Detroit Free Press Staff Writer
12:06 AM, April 8, 2014
A group of religious leaders gathered in a Dearborn Heights mosque today to promote traditional marriage, saying that the growing number of out-of-wedlock births and increasing divorce rate are weakening society.
The clergy members, which included Christians, Muslims and at least one Jewish leader, spoke out for marriage at the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights, led by spiritual leader Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi. The conference featured talks by Rev. Nick Phillips, marriage pastor at NorthRidge in Plymouth, one of Michigan’s biggest churches, Jim Thienel, chairman of the Oakland County Republican Party, and Imam Abdullah El-Amin, head of the Muslim Center in Detroit.
“Marriage is a very serious commitment,” said Elahi during a panel discussion.
“If we don’t set the standards” and “create some boundaries” for marriages, the institution and society suffers, said Phillips, whose evangelical church draws thousands.
Some speakers at the conference spoke out against same-sex marriage. A display and flyer for the event criticized “redefinition of marriage that defies both biology and common sense.” The display also criticized “plummeting marriage rates, widespread cohabitation, unwed births, soaring divorce.”
About 100 people attended the all-day conference at the Shia mosque. Dr. Michael Ross, president and founder of Troy-based Defending Our Fathers House, which promotes traditional families, helped organize the conference, titled “Restoring Marriage and Family Life in 2014.” It was emceed by Vic Faust, co-anchor at WXYZ-TV.
Thienel said he’s concerned that increasingly, “the government is taking on the role of the father and the husband.”
“In our culture today, it’s not definitely leaning towards marriage,” said Phillips. “It’s quite the opposite.”
Elahi said “if we want to have a happy community, a strong community…a successful community, all of this starts with the family…The future of this country depends on the family.”
Phillips and others said they welcomed the opportunity to cross religious lines on a common cause.
“Let’s focus on what we have in common,” he said.
Elahi agreed, saying “we’re here today for unity, for education, for cooperation.”