The Rapidian

Ethics and Religion Talk - Elder Sex Before Marriage

Kimberly asks, Is it wrong for two late-50 year old adults who are divorced to have sex before getting married?

What is Ethics and Religion Talk?

“Ethics and Religion Talk,” answers questions of ethics or religion from a multi-faith perspective. Each post contains three or four responses to a reader question from a panel of nine diverse clergy from different religious perspectives, all based in the Grand Rapids area. It is the only column of its kind. No other news site, religious or otherwise, publishes a similar column.

The first five years of columns, published in the Grand Rapids Press and MLive, are archived at More recent columns can be found on by searching for the tag “ethics and religion talk.”

We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

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Dr Sahibzada, the Director of Islamic Center and Imam of the Mosque of Grand Rapids, responds:

“Having sex before getting married is not matter of being in late fifties or divorcee. It depends upon their faith category, cultural discipline and behavioral approach under religious identity. Having sex before marriage even with consent of partners will be taken as adultery under the Islamic faith.

“Human life and social culture started as husband and wife right from the beginning of humankind under God’s will and His commandment. God has given us an open choice to pick our partner in accordance of our set rules. However, it is a requirement for the believers to have sex after marriage and only with husband under faith and God’s commandment.

“So, it is wrong for the believers to have sex being in late fifties age-wise or divorcee and will be considered adultery. On the top of this a person is committing a crime ethically, socially and going against norms of psyche.

‘Do not go near adultery because it is shameful deed and an evil path.’ ”

Father Kevin Niehoff, O.P., a Dominican priest who serves as Adjutant Judicial Vicar, Diocese of Grand Rapids, responds:

“It is morally wrong for two late 50-year-old individuals who are divorced to have sex before marriage. Sexual relationships between unmarried individuals, regardless of their ages and marital statuses, are not only sinful but also engaging in a level of intimacy the couple does not have a right to share because God is a part of the sacred bond of matrimony. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that sexual intercourse between a man and a woman who have given themselves freely and completely in marriage is a form of prayer, and the closest to God two people may reach in this created world. The Catholic Church may never condone a relationship that includes the man or the woman having sexual intercourse outside of the sacrament of marriage.”

Rev. Ray Lanning, a retired minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, responds:

“Invoking the seventh commandment (‘Thou shalt not commit adultery,’ Exodus 20:14), Reformed Christianity teaches that ‘all uncleanness is accursed of God, and that therefore we must with all our hearts detest the same, and live chastely and temperately, whether in holy wedlock or in single life’ (Heidelberg Catechism, Q. 108). It’s never a good idea at any age to put the cart before the horse.”

Fred Stella, the Pracharak (Outreach Minister) for the West Michigan Hindu Temple, responds:

“Hindu scriptures can provide several verses that encourage sex to be reserved for those who are married. However, thankfully, there is an underlying awareness that with most issues of conscience, a spectrum exists between Absolute Right and Absolute Wrong. The way the question is phrased, it seems that you are engaged. This is certainly better than just hooking up for a couple of weeks, isn’t it?

“Remember that so much of what influenced the sexual mores of ancient times was the assurance of paternity. This is not as much of an issue in our time and place; so although many faiths have not altered their positions on this, contemporary Western society has redefined much sexual behavior, for better or worse.

“Whatever you both decide, consider this: If you and your partner were to indulge, you would probably enter into the act with a much stronger emotional bond and sense of love than our ancestors who, legally and religiously married, did so to seal familial alliances, satisfy social custom or expand political outreach. In addition, while I don’t know your particular situation, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that your relationship does not include a harem of concubines.”

The Reverend Colleen Squires, minister at All Souls Community Church of West Michigan, a Unitarian Universalist Congregation, responds:

“In Unitarian Universalism it would not be considered wrong for an unmarried adult couple to have sex before getting married. It would also be true to say there would be no requirement or pressure to eventually get married. As a faith we believe all people are sexual beings. We believe sexuality is a good part of the human experience. We believe as humans we are sexual beings throughout our lives and having a healthy sexuality is essential to being a whole and healthy human being.”

My response:

First, whether or not one or both members of the couple have been divorced does not make a difference to my answer. Second, unlike two of my colleagues, Judaism does not view a sexual relationship between two unmarried adults as adultery. Nonetheless, Judaism prefers that sexual intimacy takes place within a marital relationship. So I’ll agree with my Hindu colleague that on the holiness spectrum, a couple engaged to be married having sex is more holy than a casual hook-up, but less holy than a married couple.


This column answers questions of Ethics and Religion by submitting them to a multi-faith panel of spiritual leaders in the Grand Rapids area. We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up in the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

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