The Salvation Army, Homophobia, and Charitable Giving

When you see the Salvation Army kettle this Christmas season, please pause and think before throwing in your money. The Salvation Army does a lot of good work but donors should remember that it’s also an organization that doesn’t believe in equality for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals. It’s an evangelical church that helps to pay the salaries of lobbyists fighting gay rights legislation. Last year they also refused to distribute Harry Potter and Twilight toys collected for needy children because they’re incompatible with the charity’s Christian beliefs. Surely there are better places to give.

Some web sources:

web page for salvation army

11 thoughts on “The Salvation Army, Homophobia, and Charitable Giving

  1. Does no one fact check these things? The story about the Harry Potter / Twilight toy ban broke a year ago; the Salvation Army denied that it was true. So far as I know, except for the volunteer that was supposedly the source of the original story, no other evidence contradicting the Salvation Army’s statement was forthcoming, so I suggest taking the allegation with a large dose of salt. Which is a shame on aesthetic grounds, if it keeps Twilight paperbacks and merchandise out of (environmentally friendly) waste facilities.

    The Salvation Army is (in most ideological respects) a traditionally Christian religious organization. From this it derives both its attitude about homosexuality (why are we still using the problematic term “homophobic” here?) and its extraordinary zeal for charity. That charitable zeal can exist apart from Christian belief doesn’t change the fact that they are indivisible for this organization. One might well conclude that begrudging the Salvation Army bellringer a ha’penny at Christmas for such reasons, then, is an expression of religious hostility. As for whether there are better places to give, I suppose it depends on one’s criteria, but it’s true that there are aren’t many human services charities that have the ability to do work of the kind, on the scale, with the efficiency, and with the willingness to get down-and-dirty of the Salvation Army (Catholic Charities might be the most serious contender – though if one has it in for the Sally Anners, one might not be too fond of the Catholics either).

    Andreas, you make a fair point about the headquarters, but that doesn’t really distinguish the Salvation Army from other highly-respected large charities (Red Cross, Goodwill, United Way, Gates Foundation etc.), for better or worse.

  2. It IS true (at least in the US) that they discriminate against gays in employment and that they’ve been in court arguing that they should be allowed to continue to discriminate. If you’re in the US, and you don’t like organizations which are willing to go to court to protect their right to discriminate in hiring, then you may not want to give the Salvation Army any of your money.

  3. There are plenty of equally “zealous” charitable organizations out there that don’t baselessly discriminate against people. Cf. UNICEF, Direct Relief International, and, yes, the Red Cross (they provide services to everyone, even if they don’t take blood from everyone). It would be one thing if the *only* way we could help the poor and downtrodden was by giving money to bigots, but that’s just not how it is, kids.

  4. “One might well conclude that begrudging the Salvation Army bellringer a ha’penny at Christmas for such reasons, then, is an expression of religious hostility.”

    Umm, huh? So not contributing to an organization that discriminates is “religious hostility”?

    Is this a new version of the right wing “it infringes on my religious liberty if I’m not allowed to discriminate against all the people I hate” line? Now applied to charitable donations?

  5. To clarify Sally Ann’s stance on Harry Potter and Twilight toys: National offices have no policy, but local offices make their own decisions about what to distribute.

    In Calgary, a Salvation Army captain, Pam Goodyear, partially confirmed the volunteer’s story. Those toys were not distributed to children, since they promote black magic, but were apparently given to other charities to distribute, though she would not name the charities. It seems that the policy is in place because “some parents” have requested it. See here:

    So, if you are planning to donate to the Salvation Army and want to be sure that they will give your toy directly to a child rather than inefficiently route it to another charity, it may be wise to ask your branch about local policies.

  6. @Jake: First, you seem to be suggesting, via your comparison, that the Salvationists *provide* charitable relief on a discriminatory basis. To what are you referring? And how did you deduce that the discrimination was baseless, and how would you demonstrate that to a Salvationist?

    Second, it’s worth noting that the activities of the charities you mention are not interchangeable with those of the Salvation Army. Unless you’re one of those people who thinks all charity is the same (why not – same tax deduction, right?), and doesn’t carefully consider the nature and scope of a charity’s work in making decisions about donation, it is a more complex proposition than you suggest to arrive at something approaching an equivalent alternative to the Salvation Army (that would probably require donations to a range of other charities). Granted, most people may not be focusing on such things when donating spare change in a kettle, but they do for their larger charitable donations.

    Third, you suggest that Salvationists are bigots (I suppose you’d also lump in most of the rest of traditional Christians on this basis, and perhaps even most of your fellow human beings). Perhaps this is true, but it does not seem to be true in any sense that does not also apply to you vis-a-vis them, so I’d submit that “bigot” is just a useless pejorative to be avoided here.

    @Anonymous, I’m not fully sure what you’re getting at, but rest assured that no-one’s freedom to think any negative thing they like about Salvationists (or any other religion), much less not to support their charitable efforts, is being questioned.

    @Gorgonzola, thanks for that important clarification!

  7. I work for a Salvation Army Thrift store in Canada. Not all policies or people here are perfect and yes there are decisions made on a whole and by place but for everything I know I am happy with this charity. I am a single parent and work with a variety of people, we don’t make much, but that is not why we are here. We are here because we care about helping our fellow human beings. I know that my manager has offered jobs to people that a lot of companies wouldn’t because we look at a lot of things but religion, color, sexual orientation, etc. is not a part of it.
    I was also told that we could sell Harry Potter and Twilight books etc. because if the kids want to read them it is not our place to say no, kids reading is a good thing. We also sell bibles and other books from other religions. Our belief is that we are there to help people not to judge them or make them something they are not.
    This is my store, in my community, and these are my clients and I am proud of them all. My clients are black, white, yellow, brown, gay, straight, young, old, pierced, tatooed, bikers, bankers, drunks, mothers, homeless, harmless, and many more from every walk of life. They come in because they need help, want to help, are shop a holics, some just come to talk, if they are not to proud to come in they get the same smile, and attention no matter who they are.
    I am not trying to change anyones mind and won’t be back. I chanced on this site and just thought I would say that the Salvation Army is like any group of people not everything/one is perfect.

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  9. I have been a part of the salvation army since I was born. My parents are officers. I do not believe what you are saying is fair. The views of a few salvationists in the world does not represent the views of the salvation army as an international church and charity. If you read our doctrines carefully, you will notice that we do not accept homophobia or any kind of discrimination within our organisation. I don’t think its fair to persuade people to stop giving to the salvation army, because of the things that you have heard. As for our ‘big glass international headquarters’ that was not payed for using the money that you give, all of that money goes towards helping the homeless or helping our lifehouses in some way. If you have negative views against the salvation army, then I suggest you do some more research before critisising the entire international church and charity.

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