- The Washington Times - Monday, December 10, 2001

Some homosexual rights activists throughout the country are putting phony $5 bills in Salvation Army kettles this holiday season to protest the charity's repeal of health benefits for domestic partners of homosexual employees in 13 Western states.
In West Hollywood, Calif., a City Council member even sought to ban the kettles because of the Army's decision to scrap domestic-partner benefits.
"His proposal was tabled until January," after the Christmas fund-raising season, said Maj. George E. Hood, national spokesman for the Salvation Army.
The major and other Salvation Army officials acknowledge concern that the 136-year-old church and charity could be "perceived as an organization of hate and bigotry" as a result of a campaign on the Internet by a group called Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays, or P-FLAG.
Maj. Hood said he would not want to see his organization join the Boy Scouts of America as a major target of the homosexual rights movement.
"That's a long-term concern, for sure," he said in an interview.
Maj. Hood said that at this time the protest campaign is "mostly in the Midwest" in Michigan, Chicago and Kansas City, Mo., which are part of the Salvation Army's central territory. But there have also been scattered reports of P-FLAG's phony money printed with messages that accuse the Salvation Army of discrimination turning up in kettles in at least three of the organization's other four territories.
Cynthia Newcomer, spokeswoman for P-FLAG, said the group's campaign was conceived by the P-FLAG affiliate in Genesee County, Mich., and has "taken off like wildfire."
Ms. Newcomer said P-FLAG boasts 80,000 members and 470 local chapters. "We've gotten hundreds of e-mails from places that include Waco, Texas; Flint, Mich.; Houston and Chicago," she said.
Ms. Newcomer said the intent of the campaign is to "encourage people to divert their charitable dollars to groups that don't discriminate."
The phony bucks P-FLAG has printed up say: "I would have donated five dollars, but the Salvation Army decision to discriminate against gay and lesbian employees prevents my donation now and in the future."
The Salvation Army strongly denies it discriminates against homosexual employees.
Its decision to kill the policy of providing domestic-partner benefits for employees in the western territory affects not only homosexuals and lesbians, but also those non-spousal adults who live with employees such as heterosexual partners, parents, grandparents or care givers.
Maj. Hood said the Salvation Army does not ask any of its 45,000 non-clergy employees about their sexual orientation. But he said the organization does expect its 5,000 ministers to abide by biblical standards.
Under those standards, he said, they are expected to remain celibate if they are unmarried.
Both heterosexuals and homosexuals belong to P-FLAG, and Ms. Newcomer says both are angry about the Salvation Army's elimination of domestic-partner benefits. She cited a priest "who says he'll ask his congregation to drop" the P-FLAG bucks into Salvation Army kettles, and mothers and fathers alike, who say they can no longer be Salvation Army bell ringers.
Ms. Newcomer said another influential homosexual rights group, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, endorses P-FLAG's campaign.
David Smith, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's most powerful homosexual rights group, said HRC also supports the effort.
"I don't think we or any other organization wishes to do the Salvation Army harm this is more about sending a message than doing harm," said Mr. Smith.
The message, he said, is that the organization "should rethink its policy" of "discrimination."
Said Ms. Newcomer: "Our goal is to work with the Salvation Army and educate them."
However, Maj. Ralph Bukiewicz of the Salvation Army's Genesee County division in Michigan, which has collected several hundred dollars worth of P-FLAG money in its kettles, said he sat down with P-FLAG representatives to no avail.
"They made allegations that we routinely discriminate," he said.
Salvation Army Commissioner Raymond Cooper, commander of the organization's southern territory, said the Washington office recently informed him that it has experienced a "big" drop in donations in recent months.
Mr. Cooper said the reduction is believed to be related to published reports last summer saying the Salvation Army was seeking to have the White House exempt religious organizations from state and local discrimination laws.

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