Author: <span>John Witte</span>

More Than a Mere Contract: Marriage as Contract and Covenant in Law and Theology (Witte, 2008)

On August 15, 1997, the State of Louisiana put in place the nation’s first modern covenant marriage law. The law creates a two-tiered system of marriage. Couples may choose a contract marriage, with minimal formalities of formation and attendant rights to no-fault divorce. Or couples may choose a covenant marriage, with more stringent formation and dissolution rules.

The Nature of Family, The Family of Nature: The Surprising Liberal Defense of the Traditional Family in the Enlightenment (Witte, 2015)

This Article shows that many Enlightenment liberals defended traditional family values and warned against the dangers of sexual libertinism and marital breakdown. While they rejected many traditional teachings in their construction of modern liberalism, Enlightenment liberals held firmly to classical and Christian teachings that exclusive and enduring monogamous marriages are the best way to ensure paternal certainty and joint parental investment in children who are born vulnerable and dependent on their parents’ mutual care.

Sex may be free, but children come with a cost we must accept (Witte, 2008)

Thirty-eight percent of all American children are now born out of wedlock, and it costs American taxpayers $112 billion per year. Those are the sobering numbers recently reported by the U.S. Bureau of the Census and by the Institute for American Values.

The Legal Challenges of Religious Polygamy (Witte, 2008)

A century and a half ago, Mormons made national headlines by claiming a First Amendment right to practice polygamy, despite criminal laws against it. In four cases from 1879 to 1890, the United States Supreme Court firmly rejected their claim, and threatened to dissolve the Mormon church if they persisted…These old cases are still the law of the land, and most Mormons renounced polygamy after 1890.

The Perils of Celibacy: Clerical Marriage and the Protestant Reformation (Witte, 2002)

In this Lecture, I would like to revisit the original Protestant case against clerical celibacy and for clerical marriage in its sixteenth century Lutheran Reformation context. I shall then draw out a few implications of the significance of these historical battles for the theology and law of clerical celibacy and marriage today.

Facts and Fictions of Separation of Church and State (Witte, 2005)

I shall argue that, long before Jefferson penned his 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists, the eighteenth-century American founders had at least five understandings of separation of church and state, several with deep Western roots. Each of these understandings made important contributions to the protection of religious liberty in the nineteenth century. Each of these understandings still hold enduring lessons for us today, as I shall argue by way of conclusion.