Thursday, January 18, 2007

The forces of theocracy encroach!

Yet another reason to hate Vancouver, WA:

As Pam at Pandagon reports, a group of 'Couv-based fundies is the focus of a suit against the Bush Administration by Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Apparently this group, called the Northwest Marriage Institute has been getting federal funding under Bush's "Building Healthy Marriages" initiative, despite their explicitly Christian message.

The Institute seems to devote most of its energy to giving seminars on "saving" troubled marriages. While marital counselling is all well and good, and apart from all my secularist qualms about the whole endeavor, I worry about their insistence (included in their mission statement) that "all marriages can be saved". I looked through their online "marriage quizzes"--which are the irritating kind of quiz that requires submitting an email address, a classic evangelical trick--and found a few troubling questions, such as the following:
What marital problems inflict so much damage on a marriage that the couple can never recover?

*An affair
*Domestic violence
*None of the above
I assume the correct answer is supposed to be "none of the above". This kind of attitude is loathsome and dehumanizing, regardless of its religious context. Saying that no degree of domestic violence is enough to ruin a marriage permanently is equivalent to blaming the victim for leaving in self-defense when that proves necessary, as it often does. Yuck.

Anyway, the website tells little about the religious content of the group's workshops, but the following excerpt from the "About" page reveals a lot:
The Northwest Marriage Institute was born of necessity to help address one of the greatest problems in our society - marriages that are falling apart. The statistics are staggering: Half of all first marriages will end in divorce, 75% of all second marriages will end in divorce, and one-third of all third marriages will end in divorce. This means, when you spend thousands of dollars to see your child walk down the aisle during a marital ceremony, you may actually be sending them towards THE most stressful event in life - divorce. The problem is great, but solutions are few. Some churches have marriage and family experts on staff and provide marriage workshops of their own. But here's the real problem - 65% of all who live in Oregon and 67% of all who live in Washington have no connection to any church. The great need, then, was to take biblical marriage education and biblical marriage counseling to the communities. With this in mind, the Northwest Marriage Institute was loosely organized in June of 2004.
You have to love the emphasis on the financial cost of marriage, and the assumption that parents pay for their children's weddings.

You also have to love the dig at Northwestern irreligiosity. I take great pride in the fact that my region, and particularly my city, is one of the least religious places in the country, but apparently these people think that's a problem, and intend to fight that problem using hundreds of thousands of our tax dollars. I hope Americans United gives them hell.

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