- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 15, 2001

The Salvation Army has repealed a new policy to provide health benefits for domestic partners of its homosexual employees in the face of overwhelming opposition from inside and outside the 136-year-old church and charity.
"There was an incredible uproar. What we heard both externally and internally was that this was a bad decision," said Maj. George E. Hood, national spokesman for the 45,000-member organization.
Advocates for homosexual rights expressed dismay at the Army's reversal of policy. "This is very disappointing. They bowed to pressure from anti-gay extremists … they caved to right-wing organizations," Betsy Gressler, spokeswoman for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said yesterday.
"They have chosen to deny health care to certain families," said David Smith, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest homosexual political lobbying group.
But groups espousing traditional family values hailed the Army's decision to rescind a policy it announced in mid-October, which was to have been implemented in 13 Western states.
The policy that was repealed would have extended medical benefits to anyone who legally dwells in the home of a Salvation Army civilian employee. That could mean a live-in girlfriend or boyfriend, parent or grandparent or someone living there as a caregiver. However, all the attention focused on the fact that homosexual partners would qualify.
"Those benefits traditionally have been awarded to those in marital relationships" and their dependent children, said Patrick Trueman, director of government affairs for the American Family Association.
He and others in the pro-family movement were shocked to find that the Salvation Army was poised to reward those in same-sex relationships, given biblical teachings against such unions.
In fact, at its Web site, the Salvation Army says: "Scripture forbids sexual intimacy between members of the same sex. The Salvation Army believes, therefore, that Christians whose sexual orientation is primarily or exclusively same-sex are called upon to embrace celibacy as a way of life. There is no scriptural support for same-sex unions as equal to, or as an alternative to, heterosexual marriage."
That same theme was hammered home repeatedly by groups such as the American Family Association, Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America, Family Research Council, Christian Coalition, and Traditional Values Coalition in radio and television programs that began airing early last week, which criticized the Salvation Army's liberal insurance-coverage policy for employees in states such as California, Oregon and Washington.
"The Christian radio stations and networks encouraged people to call us" and complain, said Maj. Hood.
"By the end of last week," he said, "we had probably taken 10,000 e-mails and 1,500 phone calls" at the Salvation Army's national headquarters in Alexandria.
Maj. Hood said many "officers, soldiers, pastors and other members" of the Salvation Army lodged protests via e-mail messages.
On Monday, five Army commissioners rescinded the policy change that would have allowed live-in lovers of homosexual or lesbian Salvation Army workers in the organization's Western Territory to receive health insurance. Maj. Hood said the policy now limits benefits to spouses and dependent children.
"This is a huge victory for pro-family forces. It shows there is no gray area of accommodation between homosexual activism and religious freedom," said Robert H. Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute, an affiliate of Concerned Women for America.
"The two cannot be reconciled. The Salvation Army's experience in trying to do that is the clearest proof yet," he said.


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