4 Feb 2007

"Dismemberment of the traditional family" by the bishop of Motherwell

"Families matter because almost every social problem that we face - soaring teenage pregnancies, abortions and single mums, juvenile delinquency, drug abuse, binge drinking, vandalism, violence and crime, the burgeoning of mental illness and sexually transmitted diseases among the young, educational failure, the breakdown in civility, and increasing harassment and contempt for the elderly, the vulnerable and the weakest members of our communities - all come down, in part at least, to the dismemberment of the traditional family.

Consecutive governments' policies, certainly for the best part of two decades, have put our country on the fast track to social dislocation. Inequality has not been reduced. Family breakdown, addiction and dependency have increased. Social divisions have not been healed. Nor can the Conservative opposition take the moral high ground given their earlier opposition to measures aimed at tackling poverty such as the minimum wage, maternity leave and flexible working.

Our governments in Westminster and Holyrood have dared not whisper the terms marriage and the traditional family for fear of being branded politically incorrect by the liberal secular lobby. They have signed up to the dangerous fiction that all lifestyles are equal and that all types of family are equally good at bringing up children. It is time to challenge them to change the direction of their social policies and recognise the damage caused by their compliance with liberal secular policy advisers.

With elections looming, voters must impress on all parties the need to promote family stability through strategies which incentivise and support marriage as well as a socially just, wide-ranging package of policies dealing with poverty reduction, deprivation and exclusion. My vote will go to the party that commits itself to detailed, credible and concrete policies that place marriage, committed parenthood and the family at the heart of its social manifesto. And my public criticism will remain focused on those who do not.

The right reverend Joseph Devine is bishop of Motherwell." He is writing in The Sunday Herald [4th February 2007].

I agree almost completely with the bishop of Motherwell, but the Labour government is also trying to have it both ways: it is deterring teenage motherhood on the grounds that the outcomes for children are poor, whilst at the same time maintaining the mantra "we shall not promote one type of family structure as opposed to another". The outcomes for children of unmarried parents generally are worse than for those with parents who are married, so why not promote marriage and deter cohabitation?

In England the Conservatives control the Local Government Association, so they could be doing much more to promote similar policies to those outlined by the bishop of Motherwell - if they wanted to.

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