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Austin Cline

Federal Marriage Program: Churches Targeted, Gays Excluded

By January 23, 2004

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President George W. Bush recently announced his plan to spend US $1.5 billion on promoting marriage. Do you suppose that it's just a coincidence that church programs will be targeted while groups which focus upon gay couples will be excluded?

The Tallahassee Democrat reports:

Local black clergy and community leaders met Thursday to get onboard President Bush's $1.5 billion proposal to promote marriage among lower-income couples, using religious groups to emphasize premarital counseling. ... "This is not about getting the governor's brother re-elected," said Norris Barr, headmaster of the Capital City Preparatory School. "It's about getting African-American men to be good husbands and African-American women to be good wives to make good families." ... "The church has to be visionary," [Rev. R.B. Holmes Jr., pastor of Tallahassee's Bethel Missionary Baptist Church said. "God is the architect of marriage, not government."
[P]rograms that target gay and lesbian couples would be barred from funding, which has drawn criticism from some circles. The exclusion of gays and lesbians makes the proposed program inherently unfair and unequal, said Scott R. Rost, chairman of the Central Florida chapter of the ACLU. "Whatever the benefits of the idea, to expressly exclude homosexuals and lesbians or any other group of people is inappropriate and causes us concern," Rost said.

It sounds an awful lot to me like this proposed program is yet another scheme to funnel government money to religious groups in order to help them promote their religious agenda. Here, they will have extra funding in order to ensure that people who get married only do so if they are schooled in that church's theological assumptions about the nature of marriage and human relationships.

Naturally a church has the right to only marry people who have such schooling; however, it doesn't seem appropriate for the government to help fund that schooling, thereby endorsing whatever it is that the church is teaching. What if the church teaches that people who marry must have children and cannot use birth control? That's their right and it's their right not to marry anyone who disagrees, but should the government fund and endorse such teachings? Of course not.

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