Nearly 125 years after a "Hallelujah Army" of eight Salvation Army leaders vowed to lay siege to lower Manhattan and win New York City for Christ, the Salvation Army is facing a possible retreat.

If the New York City Council overrides Mayor Michael Bloomberg's veto of its Equal Benefits Bill, the Army would lose $70 million in service contracts, or roughly half the money it spends on social services yearly in the greater New York area. Currently the Army is one of the city's largest social service charities, providing hundreds of soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and addiction programs. The Army declines to provide health benefits to unmarried domestic partners of employees. The bill would require such benefits for organizations with city contracts. Right now, there may be enough votes on the city council to override the veto. The council voted 43-5 in favor of the bill.

Major George Hood, spokesman for the Army's national headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, told CT he could not be specific about what the church's response might be. "We can't take any action until we know what's happening. It's not an easy issue." However, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council told Catholic World News, "The bottom line is that religious organizations will either be forced to compromise their moral principles, or the neediest people in our nation's cities will be deprived of services faith-based organizations can provide."

New York City Councilwoman Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) told the New York Post that the bill would allow groups such as the Army to make benefits available to "any" adult in a household. Because of that qualifier, she said the bill's provisions make "a very fair accommodation to religious groups."

There has been growing ...

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