Can You Say “Counter-Cultural”?

In the town of Black Jack, Missouri, it is illegal for more than three people to live in a single house, unless they are related by “blood, marriage, or adoption.” It’s been a fight recently because a man and a woman and “their” three children (only two of them are the biological children of the man) are being kicked out of their house because they are not married. Now, it seems that Black Jack is prepared to evict more people if they discover that they are violating the law. (Enforced laws, now that’s a breath of fresh air!)

It was interesting seeing a preview of the news last night, though. The picture was of a white woman and a black man walking out of the city hall, and the announcer said something to the effect of, “Find out what this couple’s relationship has to do with their eviction at 10.” I don’t know if it was intentional, but most people are immediately going to think it has to do with the fact that they are of two different races.

Anyway, I’m not sure about all the details, but it sounds like Black Jack has its head screwed on right. According to the story,

Black Jack resident Rose Curtis, 65, said she thought the City Council made the right decision.

“As a woman, I’m not going to let a man have babies by me and not marry me,” Curtis said. “I think it was a fair decision. It’s cut and dried.”

Good for her (although I think that decision hasn’t really been hers for a while–but, hey, who knows what they can do with fertility drugs these days). Black Jack apparently knows what the fundamental building block of society is–and it ain’t whatever kooky definition of family is currently in vogue. The mayor wrote the ACLU in 1999: “While it would be naive to say that we don’t recognize that children are born out of wedlock frequently these days, we certainly don’t believe that is the type of environment within which children should be brought into this world.” Imagine that. And it’s not even in the backwoods of some deep-South hollow!

If you’re so inclined, you might call or e-mail ( the mayor and thank him for standing up for what’s right, regardless of the cultural consequences of doing so.


13 thoughts on “Can You Say “Counter-Cultural”?

  1. I think this is a violation of the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

    Not only that, the law as written would seem to preclude adults living together as a way of pooling resources.

    For instance, a single widowed mother with a child could not share a house with a friend under this law.

    I prefer not to live in the American version of Iran, thank you very much.

  2. “For instance, a single widowed mother with a child could not share a house with a friend under this law.”

    Actually, that would be three people, so they would make it.


  3. And what does this have to do with Iran? Presumably, and ideally, Muslims don’t want unmarried people popping out children either.


  4. My mistake on the example. Change the example to two children and we’ve run afoul of that law again. Do you still like the law now that it forbids my current example?

    And I simply don’t want to live in a Theocracy, which Iran is. That’s the comparison.

    I also don’t want kids forced to make a decision for Christ at school.

    I like our constitution and it’s religious freedom, I don’t want the government meddling in these things.

  5. Maybe I should explain more on my comments regarding theocracy.

    I lived in Utah and not as a Mormon, but as a Lutheran. Separation of church and state was, well, a quaint notion.

    They taught their religion classes in the schools, the state essentially shut down for Mormon conferences and there were virtually no non-Mormons in government.

    Discrimination was palpable and tangible. Our LCMS pastor in Provo was evicted from his rental home for his religion and the church couldn’t get another rental for him (all because of that collar).

    In theory all that was happening was the application of morals in the form of laws in Utah, but in practice, it was much more than that.

    As another Pastor in Utah said, “we don’t mix church and politics”.

    When you are in the minority that’s actually welcome.

  6. David is right about Utah. I lived in Draper for about 6 years. Life behind the Zion Curtain really is ‘different’, isn’t it?

    However, this is not about equal protection clauses. It is about lease agreements between an individual renter (or single family renter) and their landlord.

    Laws like this serves two primary purposes. On a moral level it controls the cohabitation of unmarried couples and the problems associated with that. On a legal/community level it protects landlords from renters abusing lease agreements.

    It is common in some communities for one person or one family to rent a house or apartment, then allowing any number of additional people to move in with them illegaly. There are two main problems with this scenario.

    First is the extra people live there without contractual obligations or protections with the landlord. Second is that too many people in one house, especially if the disregard the law, general end up damaging the property over time. People like this are usually low income and have some criminal dealings, in today society this usually means illicit drugs.

    In addition. Too many people living in too small a residence usually overflows crowding onto neighbors, compounding the problem.

    Now, if a landlord “wants” to rent to that many people and has a lease with all those people, then we might be ablt to argue equal protection issues.

  7. Tim,

    I think it has everything to do with religion in the same way that the rules in Saudi Arabia that forbid women from driving cars and so forth have to do with religion.

    But a law preventing adults from living together is not consistent with a free nation like the United States.

    And Lawrence, didn’t realize you lived in Utah at one point also. Small world. That was an interesting place. Thank goodness there was a Lutheran church for me to attend in Provo.

  8. This is an insane law. And yes, its application might have something to do with the fact that the couple is of a mixed race. I’m sure they are plenty of white couples that fit this profile but the law isn’t being enforced.
    Secondly, what right does the government have saying who can and who can’t live together?

  9. We need to stop looking at this from such a miopic perspective.

    There are any number of very valid public health and safety reasons, as well as landlord/renter protection reasons, for controlling who and how many people live in a single family residence.

    The issue of whether or not a couple must be married is stretching things, sure. But you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that most communities have ordinances about how many people and/or families can legally live in a single family residence.

  10. The folks arguing that there are health and safety reasons for limiting the number of people that can live in a house are barking up the wrong tree.

    The poster above is correct, a widow with two children would not be permitted to have a friend live in the house, nor could two widows with children share a house.

    On the other hand, under the ordinance defines “two or more persons related by blood, marriage or adoption” do qualify as a family. Explain how this limits the number of people that live in a house. There is no reason why three cousins and their spouses and children don’t qualify as a family under this ordinance– they are all related to one another by blood or marriage. In fact, since the ordinance doesn’t limit the relationship by degree, we could go out to second cousins. I don’t know what your family reunions are like, but you could easily get upwards of 40 people in one “family”– and therefore in one house– without breaking a sweat.

    This ordinance has nothing to do with health and safety and everything to do with being a poor definition of family.

    Oh, and by the way, as written, a married couple with a biological child also would not be able to take in even one foster child. Yes, that’s family values all over!


  11. Well, I think we can all appreciate the sort of civilized dialogue that can conclude with “Morons.”

    “This ordinance has nothing to do with health and safety and everything to do with being a poor definition of family.”

    So what’s your definition of a family?


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