The quest for purity
Feb. 13, 2004

Orlando, Florida, the city that brought you Britney and Justin, has done it again. It is also home to the "Liberty Counsel", a conservative religious rights group that has organized today's "Day of Purity".

Melissa Mills, a high school senior in Michigan, feels constantly bombarded by messages of sexual promiscuity (read paranoid sexual dysfunction in later life), whether it's Janet Jackson's tit, or her classmates' casual sex talk. "The way sex is talked about, it's so casual,like going to McDonald's," she says.

So Melissa, and thousands of other students across the nation plan to wear white t-shirts to school today, the day before Valentine's Day, to publicly show their commitment to not having sex before marriage. They are calling this effort the "Day of Purity", and will also distribute pro-abstinence pamphlets to their classmates.

Strangely, this effort, supported by various religious groups around the country, comes on the heels of "w's" plan to double federal funding for abstinence education programs.

Groups that promote sexual tolerance have turned a wary eye towards the "day of purity", especially since such groups are attacked on the "day of purity" website {}, accusing them of "a concerted effort in the schools and the media to turn our youth away from traditional values."

"The word 'purity' in this context is morally self-righteous. It's redefining it in their context to conform to their frankly bigoted agenda," said Alicia Leeds, spokesperson for Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. While her group applauds any effort to promote healthy sexual choices for young people, she says,"Unfortunately, this program seems to have a limited idea of what that means and doesn't appear designed to provide the kind of information students really need."

A recently released report showed that more than a third of the nation's public school districts require that abstinence be taught as the only option for unmarried people. Half of the school districts require that abstinence be taught as the preferred option, but allow some discussion of contraceptives. Fewer than 15% of the school districts allow abstinence to be taught as one of the many options.

The report also noted that teenage pregnancies declined 21% in the 90's. Further analysis showed that three quarters of the drop in teen pregnancies was because of more effective contraceptive use by sexually active teenagers. Only a quarter of the decline was because of teenagers being abstinent. You do the math.