(The petition) basically says that people pledge in their personal lives to support efforts to protect marriage, family, life, religious freedom and parental rights. It's our gathering tool for people throughout the world who we know are willing to stand for the family. —Sharon Slater, president of Family Watch International
SANDY — The greatest crisis humanity will face in the 21st century, according to Don Feder, will not be global warming, disease, overpopulation, or any of the dystopian scenarios portrayed in science fiction.
Instead, Feder believes, the crisis will be the so-called “Demographic Winter” stemming from a worldwide decline in fertility rates.
“Sometime in this century we’re going to start running out of people,” said the director of communications for the World Congress of Families.
But the cause of the population crisis, he said, can be traced back to the sexual revolution, which has shaped the world more profoundly than anything since the industrial revolution.
"The sexual revolution has led to a crater-scarred landscape strewn with casualties," he said.
Feder said it may seem counter-intuitive that people having more sex is causing a crisis in child birth rates, but he points to the paradigm shift that has occurred in the public’s attitudes toward procreation and the family. Meanwhile, he said, in the past 50 years the fertility rate has dropped by more than 50 percent.
If having children was solely connected to a person’s sexual activity, he said, then college campuses would be centers of population growth.
“This sea change in attitudes and behavior includes at first, separating procreation from marriage, then separating sex from procreation and finally separating love or any sense of commitment from sex,” he said.
Feder was one of several speakers at the Stand for the Family Conference, held Friday at the South Towne Exposition Center. The event focused on the need for individuals to support pro-family efforts but also trumpeted conservative viewpoints on social and constitutional issues.
Remarks during the conference compared the lives lost each year to abortions to the bloodshed of World War II, dismayed the U.S. Postal Service’s decision to honor slain San Francisco politician Harvey Milk with a commemorative stamp, encouraged parents to instruct their children to date and marry virginal and chaste peers due to the lower rates of divorce in those unions, described public education as the primary source of child indoctrination and suggested that euthanasia and the rationing of medical services are the ultimate goals of Obamacare.
Shane Krauser, director of the American Academy for Constitutional Education, spoke on threats to religious freedom in today’s legal climate. He gave the example of several business owners around the country who are facing legal action for violating anti-discrimination ordinances by refusing to extend their services to same-sex couples.
“This is becoming the rule, not the exception,” he said. “We have to fight back against these ideas.”
He said this type of thinking, in which religious individuals are not granted exemptions from laws based on their beliefs, is contrary to the free exercise clause of the First Amendment and defies the original intent of the Founding Fathers.
As long as a behavior isn’t hurting another person, it would be inappropriate to force them to change that behavior, Krauser said. But he stopped short of specifying whether discrimination, whether institutional or individual, qualifies as hurting another person.
He also presented his argument as an “us” versus “them” without fully describing who or what are the opposition to his views.
“What the other side wants to do all too often is not engage in the marketplace,” he said. “They want to yell, they want to scream and ultimately use the force of government to change things.”
The conference was presented by Family Watch International, a nonprofit advocacy organization. Participants at the conferences were encouraged to sign a petition stating their support for pro-family causes and were also invited to participate in a yearlong focus on family-related themes in their own homes. Such themes include protecting and promoting motherhood and fatherhood and viewing the family as the solution to world problems.
"(The petition) basically says that people pledge in their personal lives to support efforts to protect marriage, family, life, religious freedom and parental rights," said Sharon Slater, president of Family Watch International. "It's our gathering tool for people throughout the world who we know are willing to stand for the family."
Alene Scheffield, of Kaysville, visited the conference and said she enjoyed hearing from the high-level, well-educated individuals who presented. She said she was particularly concerned with parental rights and hadn't heard anything at the conference she disagreed with.
"I think that governments are dictating to schools what will be taught, what values will be taught." she said, "And I feel like that may or may not infringe upon the right of a parent to teach their own set of values."
Russ Ballard, of Cedar Hills, said the pressures building against the family have become almost like a tidal wave.
"The philosophy that's being promoted out there is that the family can be anything you want it to be and the traditional man and woman with children concept is outmoded, outdated and in a lot of cases is detrimental to our happiness and our freedom to do the things we want to do," Ballard said. "I totally disagree. I think the family is absolutely essential."
He also said it was interesting to hear Feder's presentation on population decline and how some countries are in danger of going extinct due to low marriage and birth rates and increased instances of abortion.
"I hadn't really thought of that before," he said.
In order to shift the trends in fertility rate decline, Feder said society needs to cease subsidizing birth control, promote religion, celebrate parenthood and put an end to abortion, for both moral and practical purposes. He said modern civilization depends on robust population growth, and while many living species have gone extinct, humans may become the first to finance their own extinction.
"Obviously the children who aren’t born today won't themselves have children and grandchildren," he said. "This will create a smaller pool of potential parents in each generation, leading to a downward spiral and at some point population decline will become population free fall."
He also said that while some believe that humans are heading into a crisis of overpopulation, this is a result of people living longer rather than an excess of new children.
He compared the scenario to a car driving downhill, in that the vehicle will continue to accelerate due to gravity if the driver takes his foot off the gas. But once that car reaches the bottom of the slope, it slows to a halt.
"The momentum of population growth over the last 200 years has been carrying us forward," he said. "That's going to stop."