that it is reaming taxpayers:

    Representatives of the Pennsylvania-based nonprofit describe Silver Ring Thing as a "faith-based" group but dispute charges it has commingled its public funds with religious activities.

    "Any religious teaching that goes on is separate in time and place from what the government is funding," said Joel Oster, senior litigation counsel at the Alliance Defense Fund, which is representing the Silver Ring Thing. "They offer a religious program and they offer a secular program; kids can choose which one they want to go to."

    In an advertisement on its Web site for a set of educational materials on DVD, Silver Ring Thing promises: "A secular program is also in development."

Uh-huh. As the Post story noted:

    The action comes three months after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against HHS, accusing the administration of using tax dollars to promote Christianity. In documents filed in federal court in Boston, the ACLU alleged that the activities, brochures and Web site of Silver Ring Thing were "permeated with religion" and use "taxpayer dollars to promote religious content, instruction and indoctrination."

    Teenage graduates of the program sign a covenant "before God Almighty" to remain virgins and earn a silver ring inscribed with a Bible passage reminding them to "keep clear of sexual sin." Many of its events are held at churches.

Santorum is probably frothing at the ACLU over this development. In December 2003, when he announced a $700,000 grant of taxpayer money to Silver Ring Thing—which followed a $400,000 grant in February 2003 — the GOP senator said:

    Funding for education programs which promote sexual abstinence will help Pennsylvania youth become better informed about healthy alternatives to sexual activity. I believe these important programs will also provide young people with the necessary tools to combat peer pressure, reducing the rate of STDs and teen pregnancy.

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But Christ Church at Grove Farm, in the tony Pittsburgh suburb of Sewickley, already had a prominent role that same year in alerting teens about alternatives to healthy sexual activity.

In May 2003, the news broke in Pittsburgh that an Episcopal priest allegedly sexed up a teen girl at Christ Church in 2001.

No big deal: The guy, a junior pastor, who was quietly let go by Christ Church in '01 and had to be tracked to Tucson to be arrested, was charged with rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, indecent assault, endangering the welfare of children, corruption of minors, and three counts of unlawful contact or communication with minors.

Here's how the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote about it in 2003:

    The girl's father was on the Christ Church parish council, and he and his wife had vacationed with the Guests, he said. [The junior pastor] was in their home several times each month to lead a Bible study and prayer group for church members.

    "He cooked in our kitchen. He was a friend," the father said.

    He said he also gave [the junior pastor] "significant" financial support because [he] always seemed to be short of money. The father attributed it to poor management skills.

    His daughter began seeing [the junior pastor] for weekly counseling sessions in spring 2001. According to police records, after several sessions he began telling her she was beautiful, raising issues about her self-esteem and proposing that they engage in "sexual therapy." The girl told police she tried to resist his advances, but relented during three sessions between May and August 2001.

A later story in the Tribune-Review noted that the rape charge was dropped, but that the case was continuing full force on the other charges. (I haven't discovered the outcome.) The follow-up story did add some juicy details of this passion of the Christ Church:

    [The junior pastor] massaged the girl's bare breasts and performed other sex acts on her, according to the affidavit of probable cause.

    "He insinuated to her that because her family was not paying for these counseling sessions, and that he was helping her out of the goodness of his heart, she should do her best to keep her family happy," the affidavit said.

    The girl initially refused his offer of what he referred to as "sexual therapy" and denied further requests for sexual contact after the third incident, the affidavit said. He apologized and instructed her not to tell anyone, the affidavit said.

I didn't realize until now that "just say no" is short for "just say nothing."

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