TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — If a young man wants to date 26-year-old Heather Ryun, it’s not as simple as calling her on the phone.
First, he must talk to her father. The two men pray and decide if the suitor is ready for marriage. If the answer is yes, then — and only then — can the couple begin dating.
Normally, this would be nobody else’s business. But Heather Ryun’s father is Jim Ryun, the former Olympic runner and world record holder for the mile, and a Republican candidate for Congress.
So an article Jim and Anne Ryun wrote about courtship for a conservative magazine — encouraging parents to consider the idea and pray for guidance — is being circulated by Democrats.
It does not seem to have become an issue in the campaign. But people, ranging from the state’s Catholic bishops to psychologist Ruth Westheimer, are talking. Some say courtship merely hearkens back to an earlier time, when families seemed closer; others liken it to arranged marriages.
“Courtship enables a young couple to look beyond physical attraction to focusing on things that are truly important,” the Ryuns wrote.
Their essay, “Courtship Makes a Comeback,” was published in Focus on the Family, a monthly magazine put out by the group of the same name.
The Ryuns wrote that courtship ensures premarital sexual abstinence, protects children from the pain of bad relationships and prepares them for a lasting marriage.
Their four children are willing participants. Heather, 26, and twins Ned and Drew, 23, are students at the University of Kansas. Catharine, 21, an emergency medical technician, is quoted in the article as saying courtship helps guide her toward “becoming like Christ.”
Ryun declined to be interviewed, explaining that he wanted all family members to be present and could not work out the conflicts in their busy schedules. His staff expressed concern that his ideas could be misinterpreted by opponents, especially late in the campaign.
“Anything anyone’s stated publicly or written always has a chance of being examined in a campaign,” said state Rep. Jan Pauls, a Hutchinson Democrat.
And Ryun’s Democratic opponent, John Frieden, has not made any public comment on Ryun’s ideas about courtship, though he says generally that Ryun’s views are “out of the mainstream.”