Magazine article Church & State , Vol. 54, No. 11
Officials with the Salvation Army have dropped a plan to start offering domestic-partnership benefits to gay employees in the face of a strong Religious Right protest.
Army officials had approved the change during a meeting at the organization's Alexandria, Va., headquarters in October. The change was made to avoid losing government funding in communities that have passed measures requiring government contractors to offer domestic-partnership benefits. Communities in a handful of states, notably in California, have passed such laws.
The Army, which is organized as a religious denomination, released a statement saying that it does not approve of gay unions but asserting that it sees a difference between its officers, who are members of the denomination's clergy, and its civilian employees, who may or may not be church members.
"There exists a clear difference in how we deal with homosexuality as an employer and as a church in ministering to our followers," the statement insisted.
An Army official, Lt. Col. Bettie Love, also told the San Francisco Chronicle that the organization has come to understand that the definition of family has changed in recent years. "I don't think there's been a theological shift," Love said. "I think there's been a new awareness of our world."
The Army's move sent Religious Right leaders into a frenzy. In a statement issued by Focus on the Family, James Dobson blasted the group for making decisions "based on cultural considerations -- rather than on what is right and ethical -- and of course on the impact of federal money."
Dobson accused the Salvation Army of abandoning a century of "moral integrity" and called on Army officials to reconsider. To turn up the heat, the Colorado Springs-based radio counselor urged his supporters to bombard the Army's headquarters with phone calls and letters. In early November, an anonymous operator at the office told The Washington Times that the calls were coming in at a fast clip.
"We had six lines going at once," the operator said. "Every line was lit up. It's been fun. I went home and fell right to sleep, I was so exhausted."
Tom Minnery, FOF's vice president for public policy, was even more shrill in his outrage. Minnery called the policy shift "an appeasement of sin" and said Army officials' defense of it was "monstrous," "egregious" and "disgusting." (In early November, Focus on the Family hosted a meeting for 100 evangelical leaders at its Colorado Springs headquarters to discuss "the threat posed by homosexual activism. …