“Debunking the Myth”

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?

Where to give: Alternative charities

Choosing to donate to the Salvation Army means that some of your money will be used to support an anti-LGBT religious institution. Fortunately, there are plenty more worthwhile charities that do a great deal of good, without discrimination.

  • Doctors Without Borders provides medical aid in developing nations, war zones, and some of the most dangerous places in the world. They currently offer health services in over 60 countries. They work during times of famine, armed conflict, and even genocide. They are politically and religiously unaffiliated, they rely on private donors for the majority of their funding, and they provide care to anyone without discriminating.
  • The American Red Cross offers assistance for victims of natural disasters and other accidents. They provide food, shelter and health services in times of emergency, as well as education on safety and disaster preparedness. They also collect blood donations, and they’ve spoken out against the FDA’s ban on gay blood donors.
  • UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, is dedicated to improving living conditions for children worldwide. This includes meeting basic nutritional needs, providing healthcare and immunization, and working to prevent and treat HIV and AIDS, as well as ending the exploitation of children, providing basic education, and promoting equality for women and girls.
  • Heifer International works to alleviate hunger by providing livestock to communities in need. This includes cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, horses, chickens and ducks. These animals can be bred to provide a sustainable source of meat, milk, work, and income, helping these communities to thrive and prosper.
  • The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society funds medical research of blood cancers, with the goal of developing better treatments and cures. While the success rates for the treatment of leukemia and lymphoma have improved over time, these are still deadly diseases.
  • The Trevor Project operates the only national suicide prevention helpline for LGBT youth. It’s a confidential service provided by trained counselors who are available 24/7. They also provide educational resources and workshops at schools, addressing issues like suicide, depression, sexuality and acceptance.

Finally, if you’d like to help out in your community, consider donating time, money or goods to your local food pantries and homeless shelters—especially shelters and services for LGBT youth, who are at an increased risk of homelessness.

NoRedKettles.com is not associated with any charitable group.

What you can do

Until such time as the Salvation Army takes real action to demonstrate its intent to end its anti-LGBT discrimination, NoRedKettles.com asks would-be donors to encourage this change in policy by doing the following:

  1. Withhold your donations of money, clothing, toys, food, and other goods from any Salvation Army collection efforts.
  2. Redirect your donations to non-discriminatory charities providing similar services, such as local food pantries and shelters, the Red Cross, Goodwill, Toys for Tots, Feeding America, and other groups. (NoRedKettles.com is not affiliated with any charitable group.)
  3. Spread the word by telling your friends about the Salvation Army’s lengthy history of anti-LGBT beliefs, policies, and political action, and informing them about NoRedKettles.com’s efforts to bring about change.

What we want from the Salvation Army

The Salvation Army claims to offer its services “without discrimination”. NoRedKettles.com therefore invites the Salvation Army to live up to its claims of non-discrimination by affirming the following:

  1. That the organization will no longer withdraw its charitable services from municipalities in order to avoid complying with non-discrimination laws.
  2. That the organization’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees, as well as their partners, will no longer face discrimination or unequal treatment in hiring, promotion, or the provisioning of employment benefits.
  3. That the organization will cease any and all political activities against fully equal rights and benefits for LGBT citizens of any nation.

These actions represent meaningful, concrete steps that the Salvation Army can take to show the world that it is genuinely and unreservedly committed to the cause of non-discrimination and equality for the LGBT community. Countless major charities worldwide are capable of effectively carrying out their charitable functions on a large scale without anti-LGBT political activities or anti-LGBT employment policies. NoRedKettles.com believes the Salvation Army is capable of doing the same.

Co-founder Sarah Anne states, “We recognize that the Salvation Army is capable of extraordinary goodness. This year, we’re optimistic that the Salvation Army will choose to truly ‘do the most good’ by opening their hearts to treat everyone with equal love, dignity, and respect.”

The Salvation Army’s history of discrimination

In recent years, the Salvation Army has come under fire for its lengthy history of anti-LGBT political maneuvering and other incidents. The church has publicly articulated its belief that homosexuality is unacceptable, stating:

Scripture opposes homosexual practices by direct comment and also by clearly implied disapproval. The Bible treats such practices as self-evidently abnormal. … Attempts to establish or promote such relationships as viable alternatives to heterosexually-based family life do not conform to God’s will for society.

While such statements were recently removed from the Salvation Army’s website, the church has yet to repudiate any of its explicitly anti-gay beliefs. And though these positions may seem to be limited to the group’s internal doctrines, they’ve become a persistent element of the church’s overtly political activities – activities which have negatively impacted the Salvation Army’s ability to provide charitable services, and have aimed to limit the rights and benefits of LGBT citizens in multiple nations.

1986

The Salvation Army of New Zealand collected signatures against the Homosexual Law Reform Act, which repealed the law criminalizing sex between adult men. The Salvation Army later apologized for campaigning against the Act.

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. Lieutenant Colonel Richard Love stated:

We simply cannot agree to be in compliance of the ordinance.

2000

The Salvation Army of Scotland submitted a letter to Parliament opposing the repeal of Section 28, a law prohibiting “the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”. Colonel John Flett, the church’s Scotland Secretary, wrote:

We can easily envisage a situation where, due to active promotion of homosexuality in schools, children will grow up feeling alienated if they fail to conform.

The Salvation Army of Scotland has never retracted or apologized for its suggestion that homosexuality would be promoted in schools or that children would be encouraged to become gay.

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.

The deal fell through after it was publicized by the Washington Post.

2012

The Salvation Army of Burlington, Vermont fired case worker Danielle Morantez immediately after discovering she was bisexual. The church’s employee handbook reads, in part, “The Salvation Army does reserve the right to make employment decisions on the basis of an employee’s conduct or behavior that is incompatible with the principles of The Salvation Army.”

Later that year, Salvation Army spokesperson Major George Hood reaffirmed the church’s anti-gay beliefs, saying:

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.

2013

The Salvation Army continues to remove links from its website to religious ministries providing so-called “ex-gay” conversion therapy, such as Harvest USA and Pure Life Ministries. These links were previously provided as resources under the Salvation Army’s section on dealing with “sexual addictions”.

“Without discrimination” – myth or fact?

The Salvation Army has recently attempted to counter this perception of the church as homophobic, scrubbing explicitly anti-gay statements from its websites and issuing missives purportedly “debunking” the “myth” of its anti-LGBT stances.

Yet these efforts at cleaning up their image still fail to address the most substantial criticisms of the church’s policies. The Salvation Army states that numerous clients at its soup kitchens and homeless shelters are members of the LGBT community, and that these individuals are served without discrimination. They further add: “The Salvation Army embraces employees of many different faiths and orientations and abides by all applicable anti-discrimination laws in its hiring.”

These statements completely ignore the reality that the Salvation Army continues to maintain anti-gay theological stances, and continues to discriminate against its own employees and their partners. They also neglect to mention that the organization historically “abides” by anti-discrimination laws by way of shutting down services in areas where such laws apply.

Salvation Army Launches Another Season of Anti-LGBT Discrimination

Dec. 6, 2013 – /NoRedKettles.com/ – As the Salvation Army begins another year of its seasonal collection efforts, questions remain about the organization’s longstanding issues with its anti-LGBT beliefs and practices. The newly-formed group NoRedKettles.com is at the center of efforts to hold the Salvation Army accountable for its controversial policies and political stances against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.

The Salvation Army, best known for its charity operations, is an evangelical church with conservative theological stances. In addition to its belief that “Scripture opposes homosexual practices”, the church has previously campaigned against decriminalizing homosexuality, closed its senior and homeless programs in San Francisco rather than comply with nondiscrimination ordinances, and fired employees upon discovering that they’re LGBT. As recently as November of 2013, the Salvation Army was still removing links from its website to religious ministries providing so-called “ex-gay” conversion therapy.

In recent years, the Salvation Army has scrubbed explicitly anti-gay statements from its websites, and has claimed that its anti-LGBT discrimination is no more than a “myth”. NoRedKettles.com invites the Salvation Army to live up to its claims of non-discrimination by affirming that it will no longer shut down its charitable services in order to dodge non-discrimination laws, that its LGBT employees and their partners will no longer face unequal treatment in hiring or benefits, and that it will permanently cease any political activities against equal rights for LGBT citizens.

NoRedKettles.com co-founder Sarah Anne stated, “The Salvation Army has demonstrated a clear pattern of anti-LGBT activities and beliefs which continue to this day, and potential donors should ask themselves whether they feel comfortable supporting such an avowedly anti-gay organization this holiday season.”

Until such time as the Salvation Army takes real action to demonstrate its intent to end this discrimination, NoRedKettles.com asks would-be donors to encourage this change in policy by withholding donations from Salvation Army collection efforts, redirecting them to non-discriminatory charities providing similar services, and spread the word about the Salvation Army’s lengthy history of anti-LGBT practices. NoRedKettles.com will continue to serve as an outlet for information on the Salvation Army’s stances, and coordinate action against the church’s discrimination.