CBS News reports on their investigation of Denny Pattyn's "Silver Ring Thing" program, a federally-funded religious program that promotes abstinence and denies the effectiveness of condoms:
Pattyn doesnít just preach the virtues of sexual abstinence. His show is full of negative messages about condoms Ė messages warning that condoms wonít protect kids from pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
"We spoke with some of the kids after the show in Fort Meyers and they said that going into the program they thought that condoms did work, but your show convinced them that they didnít," says Bradley to Pattyn.
"Right. Well, thatís good because we believe that condoms arenít the answer," says Pattyn.
"A kidís part of your program, and he comes to you and says, 'You know, Iím going to have sex. Iíve reached a point and Iím going to do this. Should I use a condom?' What do you say?" asks Bradley.
"My own daughter, my 16-year-old daughter, tells me sheís going to be sexually active. I would not tell her to use a condom," says Pattyn. "I don't think it'll protect her. It wonít protect her heart. It wonít protect her emotional life. And itís not going to protect her. I donít want her to get out there and think that sheís going to be protected using a condom."
That's right, Denny Pattyn wouldn't even tell his own children to use a condom ó even though it would protect their health and might prevent pregnancy, it wouldnít protect their hearts. Of course, not having a condom also wouldn't protect their hearts, but why quibble over little details like that?
But wouldn't his daughter be more protected with a condom than without? "Not long term," says Pattyn.
Actually, his daughter would be better of with a condom than without ó if we are thinking about her physical health. Condoms help prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. I don't think that's what Pattyn means by "long-term," though. I think that he is talking about her soul.
According to the religious ideology of people like Pattyn, any sex outside marriage jeopardizes one's soul and teaching about condoms might encourage such sex. It's better to risk AIDS or pregnancy and keep one's soul than know how to prevent AIDS and pregnancy and risk going to hell.
Abstinence-only programs can get young people to delay having sex, but attitudes like this have negative consequences:
"The downside is that, when they have sex, pledgers are one-third less likely to use condoms at first sex," says [Columbia Universityís Peter Bearman, who co-authored the most comprehensive study ever done on adolescent health and sexuality]. "So all of the benefit of the delay in terms of pregnancy-risk and in terms of STD acquisition -- poof -- it just disappears because theyíre so much less likely to use a condom at first sex."
"Theyíve been taught that condoms donít work; theyíre fearful of them. They donít know how to use them," says Bearman. "Their peers donít use them. They have no experience with them. They donít know how to get them. Theyíre had to get access to. For whatever reason they donít use them, that has long-term consequences."
At least their souls will be safe, right? Bearman has also found that teens who take virginity pledges like those that are part of the Silver Ring Thing are much more likely to engage in riskier sex eventually. Such a high premium is placed on technical virginity that sexual desire finds other outlets:
"Adolescents who take virginity pledges Ė who remain virgins, that is, who donít have vaginal sex, who technically remain virgins, are much more likely to have oral and anal sex," says Bearman. ... "They're much less likely to get tested for a sexually transmitted disease. Theyíve taken a public pledge to remain a virgin until marriage. The sex that they have is much more likely to be hidden," says Bearman. "Itís likely to be hidden from their parents. Itís likely to be hidden from their peers. And if they live in a small community, itís quite likely to be hidden from their doctor."
"Thereís a group of people who are using abstinence as a vehicle, pretending to be concerned about public health," says Bearman. "But itís really a vehicle to advance a program, a cultural program that doesnít help public health."
In abstinence-only programs, teachers aren't allowed to tell the truth about condoms - like how they are nearly always effective when used properly. Teachers also aren't allowed to explain how to use them or where to get them. That's right, teachers aren't allowed to tell their students the truth because the truth conflicts with the religious agenda of the Christian Right, an agenda that is being funded by the taxpayers.