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CULTURE DIGEST: Divorce-rate-reducing ‘Community Marriage Policies’ catching on

Updated Feb. 9, 2006

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–When pastors in Las Cruces, N.M., signed a Community Marriage Policy in January, they marked the 200th city to join the movement since leaders in Modesto, Calif., signed the first one in 1986. And since Modesto launched its marriage-saving emphasis, the divorce rate there has decreased 57 percent, said Michael McManus, creator of the Community Marriage Policies.

Although another New Mexico city, Albuquerque, was set to become the 200th city, volunteers there did not have enough signatures to quality for a marriage policy.

More than 10,000 pastors in 42 states have signed Community Marriage Policies with the goal of radically reducing the divorce rate in their local churches.

McManus said that Austin and El Paso, Texas, Kansas City, Kan., Salem, Ore., and Modesto have all slashed divorce rates by 48 percent or more since signing Community Marriage Policies.

Statistics indicate that among the first 114 cities to sign the policy, divorce rates in those cities fell by 17.5 percent over seven years, which is nearly double the 9.4 percent decline in similar cities that did not sign the policy, McManus said. Such a rate was enough to save 50,000 marriages. In addition, the cohabitation rate fell by 33 percent more in marriage policy cities than in similar cities from 1990-2000.

When pastors of various denominations gather in a community to agree upon the marriage policy, they adopt six particular reforms for their congregations. First, they commit to require engaged couples to complete four to six months of premarital inventory and skills training for resolving conflict.

Also, pastors agree to have engaged couples meet with trained mentor couples to discuss those inventory results, and they agree to organize an annual marriage enrichment retreat at the church. Pastors also agree to train couples whose marriages once nearly failed to mentor those in current crisis, and they vow to encourage separated couples to complete a workbook course called “Reconciling God’s Way,” McManus said.

Finally, pastors who sign the marriage policy agree to help stepfamilies by creating Stepfamily Support Groups, which are known to save 80 percent of stepfamily marriages, which normally end at a 70 percent rate.

For more information, visit www.marriagesavers.org.

DIVORCE DESTROYS WEALTH, STUDY FINDS — Divorce can have a devastating financial impact on a person’s wealth, but a steady marriage can nearly double it, according to a new study by Ohio State University.

“Divorce looks like one of the fastest ways to destroy your wealth,” Jay Zagorsky, author of the study and a research assistant at Ohio State’s Center for Human Resource Research, told the Associated Press.

The study, which appears in the current issue of the Journal of Sociology, looked at a nationally representative survey of 9,000 people to determine how wealth changes as a result of marriage and divorce. Researchers found that married people increased their wealth about 4 percent each year simply as a result of being married, when all other factors are constant.

Zagorsky said the study could not predict why marriage is helpful in building wealth, but sociological research indicates married people benefit because two people can live more cheaply than they could separately and because two spouses can share household responsibilities and produce more than if they were single.

Divorce reduces a person’s wealth by about three-quarters, or 77 percent, compared to that of a single person, while being married almost doubles comparative wealth, or increases it by 93 percent, the study found, according to an Ohio State news release Jan. 17.

“Divorce causes a decrease in wealth that is larger than just splitting a couple’s assets in half,” Zagorsky said, adding that married people see an increase in wealth that is more than simply adding the assets of two single people.

“If you really want to increase your wealth, get married and stay married,” he said. “On the other hand, divorce can devastate your wealth.”

MALE STUDENT CAN WEAR SKIRTS TO SCHOOL — The American Civil Liberties Union has won an agreement with a New Jersey school district allowing a male student to wear a skirt to class each day in protest of the school’s policy of prohibiting shorts from Oct. 1 to April 15.

A school board member in Hasbrouck Heights, N.J., said the no-shorts policy was meant to improve the teaching and learning environment during the winter months, but Michael Coviello, a 17-year-old senior at the high school decided to show his disagreement with the policy by wearing a skirt to school.

His mother, Laura Coviello, explained to a writer for the North Jersey Media Group that shorts have been a part of her son’s wardrobe since he began wearing braces on both legs after a knee injury three years ago. Jeans and even wide-leg khakis were difficult to fit over the braces, so he began wearing shorts each day. Once the braces came off in August, she said, Michael continued to wear shorts.

But the student was sent home when he showed up in shorts Oct. 12, the first day of the current school year that the policy was enforced, NorthJersey.com reported. The next day, he returned to school wearing a Halloween costume of mechanic’s overalls, and the following day he wore a Fred Flintstone costume.

Coviello’s antics won him a trip to the principal’s office and then a meeting with the superintendent, where he made the case that girls get to wear skirts during the winter so he should be able to expose his legs as well. The superintendent gave him permission to wear skirts, so he bought three with flowers on them, NorthJersey.com said.

But the principal said Coviello’s actions were disruptive and barred him from wearing skirts. That’s when the student’s mother contacted the ACLU, complaining that his rights were being violated. An ACLU representative and school administrators reached a compromise giving Coviello permission to wear a skirt just like the female students, though he is still not allowed to wear shorts until spring.

‘PROVE JESUS EXISTED,’ COURT SAYS — A Roman Catholic cleric has been ordered by an Italian judge to prove that Jesus Christ existed after a former classmate of the cleric sued him for claiming that Jesus was born of a couple named Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem and lived in Nazareth, according to the Associated Press.

Luigi Cascioli, a lifelong atheist, filed a lawsuit in 2002 alleging that Rev. Enrico Righi violated two Italian laws — “abuse of popular belief,” in which someone intentionally deceives people, and “impersonation,” in which someone makes gains by attributing a false name to someone, AP said.

Prosecutors first tried to have the case dismissed because no crime could be proven, but Cascioli insisted and now a judge has set a hearing for Jan. 27 to explore the idea of having court-appointed technical experts review historical data in order to prove whether Jesus really existed.

    About the Author

  • Erin Curry Roach