The character of a
domestic policy agenda is perhaps best understood by what it does
not seek to do. President Bush, in his third State of the
Union address, recognized that the strength of this nation rests on
certain fundamental "pillars of civilization"-marriage, the family,
and religious congregations-that government cannot replicate or
replace. The President's social policy agenda acknowledges and aims
to reinforce these pillars.
Marriage is the
fundamental social institution, deeply rooted in all societies. The
President's speech clearly emphasized the need to uphold and defend
the institution of marriage in the law as the union of one man and
highlighted the current judicial threat to this institution.
Activist judges threaten marriage when they make sweeping policy
decisions without properly considering the vast and often unknown
societal implications. Policymaking decisions of this kind
should be made through the lawmaking process in a way that reflects
settled public opinion, informed by long-established traditions and
the principles of social order.
The president also
made clear that steps must be taken to remedy this assault on
marriage by the courts. All responsible options, including the
possibility of a constitutional amendment, should and must be
carefully considered. What is beyond dispute is that judicial
decisions that threaten marriage cannot stand unchallenged.
of Marriage by Matthew Spalding, Ph.D., and Joseph Loconte
The Positive Effects of Marriage: A Book of Charts by Patrick
F. Fagan, Robert E. Rector, Kirk A. Johnson, Ph.D., and America
Marriage is the
cornerstone of family. Children are safest and have the best life
prospects when they are born and raised in a household with a
married mother and father. The president's speech reinforced the
significance of the family, as well as the importance of preparing
young people to make healthy decisions about their sexual behavior
and family formation.
activity has many harmful effects on the health and psychological
wellbeing of teens. Teenage women who engage in sexual activity at
early ages are far more likely to become pregnant and give birth
outside marriage and to undermine their ability to form stable
marriages as adults. Abstinence education programs, which seek to
encourage a delay in sexual activity until marriage, have been
shown to substantially reduce teen sexual activity.
The President's FY
2005 budget is expected to double federal funding for abstinence
education programs, to a total of $270 million annually. The
initiative would include the development of research-based
standards for model abstinence curricula and a public education
campaign to help parents talk with their children about the health
risks associated with early sexual activity. The proposal also
calls for a review of all federal programs addressing teen
pregnancy prevention, family planning, and STD and HIV/AIDS
prevention, in order to ensure that the significant funding for
such programs is promoting the right message to America's
proposal is welcome news in light of the alarming disparity that
currently exists between government funding of programs that
promote abstinence and those promoting contraception. In 2002, the
government spent only $1 on abstinence education programs for every
$12 spent on programs that promote the use of contraception.
Government Spends $12 on Safe
Sex and Contraceptives for Every $1 Spent on Abstinence
by Melissa G. Pardue, Robert E. Rector, and Shannan Martin
The Harmful Effects of Early
Sexual Activity and Multiple Sexual Partners Among Women: A Book of
Charts by Robert E. Rector, Kirk A. Johnson, Ph.D., Lauren R.
Noyes, Shannan Martin
Sexually Active Teenagers Are
More Likely to Be Depressed and to Attempt Suicide by Robert E.
Rector, Kirk A. Johnson, Ph.D., and Lauren R. Noyes
significance of religious faith and practice has not been lost on
President Bush. In this his third State of the Union Address, the
President once again highlighted his faith-based initiative,
calling on Congress to codify the policies he has issued through
executive order to level the playing field for religious
organizations seeking to participate in social service
President issued a new challenge to the faith-based community: to
help reintegrate former prisoners into civil society. The state
prison population nearly doubled from 1990 to 2002, and shows no
signs of slowing its growth. Moreover, today's prison system is
failing to rehabilitate most offenders. Recidivism rates-the rates
at which ex-inmates violate parole, are rearrested, or sent back to
prison over a given period-have been stagnant for thirty years.
Nearly 95 percent of all offenders will someday be released, and
about half of them will be rearrested and convicted for another
felony offense within three years.
Administration's plan recognizes a simple fact: The typical
offender leaves prison with little education, no job skills, no
housing, a drug or alcohol problem, little self-discipline, and no
reliable support group. Research data suggest that inmates involved
with comprehensive after-prison programs have lower recidivism
rates than those who aren't. Most government re-entry programs,
however, couldn't be called comprehensive: They focus on one or two
of the many problems facing ex-offenders.
groups, however, take a different approach: They get at the root of
the problems afflicting many ex-offenders. Though offering
practical help with literacy, job training, and parenting issues,
religious organizations view spiritual transformation as the key to
reforming lives and reducing recidivism. The president's
faith-based initiative is an attempt to extend the role and reach
of these approaches to solving America's social problems.
Churches, Charity and Children:
How Religious Organizations Are Reaching At-Risk
Joseph Loconte and Lia Fantuzzo