Church and state

Column: Animus over pro-marriage issue bodes ill for kids

Michael Schuttloffel is the executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference.

Michael Schuttloffel is the executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference.

by Michael Schuttloffel

If you have been reading the papers this summer, you know that there is something sinister afoot in Kansas.

Strange people from faraway places have been seen slipping into secret meetings, the tails of their black capes flapping in the shadows. Some of the most powerful people in Kansas are implicated in the conspiracy, and the evidence suggests that it goes all the way to the very top.

Fortunately, the Fourth Estate has been up to the task. Kansas’ journalistic establishment has blown the lid off of the Kansas governor’s radical, top-secret plan to . . . promote marriage. Woodward and Bernstein, eat your heart out.

The fact that the mere suggestion that government policy should encourage marriage would be immediately met with charges of right-wing extremism and religious fundamentalism is a sign of the moral confusion of the times. Yet the fanatical refusal to concede the obvious — that children are best served when they live with a married mother and father — is itself faith-based and hyper-ideological, because the data is conclusive on this point.

According to the 2008 Scafidi report: “When parents part, or fail to marry, their children seem to suffer from increased risks of poverty, mental illness, infant mortality, physical illness, juvenile delinquency and adult criminality, sexual abuse and other forms of family violence, economic hardship, substance abuse, and educational failure, such as increased risk of dropping out of school.”

When one considers the fact that over one-third of all children in our country are born outside of wedlock, including 46 percent of Hispanic children and 69 percent of African-American children, the proportions of what is doubtlessly a national crisis become apparent.

But Governor Sam Brownback has nonetheless been pummeled in the press for considering ways to shift certain public policies away from default settings that discourage marriage. And as breathlessly reported by the Topeka Capital-Journal in July, he met this spring with a group of national experts on marriage policy.

The conversation was “behind closed doors,” rather than on the Statehouse lawn, where other such discussions are presumably held. One of the participants, we are told, “preached a gospel that encouraged poor women to marry their way out of poverty” as an official in the Bush administration (subtext: scary Christian). Another, a law professor, once said she “admired Sarah Palin’s devotion to family and professional achievement.” These are very dangerous people indeed!

There is significant room for debate over which, if any, public policies can strengthen marriage. But the ferocity of the criticism directed against those who would even try bodes ill for the children who need no statistical analyses to tell them that having a father in the home would make all the difference.

About the author

Michael Schuttloffel

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