WASHINGTON—Colleen Johncox's classmates at Damascus High School could-n't believe her.

“I told them that I was doing a press conference on chastity and they said, ‘You've got to be kidding me,’” the Damascus, Md., teen-ager told the Register. “People don't connect chastity and love, but it's synonymous with love because it's the highest form of respect you can give your future spouse.”

Johncox and three other students were invited to speak to the National Press Club on Feb. 14. The Valentine's Day press conference, held by Why Life? and Concerned Women for America, kicked off National Week of Chastity.

Johncox, 18, said that the week's special message involved more than just abstinence. “‘Don't have sex’ doesn't work,” she said. “You have to accentuate the positive.”

Phil Sapienza, who also spoke at the conference, agreed that chastity's main appeal is not in what it avoids, but in what it provides.

“It's about the respect you can show to yourself and other people, to respect your future wife and to respect other people's future wives,” said Sapienza, 20, who attends Anne Arundel College in Severn, Md.

Such testimony was music to the ears of Andrew Daub, director of youth divisions for the American Life League, which is the parent organization of Why Life?

“They talked about their experiences and they were awesome,” Daub told the Register.

He especially savored how the young people took on organizations like Planned Parenthood who push for sex education on the assumption that teen-agers and young adults cannot possibly control themselves.

“They said, ‘It's insulting, you're basically reducing us to animals and that makes us mad,’” Daub said.

Planned Parenthood did not return phone calls to the Register.

In addition to the press conference, Why Life? is getting the chastity message to students through special literature designed to remind young people of the future consequences of present decisions.

The pamphlets are called A Letter to My Future Husband and A Letter to My Future Wife and tell young adults that remaining chaste today will lead to a more fulfilling loving relationship with a future spouse.

In A Letter to My Future Wife, the man writes, “And loving you, without ever having met you, makes me want to be deserving of your love. So I wait for you — in mind, body and soul.”

The woman writes, in A Letter to My Future Husband: “I'm all for living in the present, but thinking about the future can help you avoid decisions that may alter your future — our future.”

So far, Why Life? has distributed 75,000 copies of the pamphlets. Even public schools have been receptive to the letters, said Daub.

Mary Beth Bonacci, who has spoken to teens about chastity for 14 years, said the pamphlets are an excellent way to reach people. The pamphlets, she said, are modeled after an “open letter” that she wrote to a hypothetical future husband a few years ago.

“I'm thrilled that Why Life? has done so much to get these brochures into teens' hands,” Bonacci told the Register. “I think the idea of saving yourself out of love for a future spouse is something that appeals to a lot of single people, especially teenagers.” Bonacci also commended the focus on the positive results of chastity.

“They're sexually active, for the most part, because they're looking for love,” she observed.

“They're not finding it in sex, of course, but they're gonna keep trying — regardless of the risks — until we show them a better way.”