A Christian ministry called Let Them Marry was planning to hold its "Get Them Married Retreat" at Camp Hiawatha in Wichita, Kansas, November 3 to 6.
The Salvation Army of Wichita/Sedgwick County, which runs the camp, announced on Facebook on May 5:
The Salvation Army has denied a request by the Let Them Marry organization to conduct its event at Camp Hiawatha. Our decision is based upon our long-standing concern for the welfare of children. At The Salvation Army, we work every single day to provide a safe, caring place for children, many of whom have been left vulnerable due to the actions of adults. We remain steadfastly focused on our mission of advocating for and protecting children.
On the GTM Retreat page of the Let Them Marry website, which has since been taken down to be rewritten, the organization states that the retreat is "designed to bring together like-minded families (and their unmarried young men and women) who are committed to young, fruitful marriage and to help them overcome the barriers which have kept their children unmarried."
As for the age of marriage, the FAQ page on the site states: "The Bible provides many reasons for marriage, and most if not all of them demonstrate that marriage typically ought to happen in the youth (as in, before the age of 20)."
The first qualification for "youth," according to the ministry, is: "The 'youth' ready for marriage has breasts. A woman who is to be married is one who has breasts; breasts which signal her readiness for marriage, and breasts who promise enjoyment for her husband."
The second qualification says: "The 'youth' ready for marriage is ready to bear children. Unlike modern society Scripture sees the woman as a bearer, nurser, and raiser of children. The 'young woman' is the woman whose body is physically ready for these things, physically mature enough to handle them without damage."
Finally, the third requirement is: "The 'youth' ready for marriage is one who is ready for sexual intercourse sexually and emotionally. Her desire is for her husband, and she is ready to rejoice in him physically."
While puberty is different for everyone, it is possible for a young person to hit these milestones before they get a driver's license; in extreme cases, girls as young as 12 have given birth. The ministry insists that its guidelines do not endorse "child marriage or paedophilia," but refuses to state a minimum age.
The ministry notes: "We decry the way our society has sexualized children and do not endorse this whatsoever. We believe and teach that our sons and daughters should not be married until their secondary sexual development is complete."
American society generally considers anyone under 18 years of age to be a minor unless they are legally emancipated by a court.
Regarding these young people's consent to get married, the ministry says:
Comparing what we see in Scripture with various commentaries as well as the culture of our world, however, we see a very interesting linguistic clash over the word “consent”. First of all, Scripture never, ever mentions the idea of “consent” in regard to marriage. Even where the character rejects the marriage or commits adultery during their betrothal, there is usually no focus at all on the person’s “consent” but on the person’s actions in response to some situation of covenant.
Some use the idea of “consent” to deny the very relevance of the action of their authorities to bind them in covenant, as if a covenant was of no effect whatsoever and all that matters is what the person themselves decide. Others consider a covenant to be something substantial but that it is not really binding until the person themselves “consents”.
In contrast, our study of Scripture has shown that the Word of God considers a covenant made by an authority to be meaningful and binding upon [those] under his or her authority. Biblical consent is not the “consent” of dating or courtship. It is not a “veto” power. It does not presume to cast judgment over their father’s actions. And so, a lack of consent of the individual concerned is a choice of disobedience, a breach of a vow and of a relationship. ...
After denying that consent is Biblical, the ministry added a disclaimer at the top of several of the web pages: "Note: Contrary to vicious internet rumors we do not support or in any way condone child sexual activity of any sort, child marriage, or any other illegal activity. Nor do we support or condone forced marriages. We believe that parents should NOT seek a spouse for a child where that child has not actively sought for the parents to do so."
Sources: Let Them Marry (2), The Salvation Army - Wichita/Sedgwick County/Facebook / Photo credit: S.Mitch/Wikimedia Commons