Registration now open for World Congress of Families IX!

This October, an amazing slate of speakers and entertainment — including The Piano Guys and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir — will come together to inform, energize and uplift an international gathering in Salt Lake City.

The World Congress of Families (WCF IX) is the world’s premier gathering of family scholars, religious leaders, parliamentarians and advocates uniting to strengthen the family. Registration is now open to the public: click here!

Plenary speakers will include:

•Nick Vujicic, Australia, who was born without limbs and is an internationally renowned motivational speaker.

•Catholic Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, one of the strongest proponents of the natural family in the international arena today.

•Sammy Rodriguez Jr., head of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

•Lila Rose, known for her pro-life work.

•Sheri Dew, CEO of Deseret Book, who is internationally renowned as one of the foremost women speakers.

•Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, an economist and author of a new book, Victims of the Sexual Revolution.

•Ted Baehr, founder of MovieGuide, who conducts pioneering research into the impact of family-rated movies on the movie industry.

•Bob McCoskrie, a media personality from New Zealand.

•Allan Carlson, founder of the WCF and a top family scholar and historian.

•Ignacio Arsuaga of Madrid, one of the most effective entrepreneurial leaders in the world; he was the force behind the 2 million person march for life in Madrid.

Janice Crouse, Allan Carlson and Stan Swim at Tuesday's press conference.

Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, executive director of WCF IX; Dr. Allan Carlson; and Stan Swim, chairman and chief operating officer of Sutherland Institute, at Tuesday’s press conference.

The announcement of October’s event was made May 12 with the signing of the official agreement between Allan C. Carlson, co-founder and international secretary of the World Congress of Families, and Stan Swim, chairman and chief operating officer of Sutherland Institute, the event’s host organization.

“This is a historic moment,” Carlson said. “Since our inaugural congress in Prague (1997), we have held events in Geneva, Mexico City, Warsaw, Amsterdam, Madrid, and Sydney. The World Congress of Families IX in the United States will be our largest stage to date, effectively allowing scholars, religious leaders, parliamentarians, and other advocates of the natural family to meet in a rich media environment and welcome engaged and honest discussion from participants who may never otherwise have attended outside the U.S.”

The World Congress of Families selects its locations similar to the way the International Olympic Committee receives bids from international cities for its venue. The Salt Lake City proposal was led by Sutherland Institute, a Utah-based public policy think tank.

“It is an honor to host WCF IX,” said Swim. “Not only is there an abundance of family-related scholarship in Utah but there is an extensive interfaith community ready to host ecclesiastical leaders from faiths and denominations around the world. Salt Lake City’s natural beauty will provide the perfect setting for our guests visiting from around the globe.”


Stan Swim and Janice Crouse during Tuesday’s announcement at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City.

The World Congress of Families planning committee selected Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, Ph.D., as executive director of WCF IX. A former presidential speechwriter for George H.W. Bush, and head of a Washington, D.C., think tank, Crouse is the author of Children at Risk and Marriage Matters, as well as a recognized expert on issues related to women and family.

Click here to register!

Bill Duncan

Sutherland statement on SCOTUS marriage arguments

Sutherland Institute is encouraged that the oral arguments in the U.S. Supreme Court today allowed the Court to hear a robust defense of core principles. First, that marriage is more about connecting mothers, fathers and children than about the government giving a seal of approval to adult choices. Second, that the right of people of the states to determine this consequential issue is fundamental and should not be infringed.

Based solely on the questions asked by the justices, it’s impossible to tell what the final outcome will be. Some justices seemed to endorse the idea that marriage is just a way for adults to express themselves. Others strongly disputed the idea that retaining the virtually universal understanding of marriage is irrational.

One theme emerged strongly in the arguments — ideas matter and when the government endorses the idea that marriage is solely about adult desires, that endorsement will have consequences.

We are pleased that the justices were able to hear strong arguments for marriage. We hope they will have the wisdom to allow the people of states to continue to retain the understanding of marriage that respects children’s entitlement to a married mother and father.

Marriage and our nation’s destiny – Sutherland Soapbox, 3/24/15

Family picture seattleThis post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found at the bottom of this post.

In a recent message, I referenced Senator Mike Lee’s January 2015 Heritage Foundation address wherein he focused on a matter of critical importance.

There are many pressing issues that deserve our attention and require action – so many in fact that it can sometimes be difficult to keep them straight.

But as I see it there is one issue – one challenge facing the American people today – that rises above the rest in its complexity, its magnitude, and the reach of its consequences. Directly or indirectly it affects nearly every other public issue you can think of, and should therefore be placed squarely at the center of our reform agenda.

… that issue is the family – its increasing importance and its declining stability – and I believe it may be the single defining challenge of our time.

The family is the first and most important institution of our society – and the foundation of American exceptionalism. …

The family has always been the linchpin of American life, but today more than ever the health of the family is indivisible from the destiny of our nation. (“Putting Families First,” delivered January 13, 2015, at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.)

Underscoring the importance of these concerns is information and data presented at the Wheatley Institution Roundtable on the Family, hosted March 19 and 20 at BYU. Recapping the conference, Deseret News writer Wendy Leonard reported that

The decline of the family in America is real, and researchers hope that a better understanding of what is happening to the fundamental unit of society will help to turn the trends.

“Marriage is viewed as a capstone rather than a cornerstone, as it used to be part of setting up your adult life,” said Sam Sturgeon, a senior research manager with Bonneville Communications and president of Demographic Intelligence. …

He said more people marry when they are finished with school or are well into their careers, and that fewer are having children.

According to U.S. Census Bureau data, fewer people ever marry, including 20 percent of men and 5 percent of women; and more people cohabit – a more than tenfold increase in the past 50 years.

Read more

Senator Mike Lee’s focus on ‘putting families first’ — Sutherland Soapbox, 2/24/15

family beach sunsetThis post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found at the bottom of this post.

Much has been said over the past several weeks about the number of significant leadership positions now occupied by Utah’s elected representatives in the nation’s capital and in organizations with national scope and influence. In addition to several House members occupying key roles in the U.S. Congress, with Republicans taking control of the Senate in the recent election, the longest-serving member of the delegation, Sen. Orrin Hatch, became the Senate president pro tempore, a position that puts him third in the line of presidential succession behind the vice president and the House speaker. Further, Governor Gary Herbert serves in the leadership of the National Governors Association, where he will soon become the chair; Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker currently is president of the National League of Cities; and state Senator Curtis Bramble is the president-elect of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), a bipartisan organization serving the nation’s 7,383 state lawmakers and more than 20,000 legislative staff.

Today, I’d like to focus on U.S. Senator Mike Lee. As recently reported in the Deseret News, while visiting the state, prominent political pollster Frank Luntz “said Lee’s position as head of the Senate steering committee that acts as a conservative caucus, along with key assignments held by the other five members of Utah’s all-GOP congressional delegation, gives Utah outsized influence. [Quoting Mr. Luntz:] ‘Utah’s got the most powerful delegation in Washington … [i]t’s incredible that this is a small state with an oversized delegation.’”

Senator Lee is consistent in focusing on a particular priority. In his words: “America’s crisis of unequal opportunity is the greatest challenge facing the United States today. We need to start developing a new conservative reform agenda that restores equal opportunity to the families and communities from whom it has been unfairly taken.”  Read more

Is apple pie next? — Sutherland Soapbox, 2/17/15

A_Wreath_to_Mama_1876This post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found at the bottom of this post.

Motherhood and apple pie, as the idiom suggests, are things we can all agree on — they’re archetypes of all that’s good and wholesome.

Well, apple pie now has some high-placed enemies, and even motherhood’s not getting the respect it used to; a certain kind of motherhood at least.

As a number of commentators have noted, the president’s plan to help middle-class families unveiled in the State of the Union speech has a blind spot. As family scholar W. Bradford Wilcox explains:

The president’s plan would triple the existing child-care tax credit to $3,000 for two-earner families with children under 5 and a combined income of less than $120,000, and it would establish a new $500 credit for families in which both spouses work. The plan would provide tax relief—which would no doubt help with the cost of child care, commuting, etc.—to middle-class families with both parents in the workforce. But families who choose to have a parent at home would see none of this tax relief.

The hopefully unintentional slight followed an awkward statement last year during a speech on Women and the Economy where the president—while endorsing paid family leave, better daycare and early childhood education—said: “sometimes, someone, usually mom, leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result.  And that’s not a choice we want Americans to make. ”

So, perhaps motherhood’s still okay as long as mother doesn’t shirk paid work to do it.

G.K. Chesterton pointed out the flaw in this line of thinking in 1920:

If people cannot mind their own business, it cannot possibly be more economical to pay them to mind each other’s business, and still less to mind each other’s babies. It is simply throwing away a natural force and then paying for an artificial force; as if a man were to water a plant with a hose while holding up an umbrella to protect it from the rain. . . . Ultimately, we are arguing that a woman should not be a mother to her own baby, but a nursemaid to somebody else’s baby. But it will not work, even on paper. We cannot all live by taking in each other’s washing, especially in the form of pinafores.

It would actually be easy to avoid the problem of singling out the choice to remain at home to care for children for less favorable treatment. Professor Wilcox notes that an idea proposed by Senators Mike Lee and Marco Rubio would expand “the child tax credit to $3,500 from its current $1,000 and extending it to payroll taxes” which would treat all parents the same, regardless of whether there are one or two wage earners in the home.

Utah’s policies have some blind spots regarding single-income families as well. For instance, if a parent who chooses to forego paid employment is divorced, the law “imputes” non-existent income to that person that will offset the obligations the spouse who caused the divorce would have had. This means a decrease in the amount that would be available to the stay-at-home parent, making it more likely that person will have to leave home for paid work. From a purely practical perspective, it might be wise for a divorced spouse to find other sources of income given the possibility that support might not be paid or might not be adequate, it hardly seems like good policy for the state to assume that the only appropriate thing for a parent who has been at home with the children to do is to get back into the workplace and have children shift for themselves as quickly as possible. Maybe that result can’t be avoided but it need not be mandated.

Policy makers need to be reminded that mothers, and sometimes fathers, who sacrifice to care for children in the home are making an incalculable contribution not only to their children and their family but to society at large. They deserve respect and appreciation and even help, not to have their choice hedged up by those who are blind to all but market values.

For Sutherland Institute, I’m Bill Duncan. Thanks for listening.

Receive this broadcast each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here

The research so far: Mom + Dad still best for kids

Family_playing_a_board_gameIn past decades, a large body of research has developed focused on the question of what family structures are most likely to promote child well-being. The basic consensus — based on comparisons of children raised by married biological parents, single parents, divorced parents, stepparents, etc. — is that children fare best, on average, when raised by their own biological parents in a stable marriage.

More recently, a different body of research suggests that this consensus would not apply if the population being compared were children raised by same-sex couples. In other words, the claim is that children raised by same-sex couples fare no differently than children raised by a biological mother and father. If true, this would be an important finding since the research on stepparenting (the situation most analogous to same-sex couples parenting a child, since at most one member of the couple would be biologically related) would seem to point in a different direction.

Of course, the importance of this finding, if established, would extend beyond the academy since the claim of “no differences” has been relied on by courts that have found that the U.S. or state constitutions require same-sex marriage. Indeed, the Supreme Court’s DOMA opinion seems to rely on this literature by implication in suggesting that children being raised by same-sex couples are harmed by the inability of the couple to claim the status of marriage, rather than inquiring whether any difficulties these children experience may come from separation from one or both biological parents or from a lack of relationship with either a mother or father.

Discordant notes

There has been some serious criticism of the same-sex parenting studies, however, because a number of analysts, representing diverse views on the political implications, have noted problems with sample sizes, non-random samples, poor or nonexistent comparison groups, etc. (See here, here, here, here and here.)

In 2012, Dr. Loren Marks at Louisiana State University published a detailed analysis of the studies relied on by the American Psychological Association for its support of same-sex marriage and found that the flaws in that research were so significant as to seriously call into question the validity of any conclusions derived from it.

Far more interesting was a new study released in the same journal as Dr. Marks’ report which attempted to correct the shortcomings of the previous literature by drawing on a much larger, representative sample, comparing child outcomes on more significant measures, and avoiding the problem of relying on reports of the adults raising the child. This study (and a follow-up study, using different comparison groups in response to critics of the initial research) demonstrated significant increases in problems for children raised by same-sex couples as compared to children raised by married biological or adoptive mothers and fathers.

This study, and to a lesser extent similar studies (here and here and here) suggesting children raised by same-sex couples don’t fare as well as children raised by married mothers and fathers, have been subjected to a firestorm of attacks (see also here, here, and here), including much ad hominem rhetoric and an apparently unprecedented and certainly highly unusual campaign of harassment and intimidation.

New studies

Now, three new studies by sociologist Paul Sullins, who teaches at the Catholic University of America, add to the data that seem to undermine the claim of “no differences.” Read more

Reflections from Rome: Inspiring conference focuses on the complementarity of men and women in marriage

humanumLast week my wife and I had the privilege of attending an historic international, interreligious colloquium in the Vatican.  Entitled Humanum: The Complementarity of Man and Woman, the conference explored the complementarity of men and women in marriage.  Participants came from countries all over the world and from more cultures and religious traditions than appear on those “Coexist” bumper stickers.  Cardinal Mueller and his colleagues were wonderfully gracious hosts.

If the subject had been theology, the conference might have taken on the feel of a debate.  But in talking about the unique value that women and men individually bring to marriage, to their children and to each other, the common ground was deep, broad and immediate.  The presentations from Christian faiths drew on patterns and scripture that were familiar, while each faith’s emphasis differed enough to prompt new reflection on how I could be a better husband and father.  Pope Francis’ opening speech was a clarion call to strengthen marriage for the benefit of children and society.  Catholic clergy have spent centuries systematically studying these things, and they lay out the rationale and richness of marital union.  Jewish humanum3leaders, like colloquium speaker Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, blend scriptural detail, personal experience and their unique humor for a memorable portrait of spousal love and growth.  LDS representative President Henry B. Eyring shared much of the church’s Family Proclamation  though his speech may be best remembered for the personal expressions toward his wife and family which moved some of the audience to tears.

One presentation came from Daphne Sheng, a Taiwanese woman, speaking from her Taoist perspective.  I’ve made casual reference to Yin and Yang before, as perhaps you have, trying to use them as examples of some sort of fit between different things.  Our speaker shared the proverbial “rest of the story.”  Yin and Yang have something of each other within themselves, yet are also very different.  They fit and work together within the bounds of a circle.  So their differences matter and enable the fit, but so does the context in which they connect.  I can’t do the concept justice in a brief post like this one, but it gave me something new that I need to explore. Read more

Intergenerational families: Humanity’s keystone species

self-controlAt Yellowstone last summer, we heard about keystone species, “a species that has a disproportionately large effect on its environment relative to its abundance.” These species solve large ecological problems that would otherwise threaten the very existence of an ecosystem.

Consider the challenge of transmitting virtue. It was commonplace among the Founders of the United States to note that a free society requires a virtuous people. They accepted Edmund Burke’s observation: “Men qualify for freedom in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites. Society cannot exist unless a controlling power is put somewhere on will and appetite, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without.”

In an authoritarian state, social order of a sort is maintained by extensive controls from outside the individual. In a free society, virtue must be transmitted into the hearts of individuals—but not by the state. Consider this powerful observation of Professor Bruce C. Hafen:

[I]t remains fundamental to democratic theory that parents, through this institutional role of the family, control the heart of the value-transmission process. As that crucial process is dispersed pluralistically, the power of government is limited. It is characteristic of totalitarian societies, by contrast, to centralize the transmission of values. Our system thus fully expects parents to interact with their children in ways we would not tolerate from the state—namely, through the explicit inculcation of intensely personal convictions about life and its meaning. Read more

S.L. Tribune op-ed: World Conference of Families does not spread fear

WCFfamilyof3As administrator of the ninth World Congress of Families (WCF) to be held next fall in Salt Lake City, and as a lifelong Utah resident and Latter-day Saint, I appreciate the opportunity that Erika Munson’s Nov. 2 op-ed provides to explain why Sutherland Institute is bringing the ninth World Congress of Families to Salt Lake City.

When my dad founded the Institute almost 20 years ago, one of the core principles was: “To live as free people, Utah law, policy and culture must cherish family as the fundamental unit of society.” To this end, Sutherland has long worked on a variety of issues, from immigration to prison reform, with groups holding a diversity of viewpoints, always with these questions in mind: How do we strengthen families through public policy? How do we address challenges relating to the breakdown of the family? World Congress of Families IX has that same focus.

As the World Congress has done in the past, WCF IX will convene internationally recognized scholars, political leaders, world-class entertainment and family advocates to help organizations throughout the world learn, share ideas and collaborate on ways to strengthen the family.

Another essential part of this effort is bringing together diverse faiths that, despite doctrinal differences, unite to support the family – Evangelicals, Catholics, Mormons, Protestants, Jews and Muslims.

The World Congress of Families stands with millions across the globe who do amazing work on a wide range of critical issues affecting the family, including declining fertility, human trafficking, parental rights, euthanasia, marriage, adoption, pornography, drug and alcohol addictions, fatherlessness, divorce, religious freedom, sanctity of human life and so on.

Notably, past speakers at WCF events include The Hon. John Anderson, former Australian deputy prime minister; Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy (Holy See) and adviser to Pope Francis (Holy See); Sheri Dew, former second counselor in the LDS General Relief Society presidency; Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs, chief rabbi of the Inter-Provincial Rabbinate in Holland; the late President Lech Kaczynski, past president of Poland; Dr. Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King Jr.; Elder Russell M. Nelson, apostle of the LDS Church; Paige Patterson, past president of the Southern Baptist Convention; Jehan Sadat, former first lady of Egypt; Ellen Sauerbrey, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; and Brad Wilcox, associate professor of sociology, University of Virginia. Read more

U.N. Human Rights Commission defends the family unit

Flag_of_the_United_Nations.svgIn a post titled “No Good Document Goes Unpunished,” Laura Bunker of United Families International points out that even the United Nations recognizes the family as the fundamental unit of society. She writes,

In observance of the 20th anniversary of the International Year of the Family, the UN Human Rights Council recently adopted a resolution on the “Protection of the Family.”

This remarkable, family-affirming UN document recognizes:

•    “that the family has the primary responsibility for the nurturing and protection of children and that children, for the full and harmonious development of their personality, should grow up in a family environment and in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding,”
•    “that the family, as the fundamental group of society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of all its members and particularly children, should be afforded the necessary protection and assistance so that it can fully assume its responsibilities within the community,”
•    “that the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.”

Perhaps even more significant than the language this resolution contains is what it does not contain. The Human Rights Council rejected an amendment that has been adopted in other past UN documents, endorsing “various forms of the family.”

Of course, there are those who object to this most natural, commonsense, human concept:

Opponents claim that the countries who voted for the resolution “betrayed their responsibilities as members of the Council,” and describe the document as “censorship,” “divisive,” “problematic,” “deeply flawed,” and “appalling.” …

For example, a Joint Statement opposing the resolution expresses concern that, “some states will seek to exploit it as a vehicle for promoting a narrow, exclusionary and patriarchal concept of ‘the family’” and “the family is also a setting in which human rights abuses sometimes take place.”

For our part, we’d like to applaud the U.N. Human Rights Council for getting this one right.

Click here to read “No Good Document Goes Unpunished” on the United Families International Blog.