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Salvation Army unit to offer domestic partnership benefits

WASHINGTON (BP)–The Salvation Army’s Western Corporation will begin offering health care benefits to the domestic partners of its employees, many of whom are homosexual, despite the Salvation Army’s long-standing policy against homosexuality, CNSNews.com reported Nov. 6.

The Western Corporation, headquartered in Long Beach, Calif., is one of four Salvation Army nonprofit corporations in the United States.

The Salvation Army and the Western Corporation had previously severed ties with the San Francisco city government rather than comply with the city’s Equal Benefits Ordinance of 1997, which forced city contractors to offer benefits to domestic partners of their employees.

The Salvation Army had been the last major holdout on the Equal Benefits Ordinance, forgoing a $3.5 million contract with the city to provide drug rehabilitation and meal programs as well as a homeless shelter, according to reports.

A top official with the Western Corporation said changes in society dictated a change in the healthcare benefits offered by the organization.

“Our decision is a reflection of the concern we hold for the health of our employees and those closest to them, and is made on the basis of strong ethical and moral reasoning that reflects the dramatic changes in family structure in recent years,” Col. Phillip D. Needham, the chief secretary for the Army’s Western Corporation, said.

“We understand the need for our healthcare benefits to respond to the wide variety of personal interdependent relationships that we see among employee households today.”

Scott Lively, the American Family Association’s director for California, said his group is “deeply disappointed with the actions of the Salvation Army,” saying the Army had “capitulated upon what amounts to an essential point of Christian doctrine: the legitimization of homosexuality.”

“This is driven by the gay-activist movement. It has no other purpose but to legitimize homosexuality in American society. All of us who fight this agenda, who are part of the church that is standing against the collapse of Judeo-Christian culture, are well aware of this.”

Lively also warned of a fate similar to the Hebrew people in the Old Testament who, he said, began “looking to the arm of flesh instead of to the arm of God to be able to meet the challenges before them.”

“I’ve lost a great deal of respect for the organization for caving in on what amounts to an essential point in Christian doctrine,” Lively said.

Needham said the domestic partnership benefits for employees would become available over the next two years. “About 1 to 2 percent of the 10,000 employees throughout the corporation are expected to take advantage of the benefits — a number similar in proportion to that found in other major corporations and organizations,” the Western corporation anticipates.

“The social service programs we provide in the West are vital to many of the neediest residents in our cities,” Needham said. “The Army is committed to offering its help and service through these programs.”

The Salvation Army’s Lt. Col. Richard Love admitted that losing funding in San Francisco was a factor in the decision to include domestic partners in the health care plan. “Certainly the money has had an impact,” news reports quoted Love as saying.

The Western Corporation, however, maintains it has not changed its view on homosexuality.

“Our position on homosexuality, stated simply, is that we do not condemn a person because he or she has a homosexual orientation, but we do hold that same-sex relations are contrary to God’s intention for the sexual life of human beings,” the official website states.

The Salvation Army’s move to include same-sex partners in health care provisions found support from many homosexual rights groups. “This is a welcome development in the evolving policies of the Salvation Army and a bold move to embrace the entire American family,” said Elizabeth Birch, executive director of the Human Rights Campaign.

“We hope this decision serves as a model for other Salvation Army corporations so they can bring their policies in line with many of the leading companies in corporate America,” Birch said.

The National Headquarters for the Salvation Army, located in Alexandria, Va., would not comment on the situation Nov. 5. Members of its media relations department were on their way to California, but it was unclear if the trip was the result of the Western Corporation’s policy change.
Pyeatt is a staff writer with www.CNSNews.com. Used by permission.

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