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Soul mates possible in religious groups

Staff Writer

It is springtime at USC and within campus religious groups some students are likely to be eyeing each other as potential mates.

Certain groups make it a point to put on social events to introduce people of the same faith. The Latter-Day Saints Student Organization has organized talent shows, dinners and dances so that members of the Mormon religion can get acquainted, said Michael Parson, director of the organization.

Matchmaking is not an overriding concern or principle of the group but is welcome, Parson said.

"People just like to meet people of the same faith, but it just happens that sometimes they start dating each other," Parson said.

In the Mormon tradition couples cannot be married in a temple unless both are members of the faith, making finding a Mormon partner that much more important, he said.

Another religion that stresses dating within its own ranks is Judaism, said Rabbi Susan Laemmle, dean of Religious Life.

Jewish students may turn to campus groups to find other eligible Jews or try a new trend that has been changing the dating landscape, Internet dating, Laemmle said.

JDate, a computer database of eligible Jewish singles, has 500,000 members, said Gail Laguna, vice president of corporate communications at, which operates JDate. There have been about 1,000 marriages stemming from matches on the site which started up six years ago, Laguna said.

"When looking for a relationship you want someone who shares your lifestyle," Laguna said. "On JDate you can check off if you are kosher or not kosher, observant or not observant, things that are relevant on how people want to raise a family."

Other students who do not wish to date within religious boundaries may pick religious groups that emphasize certain worldviews.

Matthias Selke and Xin Gong met at the United Ministry's student residence, the Orchard House. It was not similar religious backgrounds but a similar sense of social involvement and awareness that pervaded the housing's residents that was the common bond that linked them, Selke said.

The couple met in 1988 after Gong interviewed Selke to be a new resident, said Selke who is a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at California State University, Los Angeles.

Four years later they were married at the Los Angeles home of Rev. Diane Kenney, campus minister for United Ministry.

The nondenominational nature of the Orchard House resulted in its occupants being very active in addressing social concerns, globally and locally, Selke said.

This common open-minded attitude found in the residence definitely made it easier to find a similarly open-minded partner, Gong said.

The USC Baha'i Club is another example of a religious group where students wouldn't meet to date because of strict Baha'i tradition but because of the inclusive, open nature of the religion, said Tierney Sutton, club adviser and a lecturer in jazz studies.

Baha'i emphasizes unity among religions, and members do not believe their religion will be watered down if Baha'i members marry people of other faiths, Sutton said.

"The risk in encouraging dating within religious groups is that more families will be formed with insular views and the children will unintentionally be taught to discriminate against other religions," Sutton said.

Many people regard religion as an important criterion in finding a mate but several factors have made it less important now than it has been in the past, Laemmle said.

Culture has become much more individualistic, and partners of different religions are more willing to practice their faiths separately today, she said.

People are also choosing to marry later so students are not concerned with religious differences because they figure they probably will not marry the person they are dating, Laemmle said.

"You can go to church to find God and find a partner, I think that's just fine," Laemmle said.


Staff writer Keith Wagstaff writes about Religion & Ethics column, which is published Tuesdays. To comment on this article, call (213) 740-5667 or e-mail
This article was published in Vol. 148, No. 60 (Tuesday, April 22, 2003), on page 12.

©Copyright 2003, Daily Trojan (University of Southern Califoria, USA)

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