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Project SOS drops search for Florida abstinence education funds

MahurinEcon_Thumb_790.jpg
MahurinEcon_Thumb_790.jpg

A controversial Jacksonville-based abstinence education program whose founder has endorsed the work of Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa, a chief proponent of that country’s “Kill the Gays” bill, has declined to reapply for Florida Department of Health funds. #

In February, The Florida Independent’s Andy Kopsa broke news about the ties between Ssempa and Project SOS founder Pam Mullarkey, whose organization has received more than $8 million in taxpayer funding since 2001. #

“Martin Ssempa is the man to watch,” Mullarkey has said, according to Ssempa’s website. “He’s the most powerful voice for abstinence in the world and his passion, charisma and character make his vital message irresistible.” Ssempa has been a vocal advocate for Uganda’s 2009 “Anti Homosexuality Bill,” nicknamed the “Kill the Gays” law. #

After the initial article, Mullarkey told Kopsa that she was “no longer working with” Ssempa “or planning to work with him in the foreseeable future”: #

While I don’t believe the allegations made about Pr. Ssempa, and he has categorically denied them, I wish to dissociate and distance myself from the allegations of genocide, violence against gays which are attributed to Dr. Martin Ssempa in the US media. I have partnered with him in HIV/AIDS prevention in the past but am no longer working with him or planning to work with him in the foreseeable future. #

On March 21, the Florida Department of Health released (.pdf) a Request for Applications for abstinence education funding, a program Project SOS had received $1.5 million from since 2001. At the time, Project SOS had not determined whether to apply for the funds. #

“We haven’t decided yet,” Mullarkey said when asked whether her organization planned to seek state funding. She said the group was unsure whether it wants to “get in with the government at all.” #

Mullarkey and Project SOS participated (.pdf) in an April 12 conference call for abstinence education programs interested in the state program, indicating SOS was still considering applying. #

But the state’s application deadline passed on April 26, and the Department of Health’s Jennifer Hirst confirmed to the Independent yesterday that Project SOS did not submit an application. #

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