This page contains news for
the period Monday, December 26, 1999 through Friday, December 31, 1999.
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Thursday, December 30, 1999
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
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
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
"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
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
"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
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
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."