Portland Salvation Army Fights for Survival

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Portland Salvation Army Fights for Survival
By Oubai Shahbandar
CNSNews.com Correspondent
July 01, 2002

(CNSNews.com) - Standing to lose $60,000 in funding because of its refusal to extend health benefits to domestic partners of homosexual employees, the Salvation Army in Portland, Maine, is searching for a way to overcome the lost funds.

The Portland City Council voted last week to not exempt the charity organization from an ordinance mandating that organizations receiving city funds provide health care benefits to the domestic partners of their employees.

"We will go to the public for support," said Richard Munn, the divisional commander of the Northern New England Salvation Army. He said the Salvation Army advisory board will be meeting regularly for the next two weeks strategizing on the best means available to attain the needed funds.

Munn sent Portland city manager Joe Gray a letter calling upon him to replenish the funds to the Salvation Army from other city sources. Gray has yet to reply to the request.

"We can hold on to the program [meals on wheels] until September, we will surely have to look deep to replenish the reduced funds," Munn said.

He added that he believes the decision to revoke city funding to the Salvation Army was due to a sentiment of discrimination held by members of the city council.

"The Salvation Army definitely feels discriminated against. They [the city council] are threatened by our fundamental religious convictions," Munn said. "It would have been a healthy decision for everyone concerned to respect the religious ethos of the SA and grant us an exception."

He pointed to a much larger issue facing religious charities such as the Salvation Army, and noted that other religious charities, such as Catholic Charities, are also facing similar problems.

"We hope Catholic Charities sends the same signal that the Salvation Army sent," Munn said. "This is not one isolated situation, there are other social outreach groups that will have to face problems similar as ours."

Some city council members defended their action to de-fund Portland's only meals-on-wheels program that feeds the needy and elderly as being necessary to avoid "discrimination."

"Portland has a well established element of non-discrimination ... and this is simply a requirement that we have that all organizations that receive public funds are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation," City Councilman James Cloutier said.

However, Munn sees the issue as not being one of discrimination but of a political agenda being peddled by special interests that seek to legitimize homosexual partnerships and are fundamentally hostile to religion.

"It's painful to be labeled that way," Munn said. "Written in our mission statement that we serve all people without discrimination in the name of God. We serve anyone, no questions asked.

"Portland is a politically liberal city. It stands as an island separate from the state of Maine," he said. "They were 10 years ahead of United Way in de-funding the Boy Scouts of America. This is very indicative of the political framework in the city of Portland and reflects a politically motivated interest group.

"The underlying motive behind the de-funding of the Salvation Army is the legitimization of homosexual unions, not health care," Munn added.

Munn was quick to note that the majority of responses from every day citizens has been positive and that " the public outpouring of support has been tremendous."

President George W. Bush had stopped by the very same senior center in question in March of 2001 in his tour promoting his faith-based community outreach initiative plans.

According to Munn, "The president in a speech given in the gym where the seniors are fed pointed to a large banner adorned with Biblical scripture and stated that faith-based initiatives meant that religious groups should receive government funding and be able to keep that sign up.

"So in a way, it is ironic that we now find ourselves in this position, a mere 15 months later," he concluded.
 

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