Dominionism: pro-cancer, pro-birth-defects
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Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 02:47:59 PM EST
Someone on the Dark Christianity community (in reference to dominionist groups opposing the new HPV vaccine--which would essentially eliminate both cervical and penile cancer if children were immunised) made the very appropriate comment that these dominionist groups are, in fact, "pro-cancer".

It goes a little deeper--not only are they pro-cancer, but they are pro-birth-defects and even pro-spouse-abuse--based on policies they are promoting which in part are explicitly based on urban myths popular in the dominionist community.

Pro-Cancer: Dominionists fight a lifesaving vaccine

I've reported in past on "moral refusal" in the articles "Every Zygote is Sacred", or "can I have my BC already?" and "Moral Refusal" extends to healthcare in general, detailing in part how dominionists are fighting a range of healthcare options (including access to birth control, approval of the new HPV vaccine, and even access to antivirals which can be used to treat herpes).

The latest target is the new Human Papilloma Virus vaccine.  HPV, for those unaware, is the cause of the vast majority of cervical cancers--as well as penile cancer in men, and anal cancer in homosexual men.  (More innocuously, though by far still not fun, some strains also cause genital warts.)

A number of dominionist groups, including Concerned Women for America and the Family Research Council, are trying to stop this potentially lifesaving vaccine from ever being approved because they claim "it will increase promiscuity".

The actual reason, of course, is that it gets rid of a number of their tactics for fearmongering.  (Among other things, Paul Cameron--and the AFA and its affiliates who parrot Cameron--have used the incidence of HPV-related anal cancer to claim gay men have a far shorter average lifespan, and dominionist groups in general have used HPV to literally "scare celibate" teens in "Love Waits" programs.)

Dominionists have actually also claimed the birth control pill "makes kids horny" (when they aren't claiming the Pill is an abortifacient--an increasingly common claim).  They have claimed this even when the Pill was not being prescribed for birth control--for example, people with PCOS receiving "The Pill".  (I've gone over that a bit in the "Every Zygote is Sacred" article.)

The truth is, dominionists would honestly like to make all birth control--including the condom--illegal.  (They're even claiming spermicides to be used with condoms are abortifacients--presumably so that sales clerks can use "moral refusal" clauses.)  Their goal is for teens to remain celibate until essentially "matchmakered" by parties who can vet that both people are "good Christians", require them to go through a six-week or longer "Christian Marriage" course that essentially teaches that women are to submit to men as men do to God and that a woman's place is in the home breeding a "quiverfull of Godly Warriors", and--in states that legally allow it--"Covenant Marriage".  (More on that in a bit.)

Dominionists will even, on occasion, lie regarding groups.  This brings us to...

Pro-Birth-Defects: Dominionists and the War on the March of Dimes

The March of Dimes is an organisation that works towards preventing birth defects (usually by teaching parents things they can do during pregnancy to reduce the risks, and also including genetic counseling for certain ethnic groups), preventing premature births, and reducing infant mortality.  If anything, their efforts are almost totally dedicated to keeping babies alive and healthy.  (It's partly due to March of Dimes-funded research that we've found that folic acid supplementation can largely prevent spina bifida (a severe birth defect in which the spine is exposed), and that putting babies on their backs to sleep reduces the incidence of SIDS or "crib death".  They were also a major help in the virtual eradication of polio in the US.)

One of their efforts even is dedicated to preventing teenage pregnancy (which itself is a contributing factor to premature births).

This has not stopped the dominionists from outright demonising the March of Dimes.  Quite the opposite, in fact.

For as long as I can remember (at least twenty years) there has been a very persistent rumour in the dominionist community--one with no basis in fact--that the March of Dimes are at best abortion supporters if not abortionists themselves.  (I myself knew of people in my church that refused to donate to the United Way for the sole reason that they gave support to the March of Dimes.)

An example of this demonisation is via Pregnant Pause, a dominionist "pro-life" group, that actually pretty explicitly states that they are pro-birth-defects:

For years the March of Dimes (MOD) has been boycotted by pro-life groups for its involvement in the abortion industry. Unfortunately, many well-meaning pro-life citizens continue to support MOD, not knowing one of the group's methods of preventing what it calls "birth defects" is to promote abortion.

MOD was one of the major forces behind the development and widespread use of amniocentesis in the second trimester of pregnancy. Amniocentesis is a test commonly used to determine if a preborn child has an incurable congenital abnormality, which often facilitates the decision to abort "defective" children.

(Yes, their whole tempest in a teapot is over the fact that the March of Dimes has promoted prenatal screening because some people on their own might decide to abort a fetus that has a life-threatening birth defect.)
Pro-life leaders warn against supporting an organization whose mission is to help children but considers the act of killing them a "fundamental right."

"Telling ourselves for years that children born with disabilities were 'defective' has led us to deny their rights," said David Bunnell, Education Director of the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation. "As a society we now ignore the fact that life is the right of every child, not just a privilege for the fortunate, the planned and the perfect."

(So no matter that in your amniocentesis test you found out that your expected bundle of joy is going to be born without a brain.  No matter that the parents going to get that amniocentesis may have found out their kid has Downs' Syndrome, have no plans of aborting the fetus, and are glad to know so they can register for early childhood intervention so the kid can have a future that consists of something more fufilling than sitting in a state institution for the retarded drooling on himself.  Nope.  If you acknowledge that there are severe birth defects out there, you're In With The Abortionists.)

According to another pro-dominionist "pro-life" site's archive of a South Carolina Citizens for Life communique, their main disagreement is that March of Dimes is not explicitly telling parents to not have an abortion, thus claiming they support it:

March of Dimes and Abortion (1999)

Every year around this time we get a calls from people wanting to now if it's O.K. to support the March of Dimes. The answer is No.

For at least 25 years, most right-to-life groups have boycotted the March of Dimes because it presents abortion as one option for parents of handicapped babies. In other words, the March of Dimes does not oppose killing pre-born handicapped children as one method of "curing" birth defects: eliminate the defect by eliminated the defective.

According to Dr. Jack Willke, president of International Right to Life and past president of the National Right to Life Committee, the March of Dime pioneered the technique called amniocentesis -- a test performed during mid- pregnancy to identify genetic disorders. Dr. Willke states that 95 percent of all babies diagnosed with Down's Syndrome and Spina Bifia are killed by abortion.

"The March of Dimes is still very much involved in at least the toleration of, if not the rather direct promotion of elective abortion for handicapped children. They help to set the stage so that abortions can be done. They still are part of a 'search and destroy' mission to discover handicapped babies who, at their parent's decision are selectively killed," Willke says.

(Yes, their argument essentially boils down to "They're not explicitly telling people that abortion is wrong and evil and will cause their family to suffer a "generational curse" for "worshipping Moloch" for the next seven generations.  They MUST be abortionist!")

One of the great bugaboos the dominionists also raise is comparison of the efforts of the March of Dimes (and, occasionally, Planned Parenthood as well) to the eugenics policies of Nazi Germany and of the US in the early 1920's.  

In fact, dominionist groups have used this to promote "parallel economy" alternatives to the March of Dimes (have I mentioned that dominionist groups have pro-dominionist "alternatives" to damned near everything?):

(from Free Republic article)

That is why, in addition to our primary mission of financing truly therapeutic genetic research into treatments and a possible cure for Down syndrome and related chromosomal disorders, we are also dedicated to defending the right-to-life of all handicapped peoples - born and preborn - against the rising tide of eugenics.

Since its founding more than twenty years ago, one of the most frequently asked questions about The Michael Fund has been, "Why do you call yourself the pro-life alternative to the March of Dimes. We trust Part II of our Friends of The Michael Fund Newsletter answers that question and other similar questions related to the Eugenics Establishment - yesterday and today. Additional material, including A March of Dimes Primer - The A-Z of Eugenic Killing is also available on our web site at or in a booklet format from our Pittsburgh office.

Please note that this mailing includes a separate bibliography covering our two-part series on eugenics. If you reprint our newsletter in your publication please include this bibliography and credit The Michael Fund, 500 A Garden City Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15146 at the end of the article. Also, if you are unable to locate original source materials cited in the bibliography that may be out-of-print, we may be able to assist you. Just send a SSAE to The Michael Fund office with your inquiry.

In our next Friends of The Michael Fund Newsletter we will have our long awaited update on our current research grant to Dr. Paddy Jim Baggot; a story on The Michael Fund's first visit to the Lejeune Center at St. Agnes Hospital in White Plains, N.Y.; and other regular newsletter features. Back issues of our newsletter outlining Dr. Baggot's research program and giving details on the Lejeune Center are available on request in case you might have missed them.

In 1994 The Michael Fund filed its historic Human Embryo lawsuit against the National Institutes of Health (DHHS/NIH) and carry our case to the Supreme Court.

(The "Human Embryo" lawsuit in question was in fact a lawsuit by a large number of dominionist groups to block all federal funding of stem cell research using cells from blastocysts--very early stage zygotes--not used in IVF procedures.)

In fact, the demonisation goes even further--they flat out demonise the March of Dimes because other urban legends in the dominionist community aren't promoted:
(from LifeIssues, a pro-dominionist "pro-life" group)

Washington, DC ( -- The March of Dimes, an organization that prides itself on working to eliminate handicaps in children, is ignoring the link between abortion and premature
births, according to the Elliot Institute, which researches the physical and psychological effects of abortion. The pro-life organization accuses the March of Dimes of trying to cover up the fact that women who have had abortions need to be especially vigilant in receiving adequate prenatal care in subsequent pregnancies.

(Yes, because they don't promote a claim pushed by the dominionist community--one which was rejected in clinical studies in the mainstream, reality-based medical community--they're In With The Abortionists.)

Needless to say, the March of Dimes is not amused with this.  Not amused to the point of sending cease-and-desist orders to dominionist groups claiming the March of Dimes is pro-abortion, in fact.  The dominionist groups promptly have pulled the "Help, Help, I'm Being Oppressed!" card in response:
(from Life Decisions International, which has also fought efforts to allow Hurricane Katrina victims to receive free birth control)

WASHINGTON, D.C.--Life Decisions International (LDI) recently joined the long list of pro-family organizations to receive a threatening form letter from the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation (MoD).

"We are in receipt of correspondence that contains statements that seriously misrepresent that mission of the March of Dimes," wrote Lisa Bellsey, the Foundation's senior vice president and general counsel. "Your organization is cited as the source of the misinformation. Specifically, we have been informed that your organization maintains that the March of Dimes supports abortion. The March of Dimes does not support abortion and we strongly urge your organization to cease and desist from issuing any statements to the contrary."

Bellsey quoted from a policy statement adopted by the MoD's National Board of Trustees more than 20 years ago: "The March of Dimes maintains a neutral position on the abortion issue. Foundation funds may not be used for abortion services or directive counseling. While the March of Dimes cannot censor or control the personal beliefs of grantees, violation of these policies constitutes grounds for immediate cancellation of a grant."

In other words--these people are not only pro-birth-defects, but pro-libel at that...simply because the March of Dimes will not support them in an extreme dominionist agenda.

Pro-domestic-violence: "Covenant marriage" and dominionist families

It is perhaps ironic that reportedly the highest rates of divorce are by Evangelicals (of course, these statistics never tell if they lump dominionist churches and non-dominionist Evangelical groups together, so I take that with a grain of salt the size of a Taurus).

Some dominionist groups--I've actually seen this promoted actively in the Assemblies of God, for instance--have claimed the only grounds for divorce are if a husband or wife is "un-Christian".

This would not be so much of a problem if they were not working to enforce this in law.

Many states--due to promotion by groups like Focus on the Family, who has lobbied state legislatures--have now legalised an alternative to standard marriage (which allows no-fault divorce) called "covenant marriage".

What "Covenant marriage" consists of (in the states where it is presently legal) is a mandatory prenuptial counseling period-- usually involving sectarian counseling, of the "women must submit to men, as men submit to God" variety--and then they obtain a marriage certificate for a "Covenant marriage" and go through marriage as usual.

One of the groups increasingly promoting "Covenant Marriage" is the Southern Baptist Convention; this site also notes ties to "Christian counselors"--which are increasingly promoted as alternatives to secular psychiatry, and are increasingly using tactics indistinguishable from coercive practices in Scientology.

In fact, as a major red flag, this list of "cooperating ministries" lists a large number of dominionist groups and organisations, including: the Southern Baptist Convention, the Assemblies of God, several different professional associations and a number of personal pages of "theophostic" or "Christian counselors", Pat Robertson's CBN, Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, Louisiana Family Forum (a state FotF affiliate), Moody Bible Institute (which has been linked to promotion of Christian Reconstructionism), Promise Keepers, Reality Check Press (a "Messianic Jew outreach"), and a mess of smaller dominionist churches.

Their page on "Covenant Marriage Congregations" is telling:

What is a Covenant Marriage Congregation?

A Covenant Marriage Congregation is a congregation that commits to providing a ministry to married couples who are members of their congregation or who are planning to be married within their congregation based on the Covenant Marriage statement.

"Believing that marriage is a covenant intended by God to be a lifelong, fruitful relationship between a man and a woman; we vow to God, each other, our family, and our community to remain steadfast in unconditional love, reconciliation, and sexual purity while purposefully growing in our covenant marriage relationship."

What is the church's responsibility?
When a married couple unites with the congregation, the congregation is entering into a covenant relationship with the couple and their family. That covenant, initiated by the congregation, is one that comes from God and is lived through the local body of Christ. Therefore, each local congregation, in obedience to the covenant given to them by God, has the responsibility to love that couple "as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it." Not only are God's people to be keepers of the covenant, but participants as well.

When a couple comes to be united in holy matrimony, it is the congregation's responsibility to help them examine their hearts to confirm and affirm that which God desires for them in this union. Therefore, each couple to be married in a congregation needs to spend time in marriage preparation. This preparation focuses on God's gift of marriage, the centrality of Christ in the home, and the couple's responsibility of obedience to God who is the giver of the covenant.

What does marriage preparation include?

    * A study of Scripture related to marriage and the covenant.
    * Administration of a marriage preparation inventory, such as FOCCUS, to help couples identify and discuss relationship strengths and growth areas that may need to be addressed prior to marriage.
    * At least six sessions with an authorized marriage preparation couple or minister of the organization.
    * A commitment to unite with a "newly-married" or young-married couples' class whose focus is on enriching or enhancing God's gift of marriage.

As a covenant marriage congregation, will you offer the ministries to couples in your congregation and community?

Not all congregations are alike, nor do they have the same resources. Many have only one staff person. But some of the most valuable time spent in the ministry will be with couples preparing for, and living in, a covenant marriage relationship. In addition to what you can do, we encourage you to equip lay couples to assist you in carrying out these recommendations.

Actions You Can Take:

    * As a congregation, establish and affirm an intentional marriage policy. This policy must focus on the couple, their relationship, and the congregation's commitment to their marriage.
    * Provide at least six marriage preparation sessions, and provide two follow-up sessions during the first year of marriage.
    * Provide an annual sermon series on relationships, marriage, and family. The focus on these messages should be on biblical teachings and life applications for establishing and enhancing relationships, building strong families, and growing as Christian families. They should also provide a biblical understanding of "Covenant" and how it applies to marriage and family.
    * Provide media resources such as books, magazines, tapes, videos, and interactive learning resources. These resources can be checked out and/or purchased.
    * Provide at least one biannual marriage enrichment retreat. This should be an overnight experience for couples only. Focus on relationship enhancement, skill development, and spiritual renewal.
    * Pair up newly married couples with older covenant couples for the purpose of providing guidance for a period of two years.
    * Provide at least one annual Covenant Marriage Commitment service where couples have an opportunity to publicly affirm their marriage as a covenant relationship. We recommend the third Sunday in February.

(Okay, here are some major flags.  Firstly, one of the required bits is "Biblical verses regarding marriage and family"--based on the gallery of rogues listed, including Promise Keepers, it's almost certain that women will be told to be completely submissive to their husbands and to merely be a "helpmate".  Secondly, they're practicing shepherding--in many dominionist churches (particularly pentecostal groups like the Assemblies of God, but even in "parachurch" groups like Promise Keepers) this has crossed the line into blatant coercion and is widely considered a "warning flag" by exit counselors.  Thirdly, "Big Brother" in the church is explicitly told to followup on at least a bi-monthly basis (and more often, if practicable) to make sure the newly wedded couple is toeing the line.)

Again, if this was kept to their own churches and didn't have the force of law behind it, it'd be one thing.  

The problem is, in a number of states, it is a legal option--and dominionist groups have stated their ultimate goal is to make "Covenant marriage" the only legal form of marriage.

One site, "Americans for Divorce Reform" (which promotes establishing "Covenant Marriage" as a backdoor to outlawing most grounds for divorce) has a model statute that was successfully passed in Mississippi.  Deceptively, they have termed "Covenant marriage" "Classic Marriage".  They also have a description in layman's language for a model "Covenant Marriage" statue at their "Covenant Marriage" page:

Section 1 -- Choice of Divorce Rules by Couple at Time of Marriage or Later

        a. Any couple who have received premarital education or marriage education together from any of the providers described in Section 4 may choose not to have Section 2 apply to them by completing a "Choice Form" and filing it with the Clerk's office of the Circuit Court for the county in which they apply for a marriage license, or if they are already married, the county which they reside.

        b. A couple to whom Section 2 does not apply (for example, most people married outside this state or before this Act took effect) may choose to have Section 2 apply to them by completing a "Choice Form" and filing it with the Clerk's office of the Circuit Court for the county in which they reside, once they have received marriage education together from any of the providers described in Section 4 .

        c. Choice Forms shall be provided by the Clerks of the Circuit Courts. The body of the forms shall read:

        "We hereby choose that, if at any time (i) one of us wants to end this
        marriage but the other one does not want to, and (ii) we have a child under
        18 years old, then the one who wants to end the marriage


        __ will not

        be able to seek a no-fault divorce of marriage on the grounds of [insert the
        words used in all the state's unilateral no-fault divorce statutes, such as
        "living apart", "involuntary separation", and/or "irreconcilable
        differences"], subject to state law."

        d. Such forms are not valid unless signed by both spouses, with each signature acknowledged before, or witnessed by, a Notary Public, Clerk or Deputy Clerk. The forms shall be kept in the court's permanent records.

        e. Other forms of agreement; forms and agreements from other states and countries: A written agreement executed before or during marriage, in any state or country, may enforceably specify whether, and under what conditions, 'no-fault' grounds may be grounds for divorce when the parties have children and do not both consent to a divorce. Such an agreement may also enforceably specify a waiting period for divorce when the parties do not both consent to a divorce. For these purposes, only, any form provided by a court for the purpose of making such a choice, in any state or country, if signed by both spouses and retained by the court or other governmental agency or religious institution in its records, shall be presumed to be a valid agreement. "No-fault" grounds include such grounds as living apart; legal, judicial or de facto separation; irretrievable breakdown; incompatibility or irreconcilable differences, as are variously provided in the laws of various states and countries.

COMMENTARY on Section 1 -- Choice of Divorce Rules by Couple at Time of Marriage or Later

    Section 1(e)-- This language should be added to the state's premarital agreement laws as well as to its divorce laws. It means that the state passing this bill will also enforce covenant marriages and classic marriages from other states and countries, and will also honor prenups which restrict the ability to get a unilateral no-fault divorce. You want broad generic language when describing contracts or court forms the couple may have signed, because many couples will move between states with different procedures. (Section 7 also addresses this issue.) The part about "religious institutions" is added because in some countries, marriages are only registered with them, not with the government. Also, there are religions in the U.S., such as certain forms of Judaism, in which marriage contracts are common.

Section 2 -- No no-fault divorce without mutual consent until children grown.

        If the parties have any children together by birth and/or legal adoption who have not completed or left high school, then a divorce on grounds of [insert your state's no-fault grounds] may not be granted unless both parties have given consent, as defined in Section 3.

    COMMENTARY on Section 2

    An older version of Section 2 put the onus on the left-behind spouse to file an objection, rather than on the leaving spouse to obtain consent. If you are very concerned about the problem of a spouse who has not deserted, or asked for divorce, disappearing or just not taking any action, you may want to use all or part of the old Section 2.

Section 3 -- Divorce based on Mutual Consent; Fault not considered
Consent to a divorce.

        a. Context. Consent must be either (i) unconditional, or (ii) part of a written agreement (such as a Separation Agreement, Marital Agreement or Premarital Agreement) that is enforceable in its entirety.

        b. Form. (i) Consent must be in writing unless it is given in open court.(ii) Asking any court for a divorce on any grounds constitutes consent.

        c. Timing. (i) Consent may be given at any time before the judge signs a final decree of divorce from bonds of matrimony. (ii) Consent is not effective if given only when the other spouse is not proposing or seeking a divorce, except when given in an agreement as described in 3(b).

        d. Effect on availability and grounds of divorce. Whenever consent has been given by both parties, and no other grounds have been proven satisfactorily, but it appears that the period of living apart required by Code § __ has passed [delete the previous phrase if your state has no such period], the court may grant a divorce on grounds of mutual consent.

COMMENTARY on Section 3 -- Divorce based on Mutual Consent; Fault not considered

    Section 3 (d) means that once consent is given, a divorce can be granted on a new ground of Mutual Consent if a party who filed on fault grounds chooses not to proceed with fault proof, or tries and fails to prove her fault case. The state's waiting period for no-fault divorce, if any, still must be complied with.

    Old Section 3 had many other provisions in order to work with old Section 2, which depended on objection rather than consent. It also had a subsection (e) that set a minimum waiting period for consensual no-fault divorce; and if the subsection were removed, the remainder of old Section 3 would allow consensual no-fault divorce with no waiting period at all. The new section 3 takes a different approach: it leaves unchanged whatever the state's current waiting period is. It also does not interfere with other waiting periods that may be enacted in the future.

Section 4 -- Marriage Education and Skills Training
Note: The language of this Section is identical to our MODEL MARRIAGE EDUCATION LEGISLATIVE LANGUAGE, which is separately available along with notes and commentary from, and which additionally includes optional language on marriage waiting periods, not shown here.

        a. Marriage education or skills training required, or referred to, by this Act may be provided by any of the following:

        (i) An official representative of a religious institution, or any clergy person authorized to perform marriages, or his or her designee (including mentor couples or other lay volunteers, if working in a clergy-supervised program).

        (ii) Marriage education providers or programs listed, funded or authorized by (a) The United States Department of Health and Human Services; (b) The United States Department of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service; (c) The United States Department of Defense and the individual military services of the United States; (d) any other federal, state or local government agency or court; or (e) Smart Marriages / The Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education ( or any of its component programs.

        (iii) Any marriage education provider or program approved by the person performing the marriage.

        (iv) Marriage education or skills training providers listed in any other on-line or printed directories whose use has been authorized by the Clerk of the Supreme Court.

        (v) Marriage education or skills training providers listed in Directories which shall be maintained by the local court clerk's office or other office where marriage licenses are obtained. Each such Directory shall be a binder in which the clerk may place the names of local providers and materials sent by them; copies or internet web site addresses of other lists or directories authorized by this Act; printouts of local sections of internet on-line directories; and other materials or lists that the clerk deems suitable.

        b. Proof of completion of marriage education or skills training, or marriage counseling, for all purposes for which it may be required under this Act (and not only in this section), shall be submitted as follows:

        (i) Proof of completion of training should be signed by a provider, on the stationery, or other form or certificate, that is used by the provider, program or sponsoring institution, but it need not be notarized.

        (ii) If the provider is not yet in the Circuit Court's Directory and appears to the Clerk or Deputy Clerk to be qualified as a marriage educator under the terms of this Section, the Clerk or deputy may add the provider or the program to the Circuit Court's directory (regardless of whether the provider or program is already in another on-line or printed directory or is clergy).

        c. (i) Whenever anyone contacts a Circuit Court Clerk or Deputy Clerk seeking a marriage license or celebrant, or anything else preliminary to marriage, or to file for divorce, legal separation, child custody or support, the Clerk or deputy shall ask if the couple have gotten or are getting marriage skills training, and from whom.

        (ii) If they have not, or if the answer is vague, the clerk or deputy shall inform such persons that training may be available from clergy, or from programs offered by religious institutions, and that both non-religious and religious marriage educators are available from the providers and directories that are authorized by Subsection (a) of this Section (above).

        (iii) The clerk shall do this with all persons described in Paragraph (c)(i), regardless of whether they are legally required to obtain any such training.

        d. Whenever marriage skills training is available in a geographic area, information on what it is, where to get it, and why, shall be made available to the public at all:

        (i) places where marriage licenses are applied for

        (ii) offices of civil marriage celebrants

        (iii) governmental offices that offer family services or counseling, including any that provide services to single or married parents or to newly-released former prison inmates

        (iv) court clerk's offices that deal with domestic relations or juvenile delinquency cases.

        (v) providers of court-referred or government-referred divorce education, parenting education, or custody education programs.

        e. If the marriage education is provided as marriage preparation, the couple shall undergo the training together. If it is required by state law or court procedures as a prerequisite to divorce, the individual parties may undergo it separately and need not both choose the same program or provider.

COMMENTARY on Section 4 -- Pre-Marital Education

    Instead of requiring pre-marital counseling for covenant marriages, this proposal strongly encourages marriage education for all marriages. It seeks to maximize the availability of marriage education and skills training, and to minimize bureaucratic barriers between marriage education providers and couples who seek marriage education.

    Even couples who are without the guidance of a minister should be able to find competent pre-marital training. One of the best places to go to find such training is the nationwide directory of marriage educators maintained by the Coalition for Marriage, Family, and Couples Education at For reasons of quality, practicality and convenience, people should be allowed to use this Directory, which is available free on the world wide web, and others like it.

    Licensing, Regulation and Accreditation: Premarital education is not limited to therapy or "marriage counseling". Many of the most effective providers of it are not licensed or degreed family therapists, counselors or social workers. Their training and accreditation is provided by the dozens of marriage education programs that have been developed in recent decades and continue to evolve and grow. Many providers are volunteers or do it as a second, part-time job. Consolidated state licensing and regulation is unnecessary and would only stifle the availability and improvement of this vital public service. In fact, if governments, or semi-governmental professional self-regulatory bodies, gain any role in regulating counseling content or techniques, the resulting product will end up reflecting narrow or politicized values that are at odds with the values and practical needs of most couples.

    If marriage preparation legislation excludes or regulates the clergy, it is not worth doing. Excluding marriage educators or lay religious trainers is also a big mistake.

    Length and Content: Clergy and other accredited marriage educators are perfectly competent to determine the length and content of their programs. The state need not and should not interfere.

    Definitions: Terms such as "training," "premarital training" and "providers", when used alone, are intended to be fully interchangeable with the longer phrases used earlier in the Section, "Marriage education or skills training" and "Marriage education or skills training providers". The shorter versions are used in parts of the Act that tell Clerks and deputies to tell couples certain things, so as to make such communication between court employees and the public as brief, intelligible and informal as possible.Terms such as "clerk", "Circuit Court" and "Supreme Court" should be modified to fit your state.

    Section 4 (a)(i): Each state has constitutionally-tested language it uses to describe clergy or marriage celebrants in its statutes. You should use the language already used in your state's code, and then add " or his or her designee". Here's why to add that last bit: Many churches provide a mixture of clergy and lay counseling. This includes churches that are part of the Community Marriage Policies promoted by Marriage Savers, Inc.

    Section 4 (a) (ii): Some of the leading component programs of the Smart Marriages Coalition, at present, are PREP, Inc.; PAIRS, PREPARE, FOCCUS, RELATE, IMAGO Relationship Education, the National Institute for Relationship Enhancement and its Relationship Enhancement curriculum , the Couple Communication® programs, The Couples Health Program SM, and Marriage Savers, Inc. and its local Community Marriage Policies TM or Community Marriage Covenants.

    Section 4 (e): Section 4 is designed to work with any legislation that makes marriage education or counseling mandatory, not just as part of Classic Marriage; as well as being able to stand on its own as legislation that encourages and publicizes marriage education. Subsections 1(a) and (b) require couples to undergo training "together" before signing a choice form. The requirement that the couple to undergo marriage preparation training together means that for most couples, having taken high school family life, relationships or marriage skills curricula (such as PARTNERS, CONNECTIONS, PEERS, or Building Relationships) would not be sufficient, even if the programs are listed in the approved directories. These programs are very valuable but they are not the same thing as marriage preparation.

    But for already-married couples who may be required to undergo marriage education or counseling before a divorce will be granted, there are reasons not to require couples to receive it together, though it is usually better if they do. For one thing, in cases where there is alleged domestic violence, and where there may be restraining orders barring the spouses from each other's presence, court systems that currently provide divorce education and custody education have found it expedient to allow the parties to attend separate sessions. Second, this means the parties do not have to agree on which provider to use before they can proceed; so neither spouse can hold up the process by refusing to attend.

Section 5 -- Evidence of fault or breakdown; Procedures; Children and publicity.

        a. Except for evidence of living apart, (i) no minor child of either of the parties to a divorce suit may give evidence of grounds for divorce; (ii) nor may any statement of such a child, by hearsay or otherwise, be used as evidence of grounds for divorce.

        b. Except for evidence of living apart, or of imprisonment or conviction of a crime, evidence of grounds of divorce shall not be heard ore tenus in a court of record or in a hearing open to the public. Instead, it shall be heard [here specify procedures already available in the state, such as referral to a commissioner or master, automatic remand or transfer to juvenile or family court, or having all divorces begin in juvenile court for a hearing on grounds].

        c. In suits for divorce based on grounds other than living apart, separation or desertion, the defenses of condonation and of cohabitation after knowledge are abolished. The court may nonetheless consider any evidence that it finds to be relevant to matters before it.

        d. The role of corroboration, the requirements for corroboration, and the sufficiency, credibility, weight, role and use of admissions by the parties, shall be the same in divorce suits as in other suits in equity or at law. All requirements to the contrary are abolished.

        e. The defense of recrimination is abolished. The court may nonetheless consider any evidence that it finds to be relevant to matters before it.

        f. This Section applies to suits for divorce from bonds of matrimony, [suits for judicial or legal separation,] and suits for divorce from bed and board.

COMMENTARY on Section 5 -- Evidence of fault or breakdown; Procedures; Children and publicity

    Section 5 (b): "evidence of living apart" is intended to apply not only in states where living apart is a ground of divorce, but also in states where it is not a ground itself, but is considered to be irrefutable evidence of irretrievable breakdown, irreconcilable differences etc.

    A possible variation on this subsection would be to still allow an in-court hearing, rather than a commissioner or special master, if both parties want one. This is because, in some states or localities, a commissioner's hearing may be more expensive than a court hearing.

Section 6 ­p;- Effective Date and Retroactivity

        a. This act takes effect on ______, 20___.

        b. Section 2 applies to all couples married after this Act takes effect, except as provided in Section 7.

        c. Section 2 shall not apply to couples married before this Act takes effect, except (i) as provided in Section 7, or (ii) for such couples who choose to have Section 2 apply to them by completing a "Choice Form", or who have made a similar choice or agreement by one of the means described in Section 1(e).

        d. Section 3 shall apply to all cases pending when this Act takes effect, or filed thereafter.

        e. All other Sections of this Act shall apply to all cases filed after this Act takes effect.

Section 7 -- Couples married outside this state

        a. Section 2 does not apply to couples who were neither married in this state nor resident and domiciled here at the time of marriage, except (i) if they have completed a Choice Form under Section 1(a) (or a similar law of another state) indicating in substance that Section 2 should apply, or (ii) pursuant to another out-of-state agreement or form described in Section 1(e), or (iii) upon proof that the law prevailing at the time and place of their marriage did not provide for unilateral no-fault divorce as defined in Section 1(e); or (iv) as provided below in Subsection 7(b).

        b. If a couple was married in another state or country whose law at the time allowed a couple to make a choice of divorce rules at the time of the marriage or later during the marriage (including states with statutes similar to this Act or with Covenant Marriage legislation), or if a couple made such a choice in another state at some time during the marriage pursuant to such legislation, and if such couple has not completed a Choice Form in this state, then the divorce grounds and other substantive requirements chosen by the couple at the time of the marriage (or later), as provided by the law of the state where they did so, shall apply instead of the divorce grounds and other substantive requirements provided by this state's law.

        c. If the place of last marital cohabitation was a state, district, territory, province or country that adjoins this state, and the Defendant still remains in that place, then this state shall not exercise any jurisdiction that it has to grant a divorce unless the defendant consents (as described in Section 3) to a divorce, and to such divorce being heard in this state's courts.

Section 8 -- Pleading requirements

        In any divorce case commenced after the effective date of this Act, if there is a Choice Form, agreement, or other writing, as described in this Act, or an out-of-state marriage of the kind described in Section 7, which may affect whether Section 2 applies to the marriage, then any Bill of Complaint for Divorce, and any Objection or Answer to the Bill of Complaint, must so state. Failure to do so shall not affect the validity or timeliness of any such pleading, and later written or oral amendment or stipulation shall be allowed up to the time of the hearing on grounds of divorce.

Section 9 -- Changed or new "fault" grounds for divorce [needed in a few states]

[NO MODEL LANGUAGE RECOMMENDED AT THIS POINT, so all of this Section is commentary].

    Most states still have several "fault" grounds for divorce, and most reformers do not propose to change them. But:

    a. In the 15 or so states where all fault grounds have been abolished, some such grounds will have to be reinstated.

    b. A few states have certain fault grounds that are a joke, which judges routinely use as a substitute for no-fault, sometimes without allowing any evidence to be presented by the defense. It is impossible to tell which ones these are from looking at a state's statutes -- you would have to consult divorce lawyers in each particular state about this. These need to be pared back, reformed or removed entirely.

    c. Also, in all states, once restrictions on no-fault divorce are put in place, perhaps some additional fault grounds, reflecting social change for the worse in recent decades, should eventually be enacted, usually by borrowing from other states or countries.

    I have compiled some Fault Grounds from Other States and Countries. My associate has compiled all Grounds for Divorce in the various states of the U.S.

Section 10 -- Marriage Counseling or Education required before divorce

        Any marriage counseling or education required before divorce may be provided by any of the providers listed in Section 4(a), or by licensed behavioral health professionals, psychologists, social workers, marriage and family therapists, psychiatrists, pastoral counselors, certified family life educators, or professional counselors, but not by a therapist who is treating or has treated one of the spouses separately. The individual parties may undergo it separately and need not both choose the same program or provider.

COMMENTARY on Section 10 -- Marriage Counseling or Education required before divorce

    Having heard marital therapists such as Bill Doherty and Frank Pittman of the Smart Marriages coalition describe what "marriage counseling" provided by therapists and even by the clergy often consists of, I would be hesitant to include any requirements for it. If such language is included, it might even be best to restrict it to clergy and to marriage education providers and marital therapists who are part of the Smart Marriages coalition. But excluding other family therapists is probably politically impossible and perhaps not fair, and if that is the case in your state, it is better not to have any pre-divorce counseling requirements at all at this point.

    But if you are nonetheless going to include requirements or incentives for pre-divorce counseling, the language in Subsection 4(a) (plus Section 10 above if therapists are to be included) is what we recommend for defining the providers.

    The counselor should not be a therapist who is treating or has treated one of the spouses separately. That creates very unhealthy, confused situations which breed mistrust, and often facilitates divorce rather than reconciliation or a better marriage.

    If there are going to be marriage counseling requirements, it would be good to include language saying that marriage counseling must be directed towards saving the marriage - but trying to come up with acceptable wording, definitions and exceptions would be a very delicate and contentious process and may not be possible.

Okay, you can see where this is going to be problematic.  

Firstly, this model statue does not allow no-fault divorce for any reason as long as minor kids are involved--this could be problematic if, say, evidence came out that the parent was divorcing on grounds of child abuse or spousal abuse.

Secondly, testimony of kids is not allowed--generally the major time the testimony of children comes into play is with abuse cases or in states with joint custody arrangements where kids after the age of 13 can choose which parent to live with.  

Thirdly, no-fault divorce is not allowed unless both parties consent--again, problematic in a domestic abuse situation where the abusing partner may not be willing to give consent.

Fourthly, there's the requirement for premarital counseling, which again is strongly recommended to be given by "clergy" or dominionist-friendly counselors.

In other words, a mother who wants a divorce because her husband is beating her--or abusing her children--literally would have no legal grounds for a divorce or annulment in a "Covenant Marriage".

I'm not the only one who's noticed that this is practically a license to abuse spouses and children.  Per this link:

An email from "R" who was married in Louisiana
"The law is so ambigious that most courts will not even HEAR any cases concerning covenant marriages WITHOUT a two year separation AND counseling. Even though the law states you have 3 "outs" (abuse, adultery, and felony conviction resulting in JAIL TIME, it is NOT the case. If one member of the marriage does NOT want "out", the court does not even have to hear the case. That is how scary the covenant marriage is, especially when faced with what I was faced with. Abuse has to be proven, and it seems only physical abuse is acceptable AND only IF the spouse is beating you up in court. Adultery, the courts will just mandate counseling for two years, and even after the counseling, if one spouse doesn't want a divorce...guess what? You must stay married. Felony, there has to be actual jail time. The guy I was married to informed me that as long as he doesn't hit me with a closed fist, it is NOT abuse. And it would not result in a felony arrest. And even if it DID, as long as HE didn't want to divorce, guess what? I would not get a divorce. And this is how the courts here are interpreting the law. It is scary and frightening.

Not only that, but in cases such as mine, the future bride to be is emotionally blackmailed into a covenant marriage because "obviously you dont think this will work out and you don't love me enough and you must not want our marriage to work."

Couples who have signed the covenant marriage have a better chance proving why it is NOT a covenant marriage in the event of a divorce than proving why they should be granted a divorce. Again, keeping in mind that both parties are willing to do that. It only takes one party to argue that point and you could end up screwed either way.

Per a Religious Tolerance article:
    A covenant marriage. They still need money, a license, witnesses and someone licensed to perform marriages. But there are a number of other restrictions. The law in Louisiana is typical:
a)    They must go through pre-marital counseling before they can be married.
b)    They sign a contract which says that they have chosen their "mate for life wisely." The contract also commits the couple to seek counseling if their marriage becomes troubled.
c)    They can only get a divorce if one spouse:
i)    Can prove that the other committed adultery,
ii)    Has been sentenced to be executed or to hard labor,
iii)    Physically or sexually abused the other spouse or a child, or
iv)    Abandoned the home for a year.

Alternately they can obtain a no-fault divorce if they:
a)    Have been legally separated for a year or more.
b)    Have lived apart for at least three years and can prove that they have obtained counseling.

(As noted previously, even in grounds where the partner has committed a felony or has been abusive, actually obtaining a divorce in a "Covenant Marriage" is next to impossible.)
However, some states have considered alternative approaches to improve the longevity of marriage. These include:
a)    Abolishing conventional marriages and offering only covenant marriages.
b)    Abolishing no-fault divorce.
c)    Requiring all couples to go through approved pre-marital counseling before obtaining a marriage license.
d)    Adding courses to the public school curricula to teach students how to communicate more effectively, how to resolve conflicts better, and how to improve interpersonal relationships, family life and intimacy.

(emphasis mine)

In many cases, and as noted in the quote above, dominionists are working to remove the right to no-fault divorce altogether.  Per this article, Michigan is actually proposing to abolish no-fault divorce altogether--essentially making all marriages in the state "Covenant Marriages".

There is so much to comment on here, I almost wish it were three different posts!  It's daunting.

I do want to comment on the 'pro-birth defects' section.  There is another related area in which the religious right is totally vulnerable.  It has to do with its contradictory position on refusing to support environmental regulation and the harm caused to fetal health by environmental toxins and contaminants.

The best example is in California, where conservative anti-abortion legislators would not support a ban on fire retardants that are shown to damage fetal health (and also cause cancer.)

We described the situation in 2003 in an article,
Reproductive Rights Fight Moves to Environment

Concern about chemical harm to women and their developing fetuses led California Assemblymember and Majority Leader Wilma Chan, a Democrat from Oakland, to introduce last February the first legislation to ban polybrominated diphenyl ethers--PBDEs--used in upholstery and plastic casings to retard fire. The ban was signed on August 9 by Gov. Gray Davis and will take effect five years from now.

Chan was prompted by a 2001 report by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, which found that small amounts of PDBEs can pass to a fetus through the placenta, causing nervous system damage, brain impairment or thyroid hormone imbalance. "Large numbers of women may carry these chemicals in their bodies and pass them on," said Chan.

The California Manufacturers and Technology Association, a trade group in Sacramento, dropped its opposition after Chan specifically designated in the bill the two PBDE compounds that harm human health, said Gino deCaro, association spokesperson. Conservative lawmakers continued their opposition, objecting to increased regulation by the government.

"I found it totally ironic that conservative legislators are concerned with harm to the fetus when it deals with abortion, but not when the health of the future baby is concerned," said Chan.(emphasis added)

I think the pro-corporate right wing agenda of the religious right and its wedge anti-abortion issue crash into one another here and make the religious right very vulnerable on this topic.


by cyncooper on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 11:56:47 PM EST

Thank you so much for this datum. You have proved the point of this beautifully extensive article that was already almost perfect. And now it is.

by Lily Fassbinder on Sat Nov 22, 2014 at 09:51:02 PM EST

the response to a recent Boston University study on this subject will be...

dogemperor wrote:
"Dominionists have actually also claimed the birth control pill "makes kids horny" "

This is especially interesting in light of a recent study which suggests exactly the opposite:

Oral contraceptives may have lingering negative effects on women's sexual health, according to researchers here.

A analysis of blood samples showed that women who had discontinued taking birth control pills six months earlier showed sex hormone-binding globulin levels that were almost double than levels seen in women with no history of OC use (P<0.0001), found Claudia Panzer, M.D., of Boston University and colleagues.

<...inserted comment...higher levels of hormone-binding globulin = lower amounts of testosterone...>

Dr. Panzer and colleagues said lowered levels of bioavailable or free testosterone-believed to play a major role in women's sexual health-could place women at risk for decreased sexual desire, arousal, decreased lubrication and increased sexual pain.

by Irrevelations on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 05:50:56 PM EST
The religious right conveniently ignores science with which it disagrees, unless, that is, it can be twisted to their own purposes.

Adam Sonfield wrote a good article The Uses and Abuses of Science In Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy Debates in the Guttmacher Public Policy Report recently.

by cyncooper on Thu Jan 05, 2006 at 01:02:40 AM EST

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