Editorials: Dismantling the Salvation Army
On July 10, The Washington Post published a report by Dana Milbank that claimed the Army had struck a shocking back-room deal with the White House: the Army promised to lobby for the administration's charitable-choice initiative in exchange for a regulation that would protect religious charities receiving federal money from local rules requiring them to hire practicing homosexuals and to extend domestic-partner benefits. Milbank's story identified the Army as "a Christian social services organization with an extensive network of facilities to feed, clothe, and shelter the poor." There was no hint that the Army was a church—in the words of its own mission statement, "an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church."
Thus, the Post fixed the terms of the controversy: social-service agency wants federal okay to discriminate against gays. Other papers followed, calling the issue "hiring bias on gays," an "anti-gay deal," and "faith-based bigotry." One particularly egregious columnist called the Salvation Army's desire to hire people consistent with its beliefs a "call to hate." The commentators were off and running, framing the discussion purely in gay-rights language (for CT's running chronicle of the controversy, see www.christianitytoday.com/go/army.cgi).
In the beginning, the Salvation Army was about personal salvation. As General William Booth's understanding grew, ...