Reports: Salvation Army backs off domestic partner benefits
Conservative organizations are reporting the Salvation Army has dropped plans to extend benefits beyond employees' spouses and children. "We are pleased to see the Salvation Army reclaim its biblical standard of morality and reaffirm the importance of marriage and the family," says a press release from the Family Research Council. The American Family Association issued an "Action Alert" on the change in the change in policy—just hours after it sent out an "Action Alert" attacking the Salvation Army. "We are extremely happy that The Salvation Army has rescinded this policy, because it had caused great confusion and consternation within the Christian community in the United States," wrote AFA president Don Wildmon.
In today's Focus on the Family broadcast (listen), James Dobson gives more details, reporting that "the leaders of the Salvation Army met for four hours by telephone yesterday, Monday" before rescinding the decision. He then extensively quoted from a Salvation Army memo not yet available on the Web:
My fellow officers,
In followup to my letter of November 8, 2001, I want to thank many of you for your letters and response offering commentary and opinion as well as your personal concerns and questions and those of soldiers, advisory organization members, as well as donors and the general public. The issue has, more than any other in recent history, caused the Salvation Army in the USA to seek unity of mind and spirit and has received both internal and external challenge. …
This review has resulted in the rescinding of the policy statement "Contracts for government funding, employment provisions." Today, November 12, 2001, the Commissioners' Conference has established a national policy to extend health benefits access to an employee's spouse and dependent children only.
I assure you again that the Salvation Army has not changed its position on marriage, the family, homosexuality, or other position statements, nor have we changed any of our basic doctrines or moral positions.
In rescinding this policy and in establishment of a national policy on healthcare benefit access to spouse and dependent children, we must stand united in the battle that will undoubtedly follow from those who would now challenge our biblical and traditional position. We will not sign any government contract or any other funding contracts that contain domestic partner benefit requirements.
This will mean that we may need to walk away from historical funding sources or cut back service in communities where such opposition or local regulations conflict with our policy. We must be prepared for this and prayerfully accept the challenge to seek funding and continue our ministry that will not compromise any of our principles.
I want us today to pray for each other and ask God to both bless and strengthen us as we stand together for the cause of Christ to save souls, grow saints, and serve suffering humanity without discrimination. You are free to share this statement with any persons who have questioned our position. Thank you for your prayers during these days. May God bless you.
Lawrence R. Moretz
Commissioner, Salvation Army USA
"I can hardly contain the excitement and enthusiasm," said Dobson, who devoted last Wednesday's show to criticizing the Salvation Army's original decision. "I am especially pleased that I was not blamed for sharing this news. Sometimes people shoot the messenger." He reported that Friday's chapel service at Focus on the Family will be a time of prayer for Salvation Army officers and honoring them for the work they've done through the years. Dobson also encouraged his listeners to offer financial support for the organization. "At the very least," he said, "throw a little extra money in red kettle, because we do need to stand with the Salvation Army."
What's particularly interesting about this story is that it's apparently being reported only among conservative Christian organizations. As far as Weblog can tell, no major media have picked up on it yet (though, with the Taliban fleeing Kabul and another plane crash in New York City, it's a pretty busy news cycle). This time, the mainstream media are playing catch-up.
Taliban leaves—and takes aid workers along
Breaking news reports from the Associated Press are usually straightforward, but in an update on the eight foreign aid workers being held by the Taliban, Kathy Gannon engages in some excellent prose. "The squalid prison compound that housed eight foreign aid workers, including two American women, was dingy and dank with muddy gray walls," her story begins. "The bathroom was a hole in the ground hidden by tattered pieces of burlap." But the Shelter Now workers haven't been in the compound since September 11—they were taken to a school on the outskirts of Kabul. And last night, as the Taliban fled the capital, they were moved again—this time to Kandahar. "They were very happy, because they thought they would be released," said Abdul Raouf, one of the guards. "We liked them. They were good people. I think they will be OK because the Taliban had treated them very good." Apparently it all happened very quickly. "Suitcases were sitting on steel bunk beds in a concrete block room that housed the six women … Two socks had been left to dry on a hanger dangling from a top bunk."
Christianity and Islam:
- Islam has a purity and energy that Christianity has lost | The problem is that Christians suffer from a fatal lack of confidence, and that this is a sign of a wider malaise (David McLaurin, The Daily Telegraph)
- Testing times for a worried minority | Middle Eastern Christians are under pressure to say where their loyalties lie (The Economist)
- Fundamental flaws | America's religious Right and the West's romantic Left now share an Arcadian, pre-modern vision similar to that of Muslim conservatives (Michael Lind, The Observer)
Fears and revival after September 11:
- This is boom time for End Times believers | Who among us has not had such fantasies and fears in recent months? (Elizabeth Nickson, National Post)
- Saint invoked in anthrax scare | St. Rosalie—or Rosalia—has been called upon in previous outbreaks (Religion News Service)
- Finding faith | Terrorist attacks spark religious revival (Las Vegas Sun)
- Churches keep winery in good spirits | The L.A. company's altar wine sales have surged since September 11, amid a rush toward religion. (Los Angeles Times)
Sexuality and gender:
- The birth of the myth that men are closer to God | Of course we do not treat women with the brutality of the extremist Muslims who wrap their masculine insecurities in the cloak of Muhammad, but we should realize that male envy of and hostility toward women is also deeply imbedded in other religions, including Judaism and Christianity (Robert S. McElvaine, The Washington Post)
- Church backs lesbian minister | New Zealand Presbyterians "strongly" approve of ordination (The New Zealand Herald)
Religion in schools:
- Voluntary school prayer OK'd by Texas board | Resolution encourages "voluntary, noncoercive prayer" (Houston Chronicle)
- Put God back in schools? He never left | The First Amendment already allows for plenty of student religious expression during the school day. We don't need school officials telling the kids what that expression should or should not be. (Charles Haynes, Freedom forum)
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