May 11, 2002
Government Moves Toward Backing Marriage
WASHINGTON – The House Ways and Means
Committee recently approved the Bush Administration's unprecedented
proposal to earmark $300 million for "innovative programs to promote and
support healthy, married two-parent families" as part of welfare reform.
It can pay for "public advertising campaigns
on the value of marriage" and classes to teach high school students and
unmarried pregnant women and expectant fathers the importance of
marriage and relationship skills. It can also be used for pre-marital
education courses, enriching existing marriages and reducing divorce by
teaching couples skills to resolve conflict, using "married couples as
role models and mentors."
The bill is expected to pass the House this
month. However, the Senate outcome is unclear.
Knives are out from both the left and the
right. The critics of government's first step into this field are
legion. In my view, most are misinformed.
"We don't need to encourage more people to
marry," asserted Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution. Wrong.
Only 53 percent of adults are now married., down from 66 percent in
In Genesis "The Lord God said, `It is not good
for man to be alone.'" Secular evidence backs up Scriptural wisdom.
Married people are healthier, happier, wealthier, live longer and have
better sex, reports "The Case for Marriage" by Maggie Gallagher and
Ms. Sawhill, writing in "The American
Prospect, asks, "Will more marriages solve the problem? Hardly.
Marriages among teenagers are notoriously unreliable."
However, nearly a million unwed mothers are
aged 20 or older. Half are cohabiting with the father and another third
are romantically involved.. Why shouldn't we encourage them to marry?
Frankly, if they don't, odds are they will never marry and are five
times more likely to be in poverty than intact families. Their kids are
twice as likely to drop out of school and three times more likely to be
teen mothers or jailed.
This week Dr. Brad Wilcox, a young Yale
University scholar, at a Pew Forum for Religion & Public Life noted the
founding fathers, such as John Adams, saw marriage as a "seedbed of
virtue" a vision "vindicated by contemporary social science." Marriage
fosters such virtues as "fidelity, obligation, trust and sacrifice."
Young men with "selfish and dangerous pursuits" are transformed by hard
work and sobriety needed to care for their families.
However, Wilcox warned that the Founders did
not think it was the state's job to cultivate "virtues and values that
promote marital stability." That's the task of churches.
Manifestly, they have failed. Divorces have
tripled and cohabitation has soared from 400,000 couples in 1960 to 5
million in 2000. Those who live together before marriage have 50 percent
higher divorce rates.
Dr. Richard Cizik, Vice President of the
National Association of Evangelicals, a coalition of 51 denominations
such as the Assemblies of God, conceded at the Pew Forum that the
churches have done a poor job However, he said NAE believes the kind of
couple mentoring programs pioneered by Marriage Savers "can save up to
80% to 90% of marriages headed to divorce while counselors save only 20
percent." And he announced NAE, Catholic bishops and Southern Baptists
are jointly planning an American Marriage Summit.
Wendell Primus of the Center on Budget and
Policy Priorities, flatly asserted at Pew that "If you believe in
marriage, it ought not to have anything to do with welfare law. If we
as a society are for supporting marriage, we should have strong child
support enforcement. We need to spend more money to help young men
become marriageable and an initiative to decrease teen pregnancy."
That's an ad for the Senate version of this
bill that would allocate only one third of the $300 million to marriage,
one-third to cut teen pregnancies, and another third for job training.
However, government already spends $200
million to reduce teen pregnancy and a huge $6 billion on job training.
The nation has such strong child support enforcement that collections
have jumped from $12 billion in 1996 to $19 billion in 2000. Yet
nothing is spent to promote marriage.
Would the public support this new initiative?
A new poll reports that 86 percent of
Americans believe that it is important to children in low income
families that "their parents get and stay married." Virtually the same
percent favor pilot programs to reduce out-of-wedlock births "by
referring interested couples to marriage education and preparation
programs" and to educate teens "on the importance of waiting for
If you agree, I urge you to write your
Copyright 2002 Michael J. McManus.