This holiday season, you may see bell-ringers from the Salvation Army soliciting donations outside of storefronts. You should be aware that the Salvation Army is actually a Christian church, and its charitable functions are administered by this church. While there are plenty of religious groups that provide social services to those in need, the Salvation Army’s beliefs and activities are not so innocuous.
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.
They go on to declare that sexually active gay people are ineligible for the Salvation Army, and call for “a lifestyle built upon celibacy and self-restraint”.
These aren’t just internal matters of church policy, either. The Salvation Army has involved itself in the political arena as well.
– In 1986, the Salvation Army of New Zealand assisted in a petition drive against a law to repeal the country’s ban on homosexuality.
– In 1998, the Salvation Army withdrew from $3.5 million in contracts with San Francisco because of the city’s requirement for contractors to extend benefits to the same-sex partners of employees. As a result, shelters, food services, and drug rehab programs in the city all suffered cutbacks.
– In 2000, the Salvation Army of Scotland spoke out against the proposed repeal of Section 28, which prohibited any discussion in schools of the “acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.
– In 2001, the Salvation Army extended benefits to the same-sex partners of its employees, only to reverse this policy after outcry from the Christian right.
– Also in 2001, the Washington Post reported that the Salvation Army had been in discussions with the Bush administration, which had committed to issuing a regulation exempting the Salvation Army from any state or local laws that prohibited employment discrimination based on sexuality. The administration refused to issue such a regulation after their dealings were publicly exposed.
– In 2004, the Salvation Army in New York City once again threatened to close all of its services in the city due to a law requiring contractors to provide equal benefits to same-sex partners.
– And in 2012, a media relations director with the Salvation Army of Australia stated on a radio show that it was part of their “belief system” and “Christian doctrine” that gay people should die.
When we give our money to the Salvation Army, we’re helping to support a church that believes gay people are less than equal, that they should be subject to open discrimination, and that their relationships are inferior in the eyes of God. And this church has been working to ensure that their personal religious beliefs are reflected in the law. That’s the ugly truth behind the change we drop in their red kettles.
While the Salvation Army does plenty of good things to help communities in need, so do many other charities – charities which focus on providing these essential services with no religiously-based prejudice against minorities. Organizations like Goodwill, Toys for Tots, the American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, and Feeding America can do everything the Salvation Army does. The difference is that they’ll do it without taking a piece of your donations to fund a politically active anti-gay church.
Sure, it might be easy to drop some money in a bucket. But it should be just as easy to do the right thing. We all want to help those in need, and we can do it without compromising our values of fairness and equality. This season, let’s help out those charities that are willing to respect everyone just the same.