A PREACHER has been touring schools urging 13-year-olds to pledge to remain virgins until they marry.
As Britain launches a virginity campaign aimed at reducing teenage pregnancies, the Presbyterian preacher claims to have signed up 10,000 New Zealand and Australian secondary students. They have promised not to have sex until after they walk up the aisle.
His campaign has prompted New Zealand's education minister Trevor Mallard to warn schools that they must not teach sex education without parental consent.
Jim Lyons, a layman who runs Straight Talk Australia, has toured schools in Auckland and Christchurch, promoting his video, The Price Tag Of Sex.
He has spoken to religious and state schools, including 550 fourth-formers at an Auckland college, where some parents have complained that their children were "herded into the assembly hall" and pressured to sign the pledge.
An education lobby group, the Quality Public Education Coalition, has lodged a formal complaint with Trevor Mallard, the education minister.
But both Mr Lyons and the Auckland school said parents wereaware of the programme and students did not have to take part.
Mr Lyons has said that he disagrees with the safe-sex message and has told teenagers that condoms have a 15 to 30 per cent failure rate.
The Family Planning Association said the programme was dangerous and misleading.
In response to concerns about a lack of consultation, the education minister said schools have a legal obligation to discuss the scope and treatment of health education, including sex education, with parents.
The minister said the presentation of such material without parental consultation and feedback was unacceptable. He added that a state school should not allow students to be pressured into making any vows without parental input or involvement.
According to reports, the secondary students were asked to pray to God for forgiveness before signing the pledge.
The pledge says: "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."