Monday, September 28, 2015


Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

    In 1998, OU and OSU economists produced a report on a number of factors that needed improvement if Oklahoma were to become more prosperous.  Passage of right-to-work, lower workers comp rates, and tort reform topped the economic factors, but chief among the social issues was lowering the rates of divorce, out-of-wedlock births and child abuse. Oklahoma has a high rate of divorce; 13.5% of Oklahomans have been divorced.  This is the highest rate in the 5 state region.  In comparison, only 10.8% of Texans have been divorced.     
     Former Governor Frank Keating persuaded the legislature to establish a government/private sector partnership entitled the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative to work at lowing the state’s high divorce rate.  More than 80% of the funding for the marriage initiative was to come from the state's pool of federal welfare funds- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Keating’s stated goal was to reduce the rate of divorce in Oklahoma by one third over the next decade.  Keating believed that counseling, training, and mentoring young families would not only help that family directly, but ultimately also save the state money.
     It is a well-known fact that unstable families and divorce cost taxpayers.  According to a 2008 Institute for American Values study, increasing family stability by even 1 percent can result in $43 million of savings for Oklahoma state government.
     The OMI long ago abandoned the goal of reducing the divorce rate by a third in a decade.  Since the OMI was established Oklahoma’s divorce rate has increased from 11.6% to 13.5%.  Oklahoma’s increase in the rate of divorce has mirrored the country. Most conservative states have higher rates of divorce than liberal states because most Red states are more religious and young people are taught to marry and not just live together.  "In Oklahoma our divorce rate is high, that's the truth," said Marriage Initiative Director Kendy Cox, "here in Oklahoma we believe in the institution of marriage. We chose to get married; we just don't know how to navigate our marriages."
     Since its inception, the OMI has trained over 4,000 volunteers, touching over 400,000 Oklahomans with its training and education.  It continues to have strong support in the state legislature.  Former Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon authored a bill that used some of the discretionary federal welfare monies to pay for public-service announcements promoting the benefits of marriage.  Those PSAs started running earlier this year. Moving forward, one of the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative’s new endeavors is to help couples who are already in crisis, rather than solely focusing on prevention. “We have been so focused on prevention throughout the years, that we have not thought enough about the specific needs of couples in crisis,” Cox said.  It is clear the OMI has not been able to reduce the divorce rate, so can government save marriages?  Is it the government’s job to save marriages? 
     The short answer is no on both counts!  Government didn’t institute marriage- God did.  Marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman.  According to Andreas Kostenberger, that means a couple must understand and commit themselves to five things in their marriage:  (1) The permanence of marriage, (2) the sacredness of marriage, (3) the intimacy of marriage, (4) the mutuality of marriage, and (5) the exclusiveness of marriage.  “A covenant marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman, instituted by and publically entered into before God,” Kostenberger says.
     Economically it makes sense for government to try and keep families intact and stable, but no seminar or counseling session will produce the needed result of an exchanged life.  That can only come from a regenerated heart.
     The federal government has been at war against biblical marriage for years.  From tax penalties for married couples to the recent recognition of same-sex marriage, it is abundantly clear the feds could care less about traditional marriage.  Government, at any level, can’t save marriages with secular solutions for a divine institution.  

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