Silver Ring Thing is a United States-based sexual abstinence program which encourages young adults to remain celibate until marriage. Based on Christian theology and until recently funded by the U.S. federal government, SRT uses rock 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 faith-based 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 silver rings inscribed with Bible verses, which are usually worn on the ring finger of the left hand. The verse is First Thessalonians 4:3-4 and it states "God wants you to be holy, so you should keep clear of all sexual sin. Then each of you will control your body and live in holiness and honor." 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.
SRT claims to have won pledges of chastity of more than 25,000 young adults since its inception, and Pattyn has stated that SRT plans to have rings on the fingers of 2 million 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 teens in the UK embraced the message of abstinence, others rejected and ridiculed SRT for being anti-sex and unrealistic. Critics have stated that it seems unlikely that abstinence programs will attract widespread support in the UK because of the UK's different attitude about sexuality, but the group's Assistant National Director for the UK, Denise Pfeiffer says there is 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 sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services because it believed SRT used tax dollars to promote Christianity. On August 22, the department suspended SRT's $75,000 federal grant until it submitted a "corrective action plan".
In 2006, Silver Ring Thing elected to discontinue the use of federal funding.
In mid 2006, the school had instructed Playfoot and several other girls associated with her, not to wear the ring in school as it breached the school's established uniform code, and they did not consider it a symbol integral to religious beliefs.
It was later revealed that the girl's parents and grandfather are directly involved in the UK branch of Silver Ring Thing, casting doubt on whether Miss Playfoot herself decided to launch her case or whether she was driven to do so by family pressure. Heather Playfoot, her mother, is the company secretary of Silver Ring Thing (UK) Ltd and her father and pastor/elder of the Kings Church (Horsham), Phil Playfoot, is the company's Parents Programme Director. Grandfather Stuart Sutcliffe is a director of the company. Andy Robinson, a former sales director for an international software company, youth pastor at the King Church (Horsham) and the official promoter, distributor and Managing Director of Silver Ring Thing (UK) Ltd has been identified as the author of a press statement issued in the name of Miss Playfoot following the High Court hearing.
On July 16, 2007 the High Court ruled that the girl was not having her human rights violated. Her father was ordered by the court to pay £12,000 towards the school's costs, even though the action had been commenced in his daughter's name. The case was funded by individual donations gathered through the pressure group Christian Concern For Our Nation. It is claimed that no public appeal was made, although sympathetic members of Kings Church Horsham were asked to contribute to a fighting fund. Lydia Playfoot, at 16, had left the school, and started to attend a local college.
Critics of SRT argue that virginity pledges are an unrealistic approach to curbing teenage sexuality. A recent review of a number of independent American studies concluded that abstinence programmes "show little evidence of sustained impact on attitudes and intentions", and furthermore "show some negative impacts on youth's willingness to use contraception, including condoms, to prevent negative sexual health outcomes related to sexual intercourse". It has also been claimed that because SRT favors Christianity over other belief systems, it should be ineligible for federal funding due to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
An episode of The War at Home (TV series) entitled 'Like a Virgin' features a character who is a member of the "Silver Ring Society" and wears a silver ring while pledging abstinence.