Salvation Army says no to event encouraging teen marriage

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Christian group that promotes marriage at ages as young as 13 won’t be able to use a Salvation Army camp in Wichita for a retreat for parents seeking marital partners for their children.

The Let Them Marry ministry wanted to have the retreat at Camp Hiawatha in November, The Wichita Eagle reported.

Janet Pack, director of development for the Salvation Army in Wichita, said in a statement that while the nonprofit inquired about holding an event there, the Salvation Army would “not allow that type of event to be held at our facilities” and “remained steadfastly focused on our mission of advocating for and protecting children.”

Laura Ohlman, who was helping organize and promote the event, said the retreat is still a goal, but isn’t sure when it will happen. Ohlman is the daughter-in-law of Vaughn Ohlman, an ambulance driver in Schulenberg, Texas, who runs the Let Them Marry ministry that’s devoted to “the idea of Christians focusing more on young, fruitful, Godly marriages – getting rid of some of so many of the obstacles that stand in the way,” he said in an email.

“Scripture speaks of the father of the son ‘taking a wife’ for his son, and the father of the bride ‘giving’ her to her husband,” Ohlman writes, citing passages from Jeremiah, Judges, Ezra and other books. “It gives example after example of young women being given to young men, without the young woman even being consulted, and often, in some of the most Godly marriages in Scripture, the young man is not consulted.”

Under Kansas law, no one under the age of 15 can marry. Eighteen is the minimum age, although 16- and 17-year-olds can get married with parental consent.

Sedgwick County district attorney Marc Bennett said people who are legally married can be prosecuted for rape if they attempt to consummate a marriage without consent.

“As long as the laws aren’t being broken, they’re free to have this kind of a meeting,” Bennett said of the proposed retreat. “But if you cross the line and there’s a child who’s being forced into having sex with someone she doesn’t want to, then now you’ve gotten the attention of the state.”

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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