Teaching couples to say 'I do' – and mean it

Your article "Can marriage be taught?" (July 18) is a wonderfully balanced, calm, informative treatment of marriage education. But precisely because of that, it might inadvertently mislead readers through the article's failure to mention the abundant published research that answers the question it poses: Can marriage be taught and can these programs do it?

Peer-reviewed, published research on marriage education programs' effectiveness has gone hand in hand with their development over the past two decades. Summaries of much of this research can be found at www.smartmarriages.com.

The Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program, the featured program used in Oklahoma, has shown dramatic results. It has been used in the public as well as the private sector, and is widely taught in the US Army.

Whether government can teach marriage is largely a nonissue, since the same curricula are used in the public and private sectors, and many government programs would actually be delivered by nonprofit agencies assisted by grants. Experts who call these programs experimental or say "we have no idea what works" simply have not looked at the research.
John Crouch
Arlington, Va.
Executive Director Americans for Divorce Reform

In your article "Can marriage be taught?" you quoted Oklahoma governor Frank Keating as saying, "Tell me the goodness of a system where it is easier to get a marriage license than a hunting license."

Unintentionally, the governor has pointed to the problem with these kinds of authoritarian government sanctions. The concept of morality is firmly rooted in religion and philosophy. Secular government is simply not competent to decide what is good and what is evil. It's perfectly all right for people of conscience to work in the government and practice goodness as they personally understand it, but government itself must never try to define a standard for others.
Steven Randolph
Lakeland, Fla.

The 'promised Zion' is not a place

Regarding: "Is Israel only a Jewish state?" (Editorial, July 16): We feel for those Jews who looked for a place of peace and have found little but war because of the Zionist extremists. If anyone wants to know what is going on now in the region of ancient Palestine, and what it may portend for the future if we do not now stand on our American principles, then read the sixth chapter in the Book of Joshua. This was the first major step in the taking of the "promised" Zion. The present Zionists hold it is theirs by divine right and that they have the right to retake it by any means necessary. The problem will continue until they learn that the promised Zion is not a piece of real estate but a state of rightness with God that results in the longed-for peace and prosperity wherever they may be.
Elna Hull
San Francisco

Center for tolerance at ground zero

Regarding: "Consensus on ground zero: Be bolder" (July 22): There is no monument worthy of the lives lost on Sept. 11. I propose the area should be used for a "Center of Understanding, Tolerance, and Coexistence." In addition to places of worship, there would be a library and a meeting hall where people from all over the world can spend time learning about each other's beliefs and how we might share them.

The thought of placing these spiritual centers on the site of the buildings will send the message to the world that we care more about learning and eliminating the ignorance that has caused this problem than we do about revenge.
Ray Carter
Marina Del Rey, Calif.

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