What do you do when you’re running a church-based charity and donations start drying up as your donors grow more aware of your long history of bigoted positions? Rebranding, of course! Now you can sweep your prejudice under the rug, and then pretend that those rightly calling you to task are promoting rumors and myths. All you need to do is set up a web page with a couple of YouTube videos to “debunk” those facts that are hurting your public image and keeping the money flowing to other charities. You get all the good PR you need, and the best part is you don’t even have to admit that gay people are worthy of just as much respect as everybody else.
We are, of course, writing about the Salvation Army and their “Debunking the Myth of LGBT Discrimination” page that has been referenced in several articles and sent to us via email.
The page opens:
For years, Facebook posts, forwarded emails and rumors have been leading some people to believe that The Salvation Army does not serve members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community. These accusations simply aren’t true.
On this they are certainly correct – which is why we haven’t accused the Salvation Army of refusing charitable services to members of the LGBT community. Our objections to the Salvation Army lie in their continued promotion of a bigoted ideology, and how they have used their clients as bargaining chips while discriminating against their LGBT employees.
Bill Miller, director of the Salvation Army Harbor Light Shelter in Minneapolis, is quoted as stating the following:
The Salvation Army does not discriminate. Period. We’re here to serve in the name of Jesus Christ in the one way He commanded us to do it – with love and without discrimination. End of story.
While the sentiment in this statement is admirable, it simply doesn’t align with reality. Here are just two examples from The Salvation Army’s history of discrimination:
In 1998, the Salvation Army of the United States chose to turn down $3.5 million in contracts with the city of San Francisco, resulting in the closure of programs for the homeless and senior citizens. The church backed out of these contracts due to San Francisco’s requirement that city contractors must provide spousal benefits to both same-sex partners and opposite-sex partners of employees.
In 2001, the Salvation Army of the United States attempted to make a deal with the Bush administration ensuring that religious charities receiving federal funding would be exempt from any local ordinances banning anti-gay discrimination. Church spokesman David A. Fuscus explained that the group did not want to extend medical benefits to same-sex partners of its employees.
In 2012, the Salvation Army of Burlington, Vermont fired case worker Danielle Morantez immediately after discovering she was bisexual. Salvation Army spokesperson Major George Hood stated: “A relationship between same-sex individuals is a personal choice that people have the right to make. But from a church viewpoint, we see that going against the will of God.”
The “Debunking the Myth” webpage makes mention of a 2012 Australian radio interview with Major Andrew Craibe, at the time a media relations director for a Salvation Army branch in Australia, where Craibe had implied that gay people should be put to death. The Salvation Army was quick to denounce Craibe’s statements with a response from Major Bruce Hammer, the Communications and Public Relations Secretary for Australia’ Eastern Territory, stating that:
Salvation Army members do not believe, and would never endorse, a view that homosexual activity
should result in any form of physical punishment…
As well as saying:
The Salvation Army sincerely apologises to all members of the GLBT community and to all our clients, employees, volunteers and those who are part of our faith communities for the offence caused by this miscommunication.
While we appreciate the apology, we’d hardly call implying the death penalty is warranted for homosexuality a “miscommunication”. At this time, we are unable to tell if Major Andrew Craibe is still employed by the Salvation Army. While their response to this assault on LGBT rights was somewhat positive, we should not allow the Salvation Army to pretend that this is their only case of bigotry.
The page continues on the subject of Andrew Craibe, stating that:
We acknowledge that because of our size and scope, occasionally one of our millions of employees and volunteers might say or do something that does not reflect our values. We address these incidents as soon as they arise.
But this does not address our objections to the Salvation Army. We understand that one or two employees may exist who are homophobic – that is not why we are calling for a boycott. We are calling for a boycott due to their repeated and deliberate organization-wide attempts to discriminate against the LGBT community.
Recently, the Christian Post, which markets themselves as “the largest Christian newspaper in the world”, wrote an article covering our efforts. In the article, author Stoyan Zaimov quotes Parker Vandergriff of Brand Public Relations of The Richards Group, a major advertising agency with other clients such as Chick-Fil-A.
“Our mission is clear: to provide services to those in need without discrimination. The Salvation Army treats everyone with equal love, dignity and respect regardless of who they are”
Which is, of course, demonstrably false when you examine the actions of the Salvation Army.
The article also quotes Major George Hood as saying that:
“The Salvation Army and the gay community are never going to come to an agreement on the topic.”
While this article quotes multiple members of the Salvation Army, and does include transcripts of Rebecca Watson’s recent video on the Salvation Army, the writer of this article did not find it necessary to reach out to us for comment. At this time, while multiple non-journalists have sent us emails with questions and feedback, the Christian Post has yet to contact us.
This Christian Post article was recently picked up by the LGBT blog “Lez Get Real”, in a post where in the author restates the case made by the Christian Post and ends with the following:
One would have to see that recent actions of the Salvation Army have been, by in large, ones of conciliation towards the LGBT community. That begs to ask, what positive things for the LGBT community are being accomplished when we lobby against the red kettle campaign or the Salvation Army in general, especially when they seem to be trying to meet our community at least half way?
The “positive things” being accomplished by lobbying against the Salvation Army are to point out that despite their surface-deep rebranding effort, they are not in fact “trying to meet our community at least half way”. They are trying to find a way to continue to be homophobic and still get donations.
The basic fact that the Salvation Army is not willing to own up to their bigoted past should give anyone pause when they hear that the Salvation Army has changed their ways. Instead of admitting that they have been plainly homophobic and otherwise bigoted, and then laying out how they are going to change that, they have brushed all of this under the rug and claimed that these are myths spread via email and Facebook.
If they are not even willing to own up to their past actions, how can we possibly believe that they feel remorse for this and will act differently in the future?