Adelle M. Banks of the Religion News Service wrote today that doubt is growing among evangelicals over the cost of abstinence-only education.

Banks cites admissions from the National Association of Evangelicals that:

  • 80 percent of young evangelicals have engaged in premarital sex
  • almost a third of evangelicals’ unplanned pregnancies end in abortion
  • evangelicals face a “15-year gap between the average onset of puberty and the average age of marriage” during which their ideologues have absolutely prohibited all sexual activity

In two recent conferences, a video, and a pastor information packet, the NAE is reportedly opening discussion — but not endorsement — of alternatives to abstinence.

If that shift is having an impact, it’s not apparent among evangelicals’ choice of elected officials. Wisconsin, Tennessee, Utah, and North Dakota are just a few of the states where Republican-controlled legislatures have recently proposed bills or passed laws to suppress comprehensive sex education and subsidize abstinence-only education programs which foster ignorance toward alternatives.

Nor is any shift evident among the leadership of the Christian Right. Focus on the Family glamorizes abstinence and employs scare tactics about sex instead of facts about practical alternatives to total abstinence. Instead of conceding to strong evidence that abstinence-only education fails to deter risky sexual activity, the Family Research Council contends that such adverse research merely proves the federal government should throw even more taxpayer money, not less, at religious special interests seeking to indoctrinate public-school students. Last month, FRC and the American Family Association got even loopier, misrepresenting research to claim that chastity somehow improves math scores. FRC has a history of miscasting the entire topic of abstinence as an issue for young teen-agers, when in fact the abstinence-only ideology mandates celibacy until an average marriage age of 30.

Moderates in the National Association of Evangelicals — especially families who have suffered premature marriages, pregnancies, and abortions that were prompted by abstinence-only ideology —  may long for honest and frank discussion. But so long as they lack the ocean of corporate, super-PAC, and talk-radio money that keeps the Christian Right alliance afloat, they may find it difficult to make their voices heard where it counts.