WASHINGTON (BP)–Less than two weeks after regional officials of the Salvation Army extended health benefits in a way that would have included homosexual partners in 13 western states, national Salvation Army leaders have rescinded the order.
After initially being praised by homosexual-rights groups and derided by Christian pro-family groups, the Christian organization has changed course and now only will offer health benefits to married couples.
“We’ve been listening to our internal and external constituencies, and we now confirm adherence to biblical principles concerning marriage and the family,” Theresa Whitfield, the Salvation Army’s media relations director, said.
Whitfield told Baptist Press the Salvation Army’s national office has been deluged with thousands of calls about the policy.
Leaders of the Western Territory — encompassing Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming, plus Guam, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands — announced Nov. 1 they would extend benefits to adult members of an employee’s household. That decision would have included domestic partners, with Robert Rudd, community relations and development secretary for the Salvation Army’s Western Territory, noting that grandparents or caregivers would be eligible for the benefits, not just homosexual partners.
“The reason why we made that choice was so we could be fair and equitable to our employees who we hire without discrimination,” he told the San Francisco Examiner.
In October, the Salvation Army’s commissioners decided to let the four U.S. territories determine their healthcare policies, and the Western Territory was the only one to make the decision to expand benefits. On Nov. 12, Salvation Army commissioners decided to return healthcare policymaking to the national level, thereby rescinding the Western Territory’s decision.
The decision to expand the benefits shocked other evangelical Christian organizations.
“It’s very unusual for an evangelical Christian organization that holds the truth of Scripture to do anything that would give the impression that two men living together, for example, is the equivalent of marriage, or a man and a woman, for that matter,” said Ed Vitagliano, a spokesman for the Tupelo, Miss.,-based American Families Association. “We think, frankly, that it was a miscalculation on their part.”
Focus on the Family President James Dobson praised the about-face.
“I am so pleased by this decision,” Dobson said Nov. 13 on his radio program. “This is a wonderful conclusion to a very difficult situation.”
Dobson urged his listeners to, “at the very least, throw a little more money in the Salvation Army kettles this season.”
“They have done what’s right, it was not easy, and I just thank God that they had the courage to do it,” Dobson said.