Item from the Smart Marriages Archive, reproduced in the Divorce Statistics Collection

The Associated Press 12/30/99 1:31 AM Eastern

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- Baptists have the highest divorce rate of any
Christian denomination, and are more likely to get a divorce than
atheists and agnostics, according to a national survey.

The survey conducted by Barna Research Group in Ventura, Calif., found
that 29 percent of all adult Baptists have been through a divorce. Among
Christian groups, only those who attend non-denominational Protestant
churches were more likely to be divorced, with a 34 percent divorce rate.

Alabama, with a population of 4.3 million, has more than one million
Southern Baptists and a majority of evangelical Protestants. The state
ranks fourth nationally in divorce rates, behind Nevada, Tennessee and
Arkansas, according to U.S. government statistics.

Barna Research Group interviewed 3,854 adults from the 48 continental
states, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percent. The survey
found that while just 11 percent of the adult population is currently
divorced, 25 percent of all adults have experienced at least one divorce,
the survey showed.

Twenty seven percent of those describing themselves as born-again
Christians are currently or have previously been divorced, compared to 24
percent among other adults.

"While it may be alarming to discover that born-again Christians are more
likely than others to experience a divorce, that pattern has been in
place for quite some time," said George Barna, president of Barna
Research Group.

A Birmingham minister, the Rev. Stacy Pickering, said the numbers are
skewed because Baptist churches encourage young people to get married --
sometimes before they're ready -- before living together.

"Fewer people are getting married and the number of couples living
together has increased," said Pickering, minister of young married adults
and director of counseling at Shades Mountain Baptist Church.

He said his church now requires premarital counseling for couples who
want to marry at the church.

Of major Christian denominations, Catholics and Lutherans have the lowest
divorce rate at 21 percent, according to Barna. People who attend
mainstream Protestant churches have an overall divorce rate of 25

The levels vary among non-Christian groups, Barna reported. Jews have a
divorce rate of 30 percent, while atheists and agnostics have a
relatively low rate of 21 percent, according to the survey.

The survey found that Mormons, who emphasize strong families, are near
the national average at 24 percent.

"What brings people to divorce has so many more important factors than
theology," said Bart Grooms, pastoral counselor for the Samaritan
Counseling Center of Baptist Health System. He said Christians'
expectations of marriage may be too high.

"I believe we expect more out of marriage than we used to," he said.
"Gender roles have changed an awful lot. A lot of women are not putting
up with boorish louts like they were in the past."

The study found that the South and Midwest had 27-percent divorce rates,
while the rates were 19 percent in the Northwest and 26 percent in the

Whites are more likely to have had a divorce, at 27 percent, than
African-Americans (22 percent), Hispanics (20 percent) and Asians (8
percent), Barna found.

George Barna noted that the large number of divorces have changed young

"One of the most striking findings in our recent survey among teenagers
is that when we asked them to name their top goals for the future, one of
the highest-rated was to get married and have the same spouse for their
entire life," he said.

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