Louisiana's Abstinence Website Threatened with Lawsuit for 'Religious Material'

The American Civil Liberties Union has issued a letter threatening Louisiana state with a lawsuit if “religious material” is not removed within 30 days from the state website promoting abstinence.

On Nov. 17, ACLU attorney Louise Melling issued a letter citing links and articles on the Governor’s Program on Abstinence Web site, AbstinenceEdu.com, the ACLU considered as material promoting religion.

Melling refers to downloadable skits that mention God's approval of marriage, Web sites and articles containing references to Biblical passages, and material that promotes abstinence as pleasing site to ensure the funds were not used to promote religion.

“We've been monitoring the website for a while. We thoroughly researched it, and we made the determination that the Governor’s Abstinence Program had not only failed to correct the errors of its ways, as pointed out two years ago in the settlement, but in fact had gone out of its way to use taxpayer money to layer religious content upon religious content,” said Joe Cook, the executive director of the Louisiana ACLU.

However, The Lafayette Daily Advertiser published an editorial saying they “have looked for the content that Cook finds threatening to the Constitution and have not found it.”

“There are comments of young people who practice abstinence and give their reasons. For some, it is because of religious principles, but they are not pushing religion. They are promoting abstinence,” said the editorial.

It added, “The writers do not ask that anyone subscribe to their faith.”

In the case leading to the 2002 settlement,U.S. District Judge Thomas Porteous Jr. ordered the program stop giving money to organizations or people that convey religious messages after finding that some grants from the GPA were being used by recipients to purchase Bibles and religious tapes. The state appealed but then abandoned the appeal and agreed to the settlement.

Spokesman Roderick Hawkins said the complaints would be reviewed by Attorney General Charles Foti's office to see if the site complies with the 2002 settlement.

The governor’s program on abstinence is federally funded as part of an "abstinence-only" education program approved as part of 1996 welfare legislation.