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U.S. News Archive
December 27 - December 31, 1999

 

 

 
 

 

This page contains news for the period Monday, December 26, 1999 through Friday, December 31, 1999.

 

 

 

 

<<   December 1999  >>

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Thursday, December 30, 1999

Federal court may dismiss lawsuit against Utah's sodomy law

An article published today in the Salt Lake Tribune reports that a federal magistrate has recommended a dismissal of an 8-year-old lawsuit that alleged the state's sodomy and fornication laws violate a constitutional right to privacy.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Boyce noted that Salt Lake District Attorney David Yocom has said his office has priorities other than apprehending men and women having sex without the benefit of marriage.

"It is apparent the Utah fornication and sodomy statutes are not being enforced in Salt Lake County by the . . . Salt Lake County district attorney," wrote Boyce in a recommendation filed Tuesday. "The injury to plaintiffs is purely hypothetical and not concrete."

Because the law requires a "factual showing of harm," Boyce said he has recommended a dismissal of the lawsuit brought by a plaintiff only known as "W.N.J." and other Utah residents who challenged the law anonymously.

The story says that Boyce's 14-page recommendation can be accepted or rejected by U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart, but Boyce's reports are usually adopted.

Under Utah law, sodomy includes any sex act involving "the genitals of one person and mouth or anus of another person, regardless of the sex of either participant." Married couples are exempt from the statute.


Teacher fired for unmarried sex can sue the Catholic Church

An article published today in the Akron Beacon Journal reports that a teacher who says the Roman Catholic Diocese of Toledo fired her because she became pregnant before she got married will get a second chance to prove her case.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered a rehearing of Leigh Cline's lawsuit against the Toledo diocese, the Catholic Diocesan School of Toledo, St. Paul Elementary School where she taught, and the Rev. Herbert J. Willman, administrator of the St. Paul parish's elementary school.

According to the story, U.S. District Judge James Carr dismissed the lawsuit in April 1998 before it went to trial. Appeals Judges Nathaniel Jones, Karen Moore and Ronald Gilman reversed Carr's decision and ordered him to reconsider Cline's discrimination claim.

The judges said religious schools that want to discourage employees from engaging in premarital sex can do that if they have policy applied equally to male and female workers. But federal civil-rights law does not allow religious organizations to make hiring decisions based on race, gender or national origin, Jones wrote for the appeals court.

"Because discrimination based on pregnancy is a clear form of discrimination based on sex, religious schools can therefore not discriminate based on pregnancy,'' Jones wrote.

Baptists lead in divorces

An article published today in the Birmingham News reports that Baptists are more likely than members of any other Christian denomination to be divorced, and they have a higher divorce rate than atheists and agnostics, according to a national survey by the Barna Research Group in Ventura, Calif.

Nationally, 29 percent of all Baptist adults have been divorced, the Barna survey said. The only Christian group with a higher divorce rate are those who attend non-denominational Protestant churches, with a 34 percent divorce rate.

Of major Christian denominations, Catholics and Lutherans have the lowest divorce rate at 21 percent, Barna reported. People who attend mainline Protestant churches have an overall divorce rate of 25 percent.

Among non-Christian groups the levels vary, Barna reported. Jews have a divorce rate of 30 percent, while atheists and agnostics are below the norm at 21 percent, according to the survey.

The story says that Mormons, who emphasize strong families, are near the national average at 24 percent, Barna reported.

The survey is drawn from interviews with 3,854 adults from the 48 continental states, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percent. The survey showed that although just 11 percent of the adult population is currently divorced, 25 percent of all adults have experienced at least one divorce during their lifetime, the survey showed.

Among those who describe themselves as born-again Christians, 27 percent are currently or have previously been divorced, compared to 24 percent among adults who do not describe themselves as born-again.

"While it may be alarming to discover that born-again Christians are more likely than others to experience a divorce, that pattern has been in place for quite some time," said George Barna, president of Barna Research Group.

Alabama, which has more than one million Southern Baptists and a majority of evangelical Protestants in a population of 4.3 million, ranks fourth nationally in divorce rates, according to U.S. government statistics. It ranks behind Nevada, Tennessee and Arkansas among top divorce rates.

The story says that Rev. Stacy Pickering, minister of young married adults and director of counseling at Shades Mountain Baptist Church, said the statistics are skewed because Baptist churches encourage young people to get married - sometimes when they're not properly prepared - rather than cohabit. He said Shades Mountain Baptist now requires premarital counseling for couples who want to marry at the church.

The Barna group notes that although baby boomers have been widely criticized for selfishness and inattention to family needs in favor of career pursuits, their divorce rate of 34 percent is not as high as the generation that preceded them – the Builders. Thirty-seven percent of the adults from that generation, who are presently 53 to 72 years old, have divorced.

Of the generation older than 72, called the Seniors, only 18 percent were divorced, Barna reported. Only 7 percent of the younger Baby Buster generation have been divorced, but that is largely because most of them have yet to be married for the first time, Barna reported.

 

Monday, December 27, 1999

More unmarried adults, family diversity, in coming decade

A story published today in the Detroit News predicts that the American family will change more in the coming century than it has in the current one.

As growing numbers of women enter the workforce, cohabitation rates climb and societal tolerance for alternative lifestyles increases, we will continue to move light years from the idealized image of such '50s TV families as Ozzie and Harriet and the Cleavers -- the traditional two-parent model with a homemaker mother, breadwinner father and two children under one roof.

"We're talking about profound changes," says Tom W. Smith, director of the General Social Survey conducted annually by the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center. "You can actually look at the course of human history and talk about only a few shifts in basic family types, and we're seeing one of those shifts right here -- it's historic."

The story observes that marriage has declined as the central institution under which households are organized and children are raised. Growing numbers of women are delaying marriage and childbirth or possibly never marrying or having children, and various nontraditional living arrangements are flourishing, with no end in sight.

"What was the normal or average family is not what it was a generation ago -- there is not one dominant family type like there was before," Smith says. "A majority of people raising children today are raising them in a different kind of family than the one in which they were raised."

Smith's survey, "The Emerging 21st-Century American Family," turned up these trends, expected to continue into the next century:

*  By 1998, only 56 percent of adults were married, compared with nearly 75 percent in 1972.

*  Because of high divorce rates, cohabitation and single parenthood, a majority of families rearing children in the next century probably will not include the children's original two parents. In 1998, just 51 percent lived in a two-parent household compared with 73 percent in 1972.

* The percentage of American households composed of married couples with children dropped from 45 percent in the 1970s to 26 percent in 1998.

* Children living with single parents increased from less than one in 20 in 1972 to almost one in five in 1998, while the percentage of children living in a blended household more than doubled, from 3.8 percent to 8.6 percent.

* The number of households with unmarried adults and no children more than doubled in that time period, to 33 percent, becoming the nation's most common living arrangement.

The story says that social scientists expect to see more diversity in the nation's households in coming years. As values change, they say, there is less social stigma attached to nontraditional arrangements.

"I think there will be increasingly nonstandard combinations of people," says Rita Casey, director of Wayne's Merrill-Palmer Institute, which studies children and families. "It really doesn't matter for the vast majority of jobs what your home and family life is like. It is irrelevant to doing a job in almost all cases."

Casey predicts more couples living together without marriage and more babies adopted by single parents, which, 20 years ago, "was unheard of," she says. "The necessity of being married in order to hold up your head in the community is nearly gone. "And," she continues, "few school systems today would bat an eyelash to have a single parent who had never been married earn their degree and become a school teacher.

"Yet when I was an elementary teacher in the late '70s, that was one of those things that would keep you from getting hired.... They didn't hire divorced teachers, either, and, now, just look around you."

 

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