One of the programs that has a nice fit with President Bush’s faith-based initiative is the promotion of responsible fatherhood, and one particular organization, the National Fatherhood Initiative, has done a good job of leading a movement toward restoration of traditional concepts of family, marriage, and fatherhood. Recent U. S. Census statistics reflect that one-third of American children live apart from their biological fathers, 83% do not see their fathers more than once per week, and 40% have not seen them in at least one year. Frightening, and consistent with Daniel Moynihan’s famous 1965 report: “A community that allows a large number of men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any rational expectations about the future – that community asks for and gets chaos, and it is richly deserved.”
Bush has committed significant resources through grants to community and faith-based organizations whose mission includes promoting responsible fatherhood. It is emblematic of our times that his nominee to lead the initiative, Wade Horn, is being opposed by feminist groups because of his outspoken advocacy of traditional marriage and fatherhood. And it is instructive that in a recent interview, when pressed, Patricia Ireland, President of the National Organization of Women, wouldn’t answer the simplest question about the preference of marriage between a man and a woman over other family structures. Census figures show that fewer than 25% of American households are comprised of a married couple with children and that this percentage has been steadily declining. Should we care? Should we support public policy that favors family structures that are in the minority? It is well understood by leading family sociologists that fathers bring cultural influences to families and children more than mothers, whose biological commitment is more compelling. Consequently, the involvement of fathers must be supported and influenced by laws and societal norms. Traditional marriage is the most basic public institution of a self-governing society. It changes goals, behavior, obligations, and priorities in ways that enhance civil society and make the good society possible. Studies show that the leading indicator of family and child dysfunction and poverty is the absence of a father. Moynihan also said “…politics can change a culture and save it from itself.” Traditional marriage and fatherhood should hold a privileged place in our public policy and our politics.