The billboard, set high above Chicago streets, was
enough to stop traffic. It featured, on one side, the torso of a buxom
young woman wearing a black-lace brassiere and little else. The other
side featured the torso of a young man with six-pack abs. The
billboard's message? "Life is short: Get a divorce." Beneath it was the
phone number of a firm of divorce lawyers.
It was the ultimate anti-marriage, anti-family
message, and people have not been shy about saying so.
The billboard "trivializes divorce and I think it's
absolutely disgusting," said Rick Tivers, a clinical social worker at
the Center for Divorce Recovery in Chicago.
A blogger at ABC News fumed, "It is vile and
disgusting on so many levels, I can't think straight." And he added,
"Divorce lawyers are the lowest form of life. They will stoop to
anything to make a buck. What's next? [A billboard reading] 'Life's
short: Kill your spouse [and] we'll get you off?'"
Even what's been called the "lowest form of
life"—divorce lawyers—hate the ad. "It's grotesque . . . totally
undignified and offensive," said John Ducanto of the American Academy
of Matrimonial Lawyers.
Despite the barrage of criticism, the divorce lawyer
who thought up the ad—Corrie Fetman—is unrepentant.
"Lawyers don't cause divorces. People cause divorces,"
she claims. (That's deep!) The billboard, Fetman says, "promotes
happiness and personal integrity."
Well, yeah—if your idea of happiness is destroying
spouses and children. Sure—if you define "personal integrity" as
trashing your commitments.
This billboard set off a firestorm of anger in part
because of what it symbolizes. It's not just an ad: It's a cultural
statement about the value of keeping commitments—one that will
influence everyone who sees it. It tells children that that there are
people out there who are trying break up their parents' marriage. It
teaches us that life is about little more than gratifying one's own
Just half a century ago, every state in the country
had alienation of affection laws. They recognized the sacred nature of
marriage and the importance of protecting families from those who would
We've gone from laws like these to billboards that
actually encourage family breakup. It ignores that fact that most
couples go through rough times, but if they tough it out, the result is
often a lasting—and a happier—marriage.
The reality is that people who divorce live shorter,
less healthy lives. Our youth have been so damaged by their parents'
divorce that many fear tying the knot themselves.
This "get a divorce" billboard is a reminder of why
Americans place lawyers just below used-car salesmen on the food chain.
When I practiced law, advertising was considered unethical. Now,
lawyers not only hock their services on TV, they produce sleazy
billboards to get clients.
Enough of this. If your family or friends are talking
about this "get a divorce" billboard, take that occasion to start a
discussion about the value God intends us to put on marriage—and about
the destructiveness of divorce.
And if you live in Chicago, I have an idea for your
church: Put up another billboard next to the "get a divorce" one. It
could feature happily married older couples who have weathered the
matrimonial storms. Its message: "Put a divorce lawyer out of business:
Honor your commitments. Stay married."