Salvation Army offers domestic partner benefits
The Salvation Army says it will allow its employees to extend benefits to any one adult in the household, including a spouse, family member, roommate, or other "domestic partner." This is a major change from its earlier policy allowing only spouses and children to receive benefits. Both secular and religious media are portraying the move as a victory for the gay rights movement. "The Salvation Army's acceptance is a major milestone for the equal benefits revolution," the San Francisco Chronicleeditorialized.

James Dobson is audibly upset. "I have a heavy heart today," said at the beginning of Wednesday's Focus on the Family broadcast, which focused on the church's decision (listen in RealAudio format). "The Salvation Army is the first evangelical church of which I'm aware to cave in on this contentious issue, and the decision that it's made now will have enormous influence on other Christian organizations and other Christian entities that have tried to hold the line on its moral and family policies."

A phone operator at the Army headquarters told The Washington Times she received 704 calls after the broadcast—she usually gets about 50 a day. Although Dobson said that Commissioner John Busby, head of the church, told him the new benefit extension would apply nationwide, Army spokeswoman Theresa Whitfield tells the Times that it only applies to 13 states in the denomination's western division.

The Army, meanwhile, says it still disapproves of same-sex unions—but there's a difference between its employees and its church leaders. Its new policy, says a statement quoted by the Times, "refuses to place civil unions for gays and lesbians on the same theological footing as heterosexual marriage, the position statement implicitly acknowledges that such unions do exist … There exists a clear difference in how we deal with homosexuality as an employer and as a church in ministering to our followers."

"I don't think there's been a theological shift," Lt. Col. Bettie Love tells the San Francisco Chronicle. "I think there's been a new awareness of our world."

Col. Philip Needham, chief secretary for the Salvation Army's Western Corporation, makes a similar case to the paper: "This decision reflects our concern for the health of our employees and those closest to them, and is made on the basis of strong ethical and moral reasoning that reflects the dramatic changes in family structure in recent years."

The Army is also being forthright in saying that money was a consideration. In cities like San Francisco, the Army can't get city contracts unless it offers such benefits.

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Weblog would like to point out that the Salvation Army has done what some evangelicals have proposed in the past: extend domestic partnerships in a limited way with absolutely no reference to homosexuality. A CT-sponsored forum chaired by Richard Mouw in October 1999 proposed just that. Eastern College's Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen cited cases of unmarried adults caring for aging parents in their home and of unmarried siblings who live together, forming an economic unit. "Christians have a compelling interest in people's emotional and economic commitments to one another," she said. "If people can demonstrate that they are emotionally and economically committed to one another, then they should have some of the … benefits in that particular culture that would be given to a married couple."

Special forces may try to rescue Shelter Now workers
"It is understood that representatives of the U.S., German, and Australian special forces have been planning to free the [Shelter Now] hostages, believed to be held at an old school on the outskirts of Kabul," reports The Times of London. "More than 100 of the 3,900 German troops to be committed to the Afghan campaign are commandos trained for hostage-freeing missions." That's about all we know so far.

In related news, Australia's Foreign Minister says the country's government is doing all it can to free the prisoners, who were arrested August 5 on charges of promoting Christianity—but the government can't do much. "There are a lot of things we're doing to try and do," Alexander Downer told Radio Australia. "But obviously the circumstances are extremely difficult. That is really a statement to the obvious with the war going on." Friends and relatives of the Australian Shelter Now workers have in recent days asked the government to put more pressure on the Taliban. Meanwhile, a ray of hope from an unlikely source: Seif el-Islam Gaddafi, the second son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, says he'll intercede on behalf of the prisoners.

Attorney General John Ashcroft:

  • Ashcroft sounds a religious theme | "God's plan" speech at a luncheon sponsored by the Catholic Lawyers Guild was a reminder that the attorney general is also a deeply religious man (The Boston Globe)
  • A life of faith | Attorney General John Ashcroft was born to a family full of spirit (The Washington Post)
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Politics & religion:

  • Osama bin Falwell | Reverend Jerry can't leave gays alone (The Village Voice)
  • The holy alliance | Britain's three main political parties are now led by two and a half Catholics. Is this a sign of the times? (The Guardian, London)



  • Religious divide | I have lost count of the number of times I have heard liberal Christians argue that there is no conflict between being gay and being Christian. Yet is it not strange that they have the freedom to profess their views but not those who think the opposite? (Paul Donovan, The Sunday Times)
  • Keeping faith in Salem's appeal | Religious broadcaster tries to build on program base (CBS Marketwatch)
  • Another slant on talk radio | Salem lineup offers diverse approach to Christianity (CBS Marketwatch)

Other stories off interest:

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