Common objections to boycotting the Salvation Army

Over the past few years, a number of LGBT groups have drawn attention to the anti-gay views and activities of the Salvation Army. Many people aren’t aware that in addition to its charity work, the Salvation Army is also a Christian church with a decidedly conservative doctrine. In their position statement on homosexuality, the Salvation Army claims that intimacy between members of the same sex is forbidden by scripture, and that celibacy is the only acceptable option for gay people.

The opposition to homosexuality has become a recurring theme in their charity efforts and their political activities. In 1986, the Salvation Army in New Zealand collected signatures against a law to decriminalize gay sex. In 2000, the Salvation Army in Scotland opposed the repeal of Section 28, which prohibited schools from any positive or affirming discussion of homosexuality. In 2001, the Salvation Army’s Western Corporation rescinded health benefits for same-sex domestic partners of employees after criticism from the religious right. And in 2004, the Salvation Army in New York City threatened to close all of its soup kitchens and shelters instead of complying with a law requiring city contractors to provide equal benefits to domestic partners.

Following calls for a boycott in protest of the church’s anti-gay beliefs, many people have claimed that this would be unjustified for a variety of reasons. The most common response is that regardless of their religious views, the Salvation Army does good things. And that’s undoubtedly true. But doing good things is not an excuse for doing bad things. There are many people and organizations that also do good things, but that doesn’t make them justified in holding prejudiced beliefs or fighting to keep gay people from being treated equally. And there are plenty of charity groups that are willing to do good for people without supporting needless intolerance. The Salvation Army is not alone in providing help to those in need. But it is set apart by its choice to endorse bigotry.

Others claim that the Salvation Army’s beliefs are irrelevant to its charity work, and that their homophobic views don’t matter when compared to the good they do. This tacit acceptance of anti-gay prejudice seems to reflect the transitional status of how gay people are currently viewed in society at large. If the KKK were a major provider of charity services, it’s likely that many people would indeed consider their white supremacist views an obstacle to supporting them. And if straight people were a disproportionate target of the Salvation Army’s efforts to mark them as legally inferior, it’s doubtful that this would be dismissed so readily. The church’s anti-gay beliefs are relevant because they are completely immaterial to the purpose of a charity. There is no reason that helping those in need must involve this kind of prejudice, and the pointless inclusion of homophobia only serves to create a totally unnecessary controversy that detracts from their goal of collecting donations and providing services.

Many have pointed out that the Salvation Army is sometimes the only charity offering critical services in a certain area, leaving them with no other alternatives to support. If so, it’s worth considering why this continues to be the case. If people keep giving to the Salvation Army, then they have no incentive to change their policies, and there’s no possibility that another provider could ever supplant them. Essentially, the reason you now have to keep supporting them is only because you’ve always chosen to keep supporting them. How about choosing not to for a change?

Finally, some people insist that withholding donations from the Salvation Army will only result in more people going hungry and homeless. Army Major George Hood has said, “If people refuse to give, it’s the poor and people in need that will suffer.” While that may be the case, this would still be an issue whether we support the Salvation Army or not. Donating to any charity comes with an opportunity cost attached, because every dollar given to a certain charity is a dollar that could have gone elsewhere, but did not. For instance, the Salvation Army’s red kettles occasionally receive gold coins valued at about $1,700. If the same amount of money was given to another charity that provides vaccines in Mozambique, it could have prevented the deaths of approximately three children. Instead, it went to the Salvation Army. If choosing to take our donations elsewhere means leaving the needy to flounder, then giving to the Salvation Army likewise means taking that money away from everyone else you could have helped. Demanding that we should only support the Salvation Army means assuming that they must do more good per dollar than literally any other charity. And that seems rather implausible.

If helping the poor is their chief concern, then they should consider the impact of their homophobic beliefs. There are many more charities that do just as much good, and they would be happy to have our support. More than that, they’re ready to treat all of us with respect.

Common objections to boycotting the Salvation Army

16 thoughts on “Common objections to boycotting the Salvation Army

  1. 2

    Your post is pretty much the polar opposite of the one I just made–and I found yours because I was researching the validity of mine after it was challenged in the comments. I really like what you have to say. If it’s all right, I’d like to link to yours.

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    It is baffling to me again how preachy, self-righteous and hypocritical Zinnia Jones is. She is a staunch fundamental secularist, which is fine, but she can’t seem to understand that the very acts of conservative Christianity she attacks she engages in herself.

    It just seems to me that this girl is quick to label ANYONE who criticizes or morally opposes homosexual activity (which would mean any and all Bible believing Christians) as homophobes, bigots or both. Does this not sound like bigotry itself?

    Bigotry (according to – Utter intolerance of differing beliefs, views and creeds.

    Zinnia Jones shows a STRONG intolerance toward ANY beliefs that doesn’t coincide with her secular views. She says that Christian belief is immoral, repugnant, and in one video even saying that all Christian belief should be eradicated from the public square. If this isn’t bigotry against Christians, I don’t now what is.

    Zinnia Jones calls ANYONE who morally opposes homosexual activity a homophobe. This is not what the term originally meant.

    Zinnia Jones openly opposes Christianity, so I guess that makes her a Christophobe.

    I oppose tobacco use because it’s unhealthy. Most people with common sense do oppose smoking because it’s bad for you. I also oppose eating junk food. Most people do. This certainly doesn’t make me a bigot.

    To be fair, a homophobe is somebody who actively seeks to avoid gay people and/or somebody who treats homosexuals differently than they would treat others in a negative way. Homophobes go out of their way to disrespect gay people, mistreat gay people, and/or disassociate himself with gays, and deny gays privileges or rights. Homophobia is condemned in the Bible as God plainly teaches us that we should treat everyone the way we would want to be treated. Now, I’m not saying that it’s right for any charity group (or the government) to deny their services to same-sex couples or homosexuals nor do I think that gays should be denied rights (including the right to civil unions), but Zinnia keeps referring to these individuals as bigots simply because they believe practicing homosexual activity is immoral. Well, Zinnia has referred to Christianity as being immoral but nobody’s calling HER a bigot. Again, for some odd reason that is beyond me, Zinnia feels that it is perfectly OK to refer to Christianity as being an immoral, unhealthy religion that should be done away with but it isn’t OK for somebody to refer to homosexual activity as being immoral, unhealthy and something that should be done away with. Zinnia Jones seriously needs to take a look in the mirror, wake up and realize that just because somebody doesn’t have the same opinions as her, doesn’t make them bad people.

    1. 3.1

      Agreed. Also, racism is beyond criticism if it’s simply due to “moral opposition” from “Bible believing Christians”, whom there are indeed many of. If a religion says it and lots of people believe it, then calling it prejudiced would be a kind of prejudice all its own – religious morality makes it totally acceptable! After all, they’re not bigots if they define themselves not to be, so saying they are is just intolerant.

      Why would we possibly think that we could criticize the people who routinely criticize others as “unhealthy and something that should be done away with”? How dare we encroach upon their freedom from criticism which somehow doesn’t encompass the people they condemn? Surely there’s nothing bigoted about claiming that someone’s love is inferior because the creator of the universe supposedly said so, or expecting consenting adults to remain forever celibate for no reason other than “Bible!”

      This is hardly “homophobic”, which is of course defined as treating homosexuals differently than others in a negative way. Do we see anyone treating gay people differently from heterosexuals when they claim that all gay relationships ever, and all gay sex ever, are something that warrants moral disapproval? Obviously not. It’s just a harmless opinion, one which would never lead anyone to impose legal inequality on the gays they think are so immoral. Homophobia? Yeah, right.

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    You completely dodged my point. The fact that there are professed Christians out there that use the Bible to justify racism has nothing to do with this. The Bible doesn’t support racism.

    Back to the issue at hand. I’m not saying that religion is beyond criticism, I’m accusing YOU of suggesting that homosexual activity IS, given the fact that you openly criticize religion. I was speaking out against your (often weak) arguments against Christianity, I was criticizing the hypocrisy you show in openly criticizing Christian belief yet at the very same time calling anyone a “bigot” who levels criticism at homosexual activity.

    1. 4.1

      A few centuries back, you’d find people who would readily contest your claim that the Bible doesn’t support racism. In the future, people may very well insist that the Bible doesn’t support homophobia at all. Many people already do. What does it even matter? If anything, interpretations of the Bible are merely reflections of prevailing moral trends of the day, like racism and homophobia, rather than some enduring and unchanging moral guidepost.

      I don’t care what the Bible does or doesn’t “support”, any more than you care what the Qur’an or the Book of Mormon or Lord of the Rings “supports”. It means absolutely nothing to me, because fictional or non-fictional texts simply don’t have the ability to create ethical mandates or define binding absolute morals for the real world – and allegations of any divine origin are as worthless as they would be in the case of any other religion.

      No, the stance that gay individuals must never have any relationships or sex for the duration of their lifetime is not justifiable. There is no point to pretending that there is anything valid about such “criticism of homosexual activity”. Safe sex and public health are everyone’s concern. Insisting on life-long celibacy from consenting adults is not productive and does not further that goal. It is still bigotry, precisely because it is groundless. That is why it’s rightly called out as mere prejudice.

      There is nothing hypocritical about criticizing incorrect, misguided and often harmful religious beliefs, while also pointing out that gay people should not be treated as inherently unequal. If anything, the latter is a subset of the former. It is completely consistent.

      1. I don’t mind it, Zinnia, that you claim that Christianity is immoral and unhealthy. I don’t find that bigoted at all. The problem is that when somebody says the same thing about HOMOSEXUAL activity, YOU call it bigotry. Apparently, according to your worldview, bigotry is simply criticizing the lifestyle and practices of a certain group of people. You call anyone a bigot who criticizes the lifestyle and practices of the homosexual community, yet YOU criticize the lifestyle and practices of the Christian community. Therefore, by your own definition, you too, are a bigot.

        I don’t understand why you haven’t addressed this point and have resorted to tossing red herrings.

        And btw, I never said the Bible supported homophobia because it doesn’t support what homophobia actually is.

        1. You’re right, it’s not treating people differently in a negative way because they’re gay. It’s just claiming there’s a divine injunction against them ever having a loving and intimate relationship because they’re gay. Huge difference.

          1. Zinnia, I understand where you’re coming from, but I disagree on a few things. The Bible is silent on a person “being gay”. “Being gay” is a relatively new concept…when the Bible refers to homosexuals or homosexuality, it means the *act*, not the sexual orientation.

            It is *not* a sin to be gay (if by being gay one means the sexual orientation). Being gay is simply being attracted to a member of the same sex. The sexual orientation isn’t sinful at all. There is nothing sinful about the condition, but rather, the *act* of homosexuality. The Bible condemns the act, not the condition.

            The Bible condemns any and all sexual activity outside of marriage, not just between gay people, by the way.

            Now, the common objection here is that this somehow deprives gay people from being with people they fall in love with. However, the Bible also prohibits me from being with a woman I’m in love with whose already married. The Bible lays out restrictions and doesn’t care whether we like it or not as God makes the rules and it’s our choice to abide by them or break them.

            Also, keep in mind that God loves you, Zinnia, and forgives anybody of any sin they’ve ever committed. All you’ve got to do is ask him to and trust on him as your Savior.

        2. It’s not Christianity that is immoral and healthy, Autumn. It is the practices of some Christians, and some Christian institutions, who use their religious belief as justification to mistreat other human beings that is immoral and healthy. There’s a phrase you might fight useful to remember (especially since it’s Christmas Eve). That phrase is: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

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    Would the minutiae of Quranic law, or Islamic evangelism about how much Allah loves you, hold any significance for you as a Christian? Would you feel it had any bearing on reality, ethics, the nature of the universe, or your ultimate destiny? That’s how you come across to people who don’t agree that there’s anything exceptional about your religion or its texts.

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