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Legal Group Defends Alaska’s Parental Notification Law

Citizen Link - Thu, 02/20/2014 - 17:29

A Christian legal group argued Wednesday in Alaska’s high court on behalf of a voter-approved law that protects young people and preborn babies. It requires at least one parent to be notified before a minor can get an abortion.

Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest filed suit against the 2010 law. In 2012, a trial court upheld all but two of the law’s provisions:  one that allows parents to sue in civil court if an abortionist fails to obey the law, and a provision that requires clear and convincing evidence at bypass hearings.

“Abortionists don’t care more about children than parents do,” said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Senior Counsel Steven H. Aden. “Alaska’s Parental Involvement Law, which an overwhelming majority of citizens adopted through a state ballot initiative, is a reasonable and constitutional measure. It ensures that parents may exercise their right and responsibility as parents to counsel their daughters in one of life’s most difficult moments.”

Read the trial court order in Planned Parenthood v. Alaska.


Attorney: Attacks Against Arizona’s Religious Freedom Bill ‘Outrageous’

Citizen Link - Thu, 02/20/2014 - 17:25

The Arizona Senate passed a bill on Wednesday that would allow people to live and work according to their faith.

But, that’s not what you’re hearing from mainstream media outlets.

“The attacks are simply outrageous,” said Josh Kredit, legal counsel for the Center for Arizona Policy. “There is a purposeful effort to distract from the true meaning of this bill, which would protect religious freedom.”

The chamber passed the legislation 17-13. The House began debating the issue today.

Arizona Democrats claim the measure is a way to legalize discrimination against homosexuals. They sponsored eight hostile amendments in efforts to silence the bill, but Senate Republicans rejected all of them.

News outlets are referring to the legislation as the “service refusal bill,” or the “religious-based discrimination” legislation. One called it the “Turn Gays Away” bill.

But a more proper name might be: the “Keep Christians Outta Jail Bill.”

Arizona Sen. Steve Yarbrough, one of the bill’s sponsors, said it was the New Mexico photographer case that prompted SB 1062. The state Supreme Court ruled last year that a Christian couple must compromise their beliefs and photograph same-sex ceremonies.

“This bill is about preventing discrimination against people who are clearly living out their faith,” Yarbrough said.

Sen. President Andy Biggs, a Republican from Gilbert, said the Democrats’ rhetoric was “misplaced.”

“Sometimes people’s rhetoric tends to inflame instead of explain,” Biggs told Fox News. “And I would suggest if there is going to be a backlash because of 1062, it won’t be because someone has read the content of this bill and recognizes that it is indeed tailored after Supreme Court cases dealing with First Amendment religious rights, it will because of the inaccurate rhetoric. That is my personal opinion.”

Kredit said those who oppose it are trying to minimize people of faith to the “four walls of their church.”

“It’s frightening to me,” he said. “Opponents need to answer why they are so hostile to religion. Do they want less freedom?”

Learn more about S.B. 1062.

Washington: House Passes Ban on Life-Change Therapy

Citizen Link - Thu, 02/20/2014 - 17:13

CitizenLink is proud to work with the Family Policy Institute of Washington and other family policy organizations across the country to stand for marriage, life and religious freedom. Learn more about the one in your state.

by Joseph Backholm
Feb. 14, 2014

The Washington State House of Representatives delivered a blow to religious freedom when it passed HB 2451 which bans therapy for minors to help them reduce or eliminate same-sex attraction. The bill, which passed 94-4, now moves to the Senate for consideration.

This bill, modeled after similar bills in New Jersey and California, makes it professional misconduct for a licensed therapist to provide sexual orientation change therapy to minors even when the client requests it. Therefore, it makes it illegal for a licensed counselor to counsel in a way that is consistent with the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or LDS understanding of sexuality…even in a church, mosque, or synagogue.

As a result, a minor with unwanted same-sex attraction will be prohibited by law from getting professional help.

It was expected that the bill would pass the Democrat controlled House of Representatives, but the final vote was surprising because of the amount of support it received. Thought to be highly controversial, the bill received nearly unanimous support even from House Republicans who, though often powerless to stop bad policy in the House, typically oppose attempts by the left to censor speech, restrict religious freedom, and interfere with family decisions. However, this bill presented unique political challenges.

Proponents of the bill told stories about children being subjected to shock therapy and ice baths against their will. While that kind of aversive therapy is broadly condemned, there is little to no evidence that such therapy is done commonly if at all. The Washington State Department of Health said they have received no complaints about therapists performing coercive sexual orientation change therapy of any kind–much less ice baths and shock therapy–against the will of a client.

Nevertheless, rather than simply ban shock treatments and ice baths, this bill makes it illegal for licensed therapists to perform talk therapy as well, even if the client requests it.

The broad support for the bill could be attributable to the potential political liability of opposing it. One can easily imagine messages like, “Representative X voted against a bill that would protect children from being thrown into ice baths! Representative X supports child abuse!?!?

Deceptive, negative campaign messages aren’t exactly new inventions in political campaigns.

This bill raises a dilemma every politician faces: “What kind of compromises am I willing to make if not compromising could mean I lose my ability to do any good at all?”

For the voter, this vote raises a different question: “If I can’t count on you to vote against bills that violate core principles of religious freedom, what can I count on you for?”

No one has bad intentions. But the view can look very different depending on where your seat is.

The bill was amended and improved to a degree, but even after the amendments, the bill’s primary purpose–to prohibit counselors from being able to communicate a particular perspective on same-sex attraction–remained intact.

While the vote allowed the bill to pass the House of Representatives, the strong support for the bill in the House increased its chances of success in the Senate.

The Washington State Senate is comprised of a bi-partisan Majority Coalition Caucus of 23 Republicans and 2 Democrats that has formed around budgetary issues. The coalition does not necessarily agree on social policy. Therefore, in order to remain united they have agreed not to take up controversial social issues.

However, when a bill comes out of the House with the appearance of broad support, it could embolden more leftist members of the Majority Coalition to join with leftist Democrats to pass the bill. After all, if it passed the House 94-4, how controversial can it really be?

It could pass with a strong majority of the Senate as well for fear of campaign mailers accusing Senators of supporting child abuse.

Welcome to the sausage factory.

That being said, the debate over this bill is far from over. It was always expected that the bill would pass the House so the debate will really heat up in the Senate.

Child abuse is not ok. If that is happening, everyone wants to stop it. Coercion by licensed counselors is already professional misconduct. If that is happening, there is already a way to address it. File a complaint with the licensing authority.

This bill denies patients the rights to seek the kind of counseling they want simply because the legislature doesn’t think they should want it. Why is that fair?

Learn more about the Family Policy Institute of Washington.


Stoplight: The Creed, The Text & The Touchstone

Citizen Link - Thu, 02/20/2014 - 16:44

Here are some reliable principles of government you can share with your friends. Our nation would be wise to put them into practice.

Thanks for sharing Stoplight® with your friends.

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Religious Freedom on Campus

Citizen Link - Thu, 02/20/2014 - 01:02

Washington High School Tries to Silence Pro-Life Student Group

Citizen Link - Wed, 02/19/2014 - 17:19

(Editor’s Note: Updated to include a statement from Tacoma Public Schools.)

School officials in Washington state violated the constitutional freedoms of a pro-life organization, according to a legal group.

Wilson Students for Life (WSFL) wanted to hang two posters to promote the club at Wilson High School in Tacoma. Administrators refused to give them permission. Officials were perfectly fine, though, with allowing the school’s Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) to post flyers promoting homosexuality.

“Public schools have a duty to treat all student groups equally,” said Thomas More Society (TMS) Vice President Peter Breen. “Wilson High School’s current policy allows administrators to censor any messages they deem ‘offensive’ — in this case, any pro-life message — while allowing other groups broad freedom of speech.”

The posters WSFL wants to display are to-the-point but not offensive. The first reads: “Since Roe v. Wade 1/3 of our generation has been aborted.” It features a picture of a milk carton and the word “missing” above a photo of a baby. The second poster quotes President Reagan: “I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion is already born.”

The pro-life students were also prohibited from holding a “day of silence” and a candlelight vigil.

In its letter, the legal group reminds officials that viewpoint discrimination is against the law:

Schools may not subject a pro-life club to any conditions that do not apply to all other non-curricular clubs. Placing requirements on the posters, leaflets, or announcements of a pro-life group that differ from those for other groups is unlawful differential treatment.

TMS attorneys also highlighted that school officials allowed the GSA to hold a “day of silence,” while denying the pro-life group.

Shannon McMinimee, general counsel for Tacoma Public Schools, disagreed with those claims:

The Wilson Students for Life have never requested of the administration to do a Day of Silence. All we are aware of them asking to do is hold a diaper drive, which was approved.  If they have a proposal for a Day of Silence, they can and should submit that. If they have any email or letter from school administration that reflects that they asked for this and were denied, I would really appreciate seeing that.

She also said the two posters at issue would not have been approved because they do not identify the school group that posted them. WSLF, she added, currently has 30 approved pro-life posters displayed throughout the campus.

WSFL President Bryce Asberg said he and his group will not back down.

“Wilson Students for Life is passionate about the pro-life movement, and we will continue to stand for life in our community,” he said. “We simply desire to be allowed to express our views.”

Read the letter the Thomas More Society wrote to school officials.


CitizenLink Campaign Academy Heads to Colorado

Citizen Link - Wed, 02/19/2014 - 17:11

Christians running for office can get a head-start on fine-tuning their campaign by attending CitizenLink Campaign Academy.

The Colorado Family Institute will host the event Feb. 28 and Mar. 1 in Denver. The seminars are designed to show candidates, campaign staff and grassroots activists how to run winning campaigns — without compromising their values. They will also glean insight on how to govern with a Biblical worldview. The cost to attend is $25 per person.

“If a Christian candidate wins and is only right on particular issues, such as life, marriage and liberty — that does not provide a framework for other decisions that they’re going to have to make,” said Bill Redmond, CitizenLink national representative for Family Policy Councils.

Redmond, who was a U.S. Representative from New Mexico from 1997 to 1999, will serve as the seminar speaker.

Participants will also learn about:

* The causes of campaign wins and losses

* How to develop a believable message

* The difference between a campaign strategy and campaign tactic

“Christian elected officials need a Biblical worldview,” Redmond explained, “in order to see all issues from a Biblical perspective.”

To learn more about the event, email [email protected]


Maine: Make Plans to See ‘Son of God’

Citizen Link - Wed, 02/19/2014 - 16:55

CitizenLink is proud to work with the Christian Civic League of Maine and other family policy organizations across the country to stand for marriage, life and religious freedom. Learn more about the one in your state.

by Deb Wagner

From the award-winning producers of the record-breaking miniseries The Bible, Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, comes Son of God, the larger-than-life story of The New Testament, to be released by 20th Century Fox on February 28, 2014.

Told with the scope and scale of an action epic, the film features powerful performances, exotic locales, dazzling visual effects and a rich orchestral score. Award-winning actor Diogo Morgado portrays Jesus as the film spans from his humble birth through his teachings, crucifixion and ultimate resurrection.

In Maine (so far) at Maine Coast Mall Cinemas and Regal Cinemas (look under Movies tab, Coming Soon).

Help ensure millions of people experience this life-changing story with 10 Ways to Share.

The movie is action-packed with special effects, powerful acting, and beautiful cinematography. It marks the first major motion picture about Jesus’ life since Passion of the Christ, released ten years ago.

Learn more about the Christian Civic League of Maine

Learn more about “Son of God,” in theaters Feb. 28.


CitizenLink Report: Time to Flip the Senate?

Citizen Link - Tue, 02/18/2014 - 18:22

2014 presents a remarkable opportunity to change the balance of power in the U.S. Senate — seats in at least 10 states are in play.

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University of Alabama Apologizes to Pro-Life Group

Citizen Link - Tue, 02/18/2014 - 17:35

A pro-life student group at the University of Alabama will be allowed to show its display in the school’s hallway. The university apologized Monday for forcing the sign’s removal after an administrator claimed it was “offensive.”

Bama Students for Life will put back the display on Thursday. The group is pleased with the university’s decision.

Bama Students for Life is very grateful to The University of Alabama for correcting this injustice,” said Claire Chretien, the group’s president. “We are thrilled that the university was so willing to right this wrong so that all students will be able to continue exercising our free speech rights.”

The sign features abortion-related facts; pictures of women who died as a result of having an abortion; and two small pictures of pre-born babies who died from abortion. The official removed the display from the school’s student center without notifying the group.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) registered a formal complaint about the incident last week. The center’s director then apologized for what happened and said the group may put the poster back up.

“Censorship is inconsistent with ‘the marketplace of ideas’ that a public university is supposed to be,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Sharp. “We commend the university for its quick response to Bama Students for Life’s free speech concerns.”

Read Bama’s letter to the University of Alabama.

View a picture of the display.

Watch video footage of Bama Students for Life president speaking a with university official about confiscated display.


California: Anticipating An Onslaught

Citizen Link - Tue, 02/18/2014 - 17:22

CitizenLink is proud to work with California Family Alliance and other family policy organizations across the country to stand for marriage, life and religious freedom. Learn more about the one in your state.

by Lori Arnold

There is a strange phenomenon in the science behind tsunamis. As history has recorded, including the 2004 beast that devastated India’s coastline, the ocean often deceptively retreats revealing the beauty of the naked beach as the sea appears to take a nap.

It’s alluring in its lull.

Within minutes, though, the waves reverse direction, thrusting its massive power upon the shore, and everything in their wake. As it presses forward, the wall of water’s volume and strength is exponentially more devastating than its pre-retreat form.

Over the next 10 business days—in advance of the Feb. 22 deadline to submit bills for this session—the legislative action in the Capitol will agitate with much of the same rigor. In the past few weeks, dozens of bills have trickled in, far less than the hundred-plus proposals history tells us to expect each day over the next two weeks.

In the lull, we have seen several promising bills designed to protect families from the seedy undercurrent of human trafficking.

Senate Bill (SB) 955 (Mitchell D-Culver City) would add human trafficking to the list of legal uses for wiretapping. The bill is similar in scope to last year’s Assembly Bill (AB) 156 (Holden, D-Pasadena), which failed to advance out of the assembly. Like other crimes allowed on the wiretap list, SB 955 requires a judge to sign off on a written request by an attorney general, chief deputy attorney general or a district attorney.

With its clearly defined checks and balances, such a tool could prove to be an invaluable asset in taking down trafficking networks perpetuating modern-day slavery.

Another bill, AB 1585 (Alejo D-Salinas), would provide a way for victims of human trafficking who were convicted of solicitation or prostitution to have their record sealed in an effort to protect their chances for gainful employment, seeking public office or even adopting.

The proposal is an amended version of AB 795, which Alejo unsuccessfully introduced last year. The newest version adds language that requires victims to complete any term of probation for their crime and disallows a victim’s sealed record from being used as part of adoption screening.

As written the law provides compassionate relief to victims of human trafficking.
Two other laws that we are keeping an eye on are SB 924 and SB 926, statue of limits measures addressing sexual abuse cases. Both introduced by Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose), SB 924 would raise the current age limit to file civil cases from 26 to 40 and extend the time period a survivor has to file a civil claim—once they have made the connection between their adult injuries and the abuse they suffered as children—from 3 to 5 years.

Beall’s companion bill, SB 926, raises the age at which an adult survivor of childhood sex abuse can seek prosecution from age 28 to 40. This bill, Beall maintains, would apply to the most egregious sex crimes against children.

While Beall’s twin bills appear to benefit victims of sexual abuse, we will continue to monitor them to be sure that, in the pursuit of justice, the pendulum does not swing too wide as to inadvertently inflict injury to innocent parties, an unfortunate and all-too common byproduct of the repressed memory movement.

We have no idea what the legislative waves will bring us over the next two weeks, but be assured we are monitoring the situation from the bluff and are ready to jump into action.

Learn more about California Family Alliance.


Take Action: Christian Airman Punished for Beliefs Receives Military Honor

Citizen Link - Tue, 02/18/2014 - 17:18

A Christian airman fighting for his religious freedom in the military recently received a top service medal from the U.S. Air Force.

“This is a testament to Senior Master Sgt. Phillip Monk’s courage and conviction,” said Mike Berry, Liberty Institute director of Military Affairs. “I can think of few Airmen who have demonstrated the courage to stand on their principles the way Monk has, to be ostracized for it — but ultimately to be exonerated and awarded for his achievement.”

Monk filed suit against his openly gay commander, Major Elisa Valenzuela, last year for violating his rights. The incident occurred when she asked Monk whether people who do not support same-sex marriage are participating in discrimination. He said he could not respond, fearing an honest answer would lead to legal trouble.

Valenzuela was asking Monk his opinion on same-sex marriage after a lower-ranking trainer made comments about how such marriage could lead to cultural decline. Monk told Valenzuela the instructor meant no harm, and that perhaps the commander could use the situation to teach about tolerance and diversity.

Instead, she relieved him of his duties at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. He also faced the possibility of being court-martialed.

Liberty Institute, representing Monk, announced on Monday that the Air Force awarded him with a Meritorious Service Medal on Feb. 12. It is the second highest non-combat award.

Berry called the Meritorious Service Medal a “prestigious decoration.”

“And one for which Monk should be proud. This is a noble gesture by the Air Force to recognize Monk’s hard work and sacrifice,” Berry explained. “I’m pleased that they’ve done the right thing by him. Because of his example, other service members should be encouraged to stand up for their religious beliefs.”

TAKE ACTION: Show Your Support for Monk

Liberty Institute has created a simple way for you to show your support for Senior Master Sgt. Monk. We encourage you to take a few minutes to send him a note, which has already been written.

Watch Monk’s appearance on Fox News.

Read “Texas: Senior Master Sgt. Monk Says, ‘Thank You.’”

Washington House Passes Bill that Would Ban Sexual-Orientation Therapy

Citizen Link - Mon, 02/17/2014 - 17:35

The Washington House of Representatives passed legislation on Thursday that would make it illegal for minors to receive counseling for unwanted same-sex attractions.

HB 2451 is modeled after bills passed in California and New Jersey that ban sexual-orientation change effort (SOCE) counseling for anyone under 18 — even when the client requests it. It passed 94-4 in the House. The legislation now heads to the Senate.

Joseph Backholm, executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington (FPIW), said it was no surprise the bill passed the Democrat-controlled House. The margin by which it passed, though, came as a “shock.”

“It got a lot of support from House Republicans in a surprising way,” Backhom told CitizenLink. “And I think they were just afraid of being characterized in their upcoming elections this fall as people who would support shock treatment and ice baths if they opposed this kind of a bill.”

Supporters of HB 2451 told such stories to paint a dark picture of such therapy.

“While that kind of aversive therapy is broadly condemned, there is little-to-no evidence that such therapy is done commonly if at all,” he explained. “The Washington State Department of Health said they have received no complaints about therapists performing coercive sexual orientation change therapy of any kind — much less ice baths and shock therapy — against the will of a client.”

For those who want to change, SOCE therapy can work.

David Pickup, a licensed therapist in Glendale, Calif., talked to CitizenLink — in an earlier interview — about the success he’s witnessed. He sought SOCE counseling many years ago. It worked for him, and it’s worked for several of his clients.

“For every client that I’ve seen who is motivated and who really does want to change and who doesn’t get discouraged — who follows through and doesn’t give up, there has been a significant and spontaneous lessening or dissipation of homosexual attraction,” he said.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed California’s law two years ago. Pickup filed suit shortly after. A federal appeals court upheld the ban last month. The case has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Following California’s lead, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a similar bill this past summer. Liberty Counsel is challenging the law.

“It’s really important that people contact their legislators,” Backholm said. “The rights of people to get counseling in a way that is consistent with their faith, and the rights of people to receive counseling that they want for themselves, are very much at stake.”

Learn more about Washington’s HB 2451.

Read “The (Complete) Lack of a Scientific Basis for Banning Sexual-Orientation Change Efforts with Minors,” by Christopher Rosik, Ph.D.


U.S. Senators Introduce State Marriage Defense Act

Citizen Link - Mon, 02/17/2014 - 17:12

Congressional senators filed legislation that would protect states from the federal government’s attempt to redefine marriage.

Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah introduced the State Marriage Defense Act Thursday. It would prevent the Obama administration from trying to create same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

“We should respect the states,” Cruz said. “The definition of marriage should be left to democratically elected legislatures, not dictated from Washington.”

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the federal marriage law in June. This means that the federal government cannot define marriage for its own policies and laws. The ruling did not affect the part of the law that says no state is required to recognize another state’s redefinition of the institution.

The District of Columbia and 17 states — California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico,  New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington — have redefined marriage by legislation or court order.

“It is clear the Obama administration finds the principles of federalism inconvenient in its effort to force states to redefine the institution of marriage,” Lee explained. “The State Marriage Defense Act provides an important protection for states, respecting the right to choose for themselves how each will treat the institution of marriage under the law.”

Read “Talking Points to Protect Marriage.”

View and download Focus’ resource “Teach Your Children About Marriage.”


Pennsylvania: Christian Rapper Receives Death Threats over New Song

Citizen Link - Mon, 02/17/2014 - 16:45

CitizenLink is proud to work with the Pennsylvania Family Institute and other family policy organizations across the country to stand for marriage, life and religious freedom. Learn more about the one in your state.

by Kate Boyle

Christian rapper Bizzle is reportedly receiving death threats over his response to Grammy-award winning rapper duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Same Love.” The Houston-based rapper wrote his song in the aftermath of Macklemore’s performance of “Same Love” at the Grammy’s – where dozens of gay couples were married on national television.

Bizzle uses the same instrumental from Macklemore’s version to promote an entirely different message – one that seems to go unheard in the media. “We have these conversations ‘off the record’ so much, but everyone’s afraid of speaking up because of what comes speaking up,” he states to a local radio station in Houston.

The rapper uses Christian principles to counter the public’s seemingly growing acceptance of homosexuality and “same-sex marriage” in American culture.

“God created marriage, when he did he defined it though
So why is it you want what He created, but deny him though?
It’s not wicked enough, switching the definition?
You want it done by a Christian in a church he worships in?”

The backlash via social media prompted Bizzle to create a website to post the hateful things being said about him – further proving his point that the tolerance is one sided.

“But, see your hypocrisy is something I could paint vividly
Saying, it’s the way you was born, and I’m sure that you lust like I do just in a different form
But I’m married so if I give into mine, I’m a cheater
If you give into yours, you just fight to make it legal”

Promotion of tolerance toward anything liberal is fine but there’s no tolerance toward Christian worldviews. The consistent persecution continues.

Learn more about the Pennsylvania Family Institute.


The Ring Makes All the Difference

Citizen Link - Mon, 02/17/2014 - 01:02

  Visit our special Best of Stoplight page.

Analyst: Facebook’s New Gender Pronouns Contributes to Cultural Confusion

Citizen Link - Fri, 02/14/2014 - 16:44

Facebook users now have more than 50 terms to choose from — in addition to him, her or them — when choosing their online “gender” preference.

The Associate Press, which broke the story Thursday, interviewed Focus on the Family Gender Issues Analyst Jeff Johnston. He told the news outlet that Facebook is allowed to manage its site how it wants to, but that it’s impossible to deny “biological reality.”

Some of the new options include: androgynous, transgender and genderqueer.

“Transgender activists reject the reality of two sexes, male and female. They believe there is a spectrum of ‘genders,’ and that people should be free to choose or change their ‘gender,’” Johnston told CitizenLink “In this policy change, Facebook is giving in to this small group of activists. In doing so, they are contributing to the cultural confusion that already exists.

Biology, though, agrees with Scripture.

“Male and female are the two halves of humanity, that both are good and valuable,” Johnston explained. “And all we have to do is look around and see that within those two categories there is certainly a great deal of variety. I have a great deal of compassion for those who hate their masculinity or femininity or who struggle with what it means to be a man or a woman. Many of these have been deeply hurt, abused or rejected. Christianity offers healing and grace to these wounded and weary ones, without capitulating to their confusion.”

Read “Transgenderism’ and the Deconstruction of Gender.”


Friday 5: Glenn Stanton — Marriage is More than ‘Happily Ever After’

Citizen Link - Fri, 02/14/2014 - 16:29

It’s not really a ball-and-chain relationship. God’s design for marriage, in fact, is a joy, says Glenn Stanton, director for Family Formation Studies at Focus on the Family. “But it is also hard work. This is one of its strengths,” he writes in his most recent book, “The Ring Makes all the Difference.”

Stanton explores the strong benefits of marriage and unravels the reasons why cohabitation can harm couples and their children. He argues that marriage is much more than “happily ever after”— and so much more than finding your soul mate. The institution, he says, has a deeply practical consequence in our lives for men, women and children.

He talked to CitizenLink about the harmful effects of cohabitation and the value and importance of marriage.

CitizenLink: In your book you say people with cohabiting experiences who marry have 50-80 percent likelihood of divorcing than those who never cohabited.

Glenn Stanton: First of all, that information is just solid in terms of the research. That has been showing up in the research for the last 30 years — an increased divorce risk for cohabitors of 50-to-80 percent. The general number is about 65 percent. There’s no question that it increased, but the scholars are asking why. There are a few things and one of them is the lack of commitment. One scholar coined this phrase: relational ambiguity. They did research on the men and women cohabiting. They put the men in one room and they put the women in another. They asked them, ‘What is the future of your relationship? Where is your relationship going?’ One group was more likely to say, “I think we’re going to get married. We’re just moving in that direction.” Another group said, “No, we’re just hanging out, having fun, one day at a time.” Gender-wise, which do you think was the men group and which was the women group? Both of them have different expectations about where the relationship is going. Think about the in-laws if you will: “Janie’s been cohabiting with this guy — when are they going to get married?” “I don’t know.” Nobody knows the nature of the relationship. But in marriage, everybody attends the wedding; everybody hears the vows. That has a lot to do with the stability of the relationship; the longevity of the relationship; and the health of the relationship. Another big reason is — this is not a judgment on the people per se, but cohabiting relationships are famously more unhealthy than marriage relationships, because of that kind of ambiguity.  The unhealthiness leads to the lack of relational health and longevity. It’s kind of what I call the escape clause. The reason that you cohabit, the reason you don’t get married is, “Oh, I’m not quite ready to make that commitment.”  That has a huge negative impact on the future and nature and understanding commitment to the marriage itself or the relationship itself.

CL: You also talk about how it can have a negative impact on kids and why marriage is so good for children.

GS: Marriage has existed in all cultures at all times. One of the big reasons is because marriage is the way that we link together and bind together in a cooperative relationship, the two people that brought that child into the world.  And all children need that. They need the stability. One of the things that kids need most in their life is stability. They can live in poverty, but if they have mom and dad there — and in fact, kids living with married mom and dad are absolutely unlikely to live in poverty — but even if they live in poverty, mom’s there, dad’s there, and they have a world they can depend upon. They have that security. Cohabitation does not provide that. It creates in the life of the child, many times, short-term relationships for their parents, and the child kind of being bounced around from relationship to relationship. It would be difficult to overstate the negativity that has on the outcomes of children.

CL: You say instead of thinking of marriage as “a ball and chain,” marriage actually lifts us up physically and psychologically.

GS: That’s interesting. We think about the ball and chain – OK, my life’s over, I’m getting married now. If you look at any well-being measure — health, happiness, productivity, having a job, staying employed, earning money, saving money, not being suicidal, domestic violence, on and on and on — marriage increases those things for both adults and children, like nothing else does. It’s really fascinating. Married older folks are more likely to exercise, to have better vitamin intake, to get rest. A married heart patient who has heart trouble is more likely to recover and stay healthy. You imagine any creative measure of human well-being and marriage has a positive impact upon that. Cohabitation tends to distract from that. Divorce tends to distract from that. Marriage is not just a sentimental relationship. It’s not something that just warms our heart. Marriage has a deeply practical consequence in our lives, both for men, women and children as well.

CL: What does God say about marriage?

GS: In the Scriptures what we see is God’s creation of man and woman. The introduction of one to the other is essentially their wedding. It’s the first thing that He does. But now let’s go to the end of Scripture: In Revelation and in the last chapters, it talks about another kind of wedding: The ultimate wedding, the wedding all of us are going to, where Christ the bridegroom finally is able to receive His pure bride who has been made clean by the blood of Christ. Marriage is a huge thing in the Christian story. It’s interesting in the second chapter of Genesis.  It says, “And for this reason a man shall leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife.” For what reason? The Scriptures don’t really tell us. They sort of leave it open. I think it’s for every reason, because that’s what God designed us for, because that’s where a lot of our human well-being comes from. God says it’s not good for man to be alone. It’s not that everybody needs to be married. But we all come from parents and its better if our parents are married. We are healthier children, both young and as adults, if we are raised by married mothers and fathers. So when the Scripture says “for this reason” it’s really all the reasons.

CL:  Talk about the importance of date night for married couples.

GS: Date nights are very important. It’s important to understand that marriages can’t be saved by having a date night. A date night is wonderful frosting on the cake. Setting aside those times for married couples to go out and have special time together sends a huge message to the children. That mom and dad’s marriage really does matter. But also to each other, it says: “You’re important enough and this relationship is important enough that we’re going to do fun things together.” The other part of that is to make sure that it’s fun.  It doesn’t have to be expensive.  I had two friends in college and they didn’t have two dimes to rub together. One of the things they did was they went to RV places and they went through the RV’s.  ‘What would it be like to own this thing?’  It didn’t cost a dime and it was a creative thing. To put that time aside for a married couple is an investment, it’s important and it’s very easy to do.

Learn more about Stanton’s book, “The Ring Makes All the Difference: The Hidden Consequences of Cohabitation and the Strong Benefits of Marriage.”

Learn more about Glenn Stanton.

Learn more about Focus on the Family’s Date Night Challenge.

View and download Focus’ resource “Teach Your Children About Marriage.”