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Pastors can now offer congregants proof that traditional marriage is not only good for children, it's good for taxpayers.

So say traditional marriage advocates who are participating in a weeklong initiative aimed at promoting marriage. The leaders of National Marriage Week, which began this week and culminates with Marriage Sunday on Feb. 14, say building a "marriage culture" helps curtail poverty and the fatherlessness that influences high incarceration rates.

"The alarming drop in marriage rates in America combined with high divorce rates are costly to the nation--financially costly to taxpayers and individuals, and emotionally costly to children," said Chuck Stetson, chairman of National Marriage Week USA. "The nation needs to pay attention."

The group points to research that shows single mothers have lower household incomes than married couples, children from two-parent homes have higher graduation rates and that a majority of juvenile and adult inmates come from fatherless homes.

Pastor Derrick W. Hutchins, who oversees more than 10,000 pastors as chairman of the national Pastors and Elders Council for the 6 million-member Church of God in Christ, says the findings can empower pastors with the tools to help couples stay together.

“The love of money is not only the root of all evil; financial discord among couples is the No. 1 cause of divorce in the U.S.,” Hutchins said. “We pastors can use Marriage Week as a means to draw attention to the need for couples to learn how to work through problems that often lead to divorce,” he added.

In addition to raising awareness of the benefits of marriage, campaign leaders seek to mobilize churches to support marriage through activities such as youth dating seminars, marriage preparation classes for singles and weekend marriage conferences for couples.

Organizers also are spearheading a petition drive to protect the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits federal recognition of gay marriage.

Originally hosted by a group known as Smart Marriages, the marriage week is being sponsored this year by the Let's Strengthen Marriage campaign, which recently held a webinar ( aimed at challenging church leaders to lead a "marriage revival" in the U.S.

The week, which has been marked in Europe for several years, has been endorsed by the Family Research Council; Prison Fellowship founder Charles Colson; Bishop Harry Jackson, chairman of the Stand4Marriage DC Coalition; and the Rev. Sammy Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

"Marriage works," said Sheila Weber, executive director of National Marriage Week. "Research shows that marriage makes people happier, live longer, and build more economic security." [; 2/8/2010]

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