McManus Response to Salon.com Southern Governors
Tue Feb 1 18:18:33 EST 2000
from: Smart Marriages
---------------- Begin Forwarded Message ----------------
Date: 1/31/00 12:37 PM
Received: 1/31/00 12:55 PM
From: Michael J. McManus, mj_mcmanus at compuserve.com
To: Smartmarriages©, cmfce at smartmarriages.com
I thought you might like to see my response to the snide,
inaccurate story published by Salon. While I have E-mailed it to the
"magazine" I am not holding my breath for its publication there. Some of
your readers, however, may be interested in how the writer deliberately
misstated facts. My response follows:
Jan. 31, 2000
To: Salon Magazine
From: Mike McManus, President
Salon Magazine's Article on Marriage Factually Inaccurate, Biased
Lisa Moricoli wrote a sneering and surprisingly inaccurate article
for "Mothers Who Think," called "Southern Governors Declare War on
Divorce." I have been in the news business for four decades as a newspaper
reporter, TIME correspondent and a syndicated columnist since 1977. My
"Ethics & Religion" column is syndicated by the New York Times. I
understand that inadvertent accuracies creep into stories. But when a
reporter has been told the facts, and deliberately misstates them to suit
some strange anti-marriage agenda, she must be called on them.
Apparently Lisa Moricoli is not a Mother Who Thinks honestly.
1. She quotes me accurately in stating that the number of
in Kansas City and its suburbs, in the two counties of Johnson and
Wyandotte fell from 1,530 in 1995 to only 1,001 in 1997. I said, "In two
years, the divorce rate plunged by more than a third!" She then adds, "A
check with the Kansas authorities significantly changes this perception.
Johnson County's divorce numbers did indeed continue to decline in 1998;
but the divorce rate in Wyandotte County soared 60 percent. Not
surprisingly, this figure is missing from the McManus Web site
Now it is true that Wyandotte County rose a bit in 1998, while
Johnson County continued to decline. Some variations can be expected,
to year. But what's important is that the TOTAL number of divorces in the
two counties in 1998 was only 1,034 -- hardly different from the 1,001
reported for 1997. How do I know this? Lisa Moricoli told me! We
verified the numbers with the county clerk. And these numbers ARE on my
Web site, now that I have 1998 data.
Conclusion: The Community Marriage Policy, now adopted by about 65
churches, black and white, Catholic and Protestant in a two county area,
has reduced its divorce rate by a third. How can she argue with that?
What Ms. Moricoli did not report, though she was given the data,
is that at the same time divorces are plunging on the Kansas side of the
Missouri River, they are rising on the Missouri side. In two counties of
Kansas City Missouri and its suburbs, they rose from 3,586 in 1995 to
in 1997. Why? The Community Marriage Policy, in which pastors agreed to
take steps to reduce divorces, was agreed to only by Kansas clergy. And
the Kansas City Star zoned its stories on this development only into
So an objective person can see that the divorce culture continues
on one side of the river, and a marriage culture has replaced the divorce
culture on the other side. And yes, all of this data is in a memo on
2. Ms. Moricoli also sneers at the efforts of the governors of
Arkansas and Oklahoma to do something to reduce the high divorce rates in
their states: "In declaring war on divorce, the Arkansas and Oklahoma
governors have ignored all the primary, and soundly researched causes of
marital strife...They have championed the pet projects of campaign
contributors while ignoring legitimate social science and viable solutions
to divorce," she writes.
What rot. I have made no campaign contributions to either
governor, yet they have decided to involve the religious leaders of their
states in implementing strategies proven to reduce divorce rates that my
organization, Marriage Savers, has pioneered. Both governors paid for my
wife and me to meet with top religious leaders of all denominations in
Arkansas and Oklahoma because we have a track record in reducing the
divorce rates by working with religious leaders.
The first city to adopt a Community Marriage Policy, as the result
of a speech I made, was Modesto, CA in 1986. By 1998, its divorce rate
fallen 30%. Peoria's rate fell 21% in four years. In fact, 119 cities
have now adopted Community Marriage Policies. We only have data on 28 of
them. In two, divorces rose slightly, and in one there was no change.
However, divorces plunged in the other 24 between 10 and 300 times faster
than the U.S. Nationally, divorces have come down only 1.3% in raw
from 1,179,000 in 1979 to 1,163,000 in 1997.
By comparison, they fell 6% in Springdale, Arkansas and in
Tallahassee, Fla in one year. Even better, in a single year they plunged
14% in Chattanooga, 15% in Evansville, Ind. and 21% in Dalton, GA. Thus,
those latter three cities have had their divorce rate fall 11-16 times
faster than the U.S. in one-nineteenth of the time, or 200-300 faster than
I gave all of this data to Ms. Moricoli, but she chose to ignore
it. Worse, she could cite no strategy to save marriages that is getting
hard results like these. Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has called upon the
clergy of his state to adopt Community Marriage Policies. And why not?
They clearly work.
3. What is a Community Marriage Policy? It is an agreement across
denominational lines to take steps proven to do a better job preparing
couples for a lifelong marriage, strengthening existing ones, or saving
troubled marriages. The core solution can be stated in one sentence. In
every church or synagogue, there are couples in strong marriages who could
be of help to other couples, but have never been asked, inspired or
to be of help. These couples are an unused treasure, a massive resource
waiting to be enlisted in the battle to save marriages.
My wife and I have trained 53 Mentor Couples in our church to help
prepare couples for a lifelong marriage. They administer a "premarital
inventory" such as PREPARE or FOCCUS that can predict with 80% accuracy
will divorce, according to research using the PREPARE inventory. The
inventory gives couples an objective view of their strengths and areas
where growth is needed. It is also a very useful bridge between the couple
and a Mentor Couple trained to discuss the issues the inventory surfaces.
In addition, we have trained our Mentors to administer 13 different
exercises designed to improve their communication and conflict resolution
skills, based on the latest research of what works..
Result: Of the 262 premarital couples who have taken an inventory
since 1992 at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Md. about 50 broke
their engagement or relationship. Studies show that those who take this
step have the same scores as those who marry and later divorce. So they
avoided a bad marriage before it began! But of the 210+ couples who did
marry, we know of only six couples divorced in eight years - a breakup
of under 3 percent.
Rev. Dick and Phyllis McGinnis, have pioneered a different form
couple mentoring, taking couples whose marriages once nearly failed, to
help those now considering divorce. Their ministry began with a question
Rev. McGinnis asked in his Jacksonville St. David's Episcopalian Church, a
question that any pastor could ask: "Are there any couples here whose
marriages were once on rocks, but are now in a state of healing. If so,
I'd like to meet you in the chapel after the service."
To his astonishment, out of 180 people in church that day, 10
couples met with him. "I am overwhelmed by all of the marriages headed for
divorce. I thought perhaps there are couples who once considered divorce,
but who stuck together," he said. "Would you share confidentially how the
Lord helped you heal your marriage?" Seven of the 10 couples agreed to do
so. Within five years, they had met with 40 couples headed for divorce
courts, and saved 38, a 95% success rate. Equally important, the
have trained Mentor Couples in 25 other churches. In the first seven of
them, Mentors met with 213 hurting couples, of which 193 are still
together. That's a 90% success rate in the transplants.
Marriage Savers has taken these mentoring reforms to 119 cities in
41 states, where clergy have adopted a "Community Marriage Policy" in
they pledge to require rigorous marriage preparation of at four months
includes taking a premarital inventory and meeting with Mentor Couples to
discuss the issues it surfaces. Participating congregations also pledge to
enrich existing marriages and train back-from-the brink couples to mentor
those headed toward divorce.
We have now written a detailed 166 page Manual To Create a
Savers Congregation and have a two-day training program for both clergy
Mentor Couples on how to create these proven programs.
Our goal at Marriage Savers is simple: put a safety net under
marriage in every congregation. We are a nation of 300,000 churches and
synagogues. If only one third of them each trained 10 Mentor Couples, we
would have a million Mentor Couples. Surely, they could save at least
of the 1.16 million marriages ending in divorce, cutting the divorce rate
by 50%. In its latest issue, Christianity Today, the largest independent
national magazine read by Protestants, editorialized,
"If McManus' projections are at all reasonable - and if we put our
minds to the task, they are - we could save approximately 600,000
by 2010. If that vision doesn't motivate us, what will?"
I don't expect Salon magazine to be inspired by what Marriage
Savers is doing. But please report the facts correctly. Then we are
to listen to any criticisms.
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