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Under heavy criticism from religious conservatives, the Salvation Army's top U.S. leaders have ordered a hasty retreat. They have reversed a new policy that would have allowed employees in the organization's Western region to purchase health insurance for a "legally domiciled adult" living with them.

Critics said the Army's initial decision gave support to backers of homosexual marriage. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, sharply criticized the Army on his November 8 radio broadcast. Leaders of the American Family Association and Family Research Council also were very critical.

Col. Philip Needham, chief secretary for the Army's Western region, originally defended the regional action. "This decision reflects our concern for the health of our employees and those closest to them," he wrote in a statement. The original action was, he said, "made on the basis of strong ethical and moral reasoning that reflects the dramatic changes in family structure in recent years."

A Salvation Army statement on homosexuality says, "There is no scriptural support for same-sex unions as equal to, or as an alternative to, heterosexual marriage." In 1997, the Army gave up $3.5 million in contracts with San Francisco over the issue.

Tom Minnery of Focus described Needham's distinction between providing benefits and endorsing homosexuality as "monstrous," "egregious," and "disgusting."

Less than two weeks after the first announcement, the leaders of the Army in the United States and its four regions—a body known as the Commissioners' Conference—overturned the policy. "We deeply regret the perception that the Commissioners' Conference surrendered any biblical principles in making the original decision," the group said. "We will not sign any ...

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January 7, 2002

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