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CULTURE DIGEST: Bad economy saves some marriages; Coca-cola pro-family advertiser

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Some say there is a silver lining in every cloud, and during the nation’s economic downturn, one positive effect is that some couples are deciding to work through their marital difficulties rather than opting for an expensive divorce.

“Marriage counselors and divorce lawyers nationwide say more distressed couples are putting off divorce because the cost of splitting up is prohibitive in a time of stagnant salaries, plummeting home values and rising unemployment,” MSNBC reporter Alex Johnson wrote in an article Nov. 23.

Johnson noted that a contested divorce that goes to court can cost a couple with at least one child from $53,000 to $188,000 in attorneys’ fees, financial advice, counseling and real estate costs for buying or renting separate homes. Ten sessions of marriage counseling, meanwhile, cost about $1,000, and that’s the route many people are taking these days, he said.

The evidence for a decline in divorces is primarily anecdotal, Johnson said, because national divorce statistics for 2008 aren’t yet available. But some local governments that report semiannual statistics are seeing a difference.

“In Chicago, the Cook County Circuit Court system reported that divorce and separation filings fell by 600 — or roughly 5 percent — during the first nine months of the year, compared to the same period last year,” Johnson wrote. “Comparable drops have been reported in Fresno County, Calif., and Comanche County, Okla.”

Miami-Dade County reported an 18 percent drop in divorce filings from January to May, the article said, compared to the same period last year. The Miami area has seen home prices fall by about 20 percent during the same period, adding to speculation that people can barely pay for one home, much less two.

Johnson said divorce rates tend to rise historically during hard economic times, but this downturn is different because of its severity, according to experts. Census figures reported a decline in divorces from 1930 to 1935 during the Great Depression.

Divorce rates “weren’t high, but they went down,” Jay Teachman, a sociology professor at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash., told MSNBC. “People couldn’t afford to divorce.”

COCA-COLA IS BEST PRO-FAMILY ADVERTISER — Coca-Cola, Whirlpool and Hewlett-Packard were ranked among the 10 best television advertisers based on the content in prime time broadcast programs they chose to support, according to the Parents Television Council, a pro-family watchdog group.

“The role that television advertisers play in determining what type of content comes into every home in America cannot be overstated,” Tim Winter, the group’s president, said in a news release Nov. 24. “We commend the advertisers on our best list that have chosen to associate their hard-earned corporate brands with positive programming that the entire family can watch together.”

The 10 best: Coca-Cola, The Clorox Company, Century 21 Real Estate, H&R Block, Ferrero SpA (USA), CVS Caremark Corporation, Whirlpool Corporation, The Hershey Company, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance and Hewlett-Packard.

The Parents Television Council based its rankings on each company’s prime time network television ad buys during the 2007-08 season. Companies with the most ads on green light shows — those determined by PTC to be family friendly — were ranked the best, while those companies with the most ads on red light shows were ranked the worst.

“Parents can thank many of the advertisers on the worst list for enabling the networks to pump some of the most shocking and outrageous content on the air today directly into their living rooms,” Winter said.

The 10 worst: General Motors Corporation, Nissan North America, L’Oreal USA, Pepsi-Cola North America, GlaxoSmithKline Holdings, Reckitt Benckiser, Target Corporation, Kohl’s Corporation, Verizon Communications and Toyota Motor North America.

“During the holiday season, we call on our members and all concerned citizens to carefully consider which companies they will support with their shopping dollars,” Winter said. “While Kohl’s and Target landed on our worst list, Wal-Mart barely missed the cut off for our best list and is to be lauded for its commitment to families.

“It is up to consumers to show companies that supporting family friendly programming makes good business sense,” he added. “The PTC will continue to encourage corporate responsibility for advertising buys and ask consumers to do the same by reinforcing that message with their wallets.”

ALABAMA APPROVES BIBLE CURRICULUM — The Alabama State Board of Education voted unanimously in November to approve “The Bible in History and Literature,” a conservative curriculum, for statewide use in public schools.

“Reports and studies released over the last few years indicate that leading high school English teachers, as well as university level literature professors, believe that students should possess a strong familiarity with the Bible in order to attain a well rounded education,” Scott Beason, a Republican state senator in Alabama, said in a statement Nov. 20.

“It is extremely difficult to understand western thought including history, politics and social interaction without an understanding of the content of the Bible,” he said.

Beason, a member of First Baptist Church in Gardendale, supported the school board’s decision, noting that the curriculum they approved has “undergone tremendous scholarly review” by experts with degrees from Oxford, Harvard, Princeton and other universities.

The Bible in History and Literature has widespread support across the United States and is used in more than 450 school districts in 38 states, Beason said, including some in Alabama. Now the state’s 500-plus high schools will be able to offer the elective course and be reimbursed by the state for the cost of the materials.

Last year the state board of education approved a more liberal book, “The Bible and Its Influence,” which drew some criticism for its inaccuracies such as teaching that Jesus Christ was born in Nazareth.

“That’s a major issue that deals with prophecy,” board member Stephanie Bell told The Gasden Times. “It makes it hard when you have to correct parts of books.”

The Bible and Its Influence, the newspaper said, does not require reading the Bible aloud in class and says, “Some read Genesis as a literal account of the mechanics of creation. Still others read it as a poem about God’s relationship with humans. Many read the book as both.”

The Bible in History and Literature, meanwhile, says, “Public schools may not provide religious instruction but they may teach about religion.” It instructs the teacher to “Call for reading aloud and objectively presenting Genesis 1-2” and “Read aloud sections of the New Testament.”

Despite the school board approving two curriculums for teaching the Bible in schools, The Times said few schools are taking advantage of the offer. When budget reductions hardly leave room for social studies and science textbooks, Bible teaching is cut. Also, even in the Bible Belt people are leery of teaching a sacred text in public classrooms, the newspaper said.
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.

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