Silver Ring Thing
Silver Ring Thing is a virginity pledge program which encourages teens and young adults to remain sexually abstinent until marriage. It is based in the United States and was until 2005 partially funded by the U.S. federal government. Drawing on Christian theology, SRT uses rock/hip hop concert-style events in an attempt to appeal to 21st-century teenagers.
SRT events feature high-energy music, club-style lighting and sound, music videos, sketch comedy, and a Christian abstinence message. During the gathering, participants commit to a vow of sexual abstinence until marriage by purchasing rings.
Shortly before the end of the event, they receive their rings inscribed with Bible verses, which are usually worn on the ring finger of the left hand. True to the organization's name, for years the rings were made of sterling silver with the area around the Bible verse stamped and oxidized to make the letters stand out; as of 2019, rings available for sale on the organization's website are made of less expensive and more durable stainless steel with black enamel around the lettering. The verse is 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4, "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication. That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour". The rings are tokens of their vow, a reminder of their decision to remain celibate. The rings also are a way to signal to others that they are pledged to celibacy. After they put on their rings, they take a vow to remain abstinent.
Some studies of the efficacy of virginity pledges have found they may be effective in delaying vaginal intercourse but ineffective in reducing the rate of sexually transmitted infection. They also reduce the likelihood of contraceptive use. Additionally, it has been reported that pledgers replace vaginal intercourse with other sexual activities, such as oral or anal sex. At least one study has found no difference in the sexual behavior of pledgers and non-pledgers after controlling for pre-existing differences between the groups.
Silver Ring Thing was created in 1995 by Denny Pattyn, an evangelical Christian youth minister from Yuma, Arizona, as a way to combat what he saw as rising rates of STDs and pregnancies amongst teenagers, as well as a way to protect teens from what the founders saw as a distinctly American obsession with unhealthy (in opposition to biblical standards) sex, which, according to Pattyn,[This quote needs a citation] was a byproduct of the “promiscuity [of] the sexual revolution of the ‘60s”.
In 2000, Pattyn became Executive Director of the John Guest Evangelistic Team of Sewickley, Pennsylvania, and SRT became part of the national outreach of the John Guest Team.
In 2004, SRT claimed to have won pledges of chastity of more than 16,000 young adults since its inception, and Pattyn stated that SRT planned to have rings on the fingers of 2 million youngsters by 2010.
Initially, SRT was funded entirely by private sources, but beginning in 2003, SRT began receiving money from the federal faith-based initiatives program. By 2004, SRT had received more than US $1,100,000 in U.S. government federal funding.
In 2004 SRT began expanding operations into the United Kingdom, with mixed results. While some teenagers in the UK embraced the message of abstinence, some critics rejected and ridiculed SRT, saying it was anti-sex or unrealistic, and that it seemed unlikely that abstinence programs would attract widespread support in the UK because of the UK's differing attitude toward sexuality and sex education. The group's Assistant National Director for the UK, Denise Pfeiffer, said there was a real need for such a movement in the UK to curb what she sees as the ever-increasing rates of sexually transmitted infections and teenage pregnancies, both of which she claims are the highest in Western Europe.
In 2005, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services because it believed SRT used tax dollars to promote Christianity. SRT presented a two-part programme: the first part about abstinence, the second about how Christianity fits into an abstinence commitment. The ACLU claimed federal funding given to this program violated the separation of church and state.
In 2006, a corrective action plan was accepted by the Department, the lawsuit was dismissed and SRT received federal funding.
In 2007 Lydia Playfoot, a 16-year-old from Horsham, West Sussex, took a case to the High Court of Justice alleging that her school had violated her rights under the Human Rights Act by forbidding her from wearing a purity ring. The case was funded by individual donations gathered through the group Christian Concern For Our Nation. On 16 July 2007 the High Court ruled that Playfoot's human rights were not violated, with the judge finding the school's actions to have been "fully justified" and that wearing the ring was not "intimately linked" to Playfoot's beliefs. Her father, Phil Playfoot, was the UK pastor for Silver Ring Thing at the time, and was ordered to pay £12,000 towards the school's costs.
In the 2011 book Making Chastity Sexy: The Rhetoric of Evangelical Abstinence Campaigns, Christine Gardner criticizes Silver Ring Thing for "using sex to sell abstinence" by promising more satisfying sexual activity within marriage for those who abstain from premarital sex; she argues that this rhetoric reinforces selfish desires for gratification, sets people up for divorce and dissatisfaction with marriage, and simply adapts "secular forms for religious ends".
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