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Teens Pledge Abstinence Until Marriage

July 29, 1994

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Keith Hartsell, 17, has dated the same ″young lady″ for more than a year. Recently, they both pledged not to have sex until marriage, and Keith says he couldn’t be happier.

″It’s been amazing what that commitment has done for our relationship,″ said Hartsell, one of thousands of teen-agers joining a growing sexual abstinence movement.

Friday, a Christian movement called True Love Waits came to Washington to spread its message. On the National Mall, youths hammered in little stakes holding signed cards pledging abstinence.

Forswearing sex has eased the sexual pressure between Hartsell and his girlfriend, inspired the trust of their parents and garnered the support of their friends, said the Springfield, Va., teen.

″God has written in the Bible that he wanted us to stay sexually pure ’til we got married,″ he said. ″But God didn’t do that just because he wanted to take away our fun. He did it because he knew it would keep us safe, that it was the best way and that we could enjoy all the things that go along with sex in marriage.″

True Love Waits was born a little more than a year ago when 59 teens took vows of chastity at a Southern Baptist church in Nashville, Tenn. Friday, adult leaders said some 20,000 abstinent teens had come to Washington for a ″SuperConference on Youth Evangelism.″

″True Love Waits is a positive challenge to teen-agers to make a promise to be sexually abstinent from this day forward until their wedding day,″ said campaign spokesman Richard Ross, head of the Baptist Sunday School Board.

The abstinence movement has spread to hundreds of thousands of youngsters in Christian 26 denominations and organizations, he said, predicting more than 200,000 pledge cards would dot the National Mall alone before day’s end.

Each card said: ″Believing that true love waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, those I date, my future mate and my future children to be sexually pure until the day I enter a covenant marriage relationship.″

″We have the sense that we’re riding on the crest of a wave,″ said Dave Scherrer of Youth for Christ, host of the Washington meeting.

Last month, True Love Waits planted 100,000 pledge cards at the Southern Baptist Convention in Orlando, Fla. Next month, the group will hold a youth evangelism conference in Anaheim, Calif. And organizers are looking ahead to an international rally in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1995.

Susan Fitzgerald, 19, who belongs to Tulip Grove Baptist Church in Nashville, said she signed the pledge ″because that’s what God wants me to do with my life.″

″One of my friends once told me there are two different types of girls: the type of girl that a guy wants to date and the type of girl that a guy wants to marry,″ she said. ″I want to be the type of girl a guy wants to marry because I believe that’s what God wants for me.″

Monica McIntyre, 16, of Hyattsville, Md., attended a news conference ″to say I’m not the only one.″

″We have zillions of kids out here that want to do it, too,″ she said. ″If we’re here and they see us, this might help them reinforce their beliefs and make them want to sign a card, too.″

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