It is the holidays, a time when we are encouraged to spread compassion and generosity among others in our community. Christmas shopping is often a stressful experience for customers, so when greeted at the store entrance by a Salvation Army bell ringer it seems like a quick and convenient way to do one’s share of giving for the holiday season. This organization has impacted several lives, but it is important to remember its foundation is a fundamental Christian church that is religiously motivated. Now noting a charity may have different religious beliefs then oneself shouldn’t prevent one from donating, especially since every individual in a religious community is bound by their own personal and moral beliefs. That being said, The Salvation Army has a history of fighting against LGBT rights and actively discriminating against the community. If you are someone who supports the LGBT community, you should not be donating your money to an active oppressor.
Personal beliefs that condemn members of the community one is trying to help should be put aside when the focus is on providing them with hope and support. No one should be rejected service because one does not agree with their harmless way of life. The Salvation Army’s website states their goal is to be a “transforming influence in the communities of our world.” Their mission involves delivering God’s message, which unfortunately from their perspective includes condemning homosexuality. The organization’s position statement on LGBT+ people is as follows:
“Scripture forbids sexual intimacy between members of the same sex. The Salvation Army believes, therefore, that Christians whose sexual orientation is primarily or exclusively same-sex are called upon to embrace celibacy as a way of life. There is no scriptural support for same-sex unions as equal to, or as an alternative to, heterosexual marriage.”
The Salvation Army claims to be a non-discriminatory group, but a long list of acts of anti-gay bigotry prove otherwise. Here are some notable events in history where The Salvation Army fought against the LGBT+ community:
- In 1986, The Salvation Army of New Zealand petitioned against the Homosexual Law Reform Act, which made consensual sex between two adult men no longer illegal. An apology was later issued by The Salvation Army for opposing the law, stating they hope “to rebuild bridges of understanding and dialogue between our movement and the gay community.”
- In 1998, The Salvation Army refused a San Fransisco city contract due to the law that enforces spousal benefits for both same-sex and opposite-sex partners of employees.
- In 2000, The Salvation Army of Scotland sent a letter to parliament against the repeal of Section 28, an amendment prohibiting intentional promotion of homosexuality by teachers and educators. The Salvation Army stated the repeal would “potentially be harming both children an the family unit.”
- In 2001, The Salvation Army in the United States requested that the government administration does not subject federally funded religious charities to local laws regarding discrimination against homosexuals.
- In 2012, A Salvation Army bell-ringer in Canada insisted anyone who supports the LGBT community should not contribute to the charity, by wearing a sign that read, “If you support gay rights: please do not donate.” The volunteer confirmed permission from The Salvation Army to use that sign. A spokeswoman for the organization stated they “we’re a little disappointed that one of our volunteers chose to protest this way.” It was also reported this year that a case worker was fired on the conditions of being bisexual, and as a result will need to seek support from a similar service.
The Salvation Army has recently attempted to revise their image by adding a “no discrimination” campaign to their website. That being said, they fail to address the discrimination embedded within their core beliefs and the past attempts to oppress the LGBT+ community they now claim to be assisting. There are so many wonderful charities out there, without prejudice, that provide for those in need. It might mean having to take a few more minutes to send in money online rather than drop your spare change at a mall entrance, but why actively support an oppressor when there are so many charities (religious and not) that are focused on improving lives rather than political beliefs and anti-gay values.
A few non-discriminatory charities I recommend donating to this holiday season: The Red Cross, Caring Voice Coalition, The Trevor Project, Toys for Tots, Northwest Harvest
Also check out any local food banks or volunteer projects within your community. Charity Navigator is a great website for researching more information about charities and ensuring your money is going where you want.