At first glance they look like weddings: girls in white dresses, the exchanging of a ring, even the traditional father-daughter dance. But closer examination reveals that the girls are all around the age of 12, and the man giving the girl the ring is actually her father.
Welcome to the world of purity balls, a phenomenon that is how held in 48 states.
The purity movement began in the U.S. in the 1980s and now exists in over 17 countries and across America. The concept of a girl “giving” her virginity to her father's protection developed later on in alliance with Evangelical church movements.
Purity balls are held, as the name implies, to preserve a young girl’s purity; and purity, according to the movement, means abstinence of sexual contact of any kind, including kisses, until after marriage.
During the ceremony, fathers present their daughters with purity rings, which the girls wear to symbolize their commitment to virginity. By participating in the purity ball, a girl vows to remain pure until her wedding day and symbolically marries God.
“I will be pure in my own life as a man, husband and father,” reads a vow which the girl’s father must sign. In signing the vow, he chooses “before God to cover [his] daughter as her authority and protection in the area of purity.”
The father also promises to “be a man of integrity and accountability as I lead, guide and pray over my daughter and my family as the High Priest in my home.”
As they lay down a white rose at the cross, the daughters silently commit to living pure lives before God.
One of the largest father-daughter purity balls has been held yearly in Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs for the past 14 years.
Nightline Prime recently investigated the ceremony, and discovered that more than 60 fathers were participating in the movement to “pledge their daughter’s choices for purity.” The documentary follows two families through the ritual: the Wilsons, whose father Randy helped found the tradition; and the Johnsons, from Indiana.
Although both are committed to the idea of purity, the two families have raised their children quite differently: all seven Wilson children are home-schooled, while the Johnson children attend a regular high school.
“One of the things I think it’s important to remember is this is your desire to do it the Lord’s way and really save yourself from kissing a lot of toads along the way and wait for your prince charming to come along,” Ron Johnson says to his young daughter as he presents her with her purity ring.
As he places the gold ring on his daughter’s wedding finger, he reminds her that keeping herself pure is important. Ron tells his daughter that keeping the ring on her finger means that “from this point you are married to the Lord and your father is your boyfriend.”
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