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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1986 — The Salvation Army of New Zealand collected signatures against the Homosexual Law Reform Act, which repealed the law criminalizing sex between adult men.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.
In 2004, the Salvation Army in New York City also threatened to close down all of its services for the city’s homeless due to a similar non-discrimination 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 allegedly 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. The Salvation Army has given no indication that it intends to change any of these anti-LGBT policies.
Supporting the Salvation Army this season, whether by tossing your change in their red kettles or donating your used goods to their resale shops, means assisting an aggressively anti-gay church in furthering its goals of discrimination. Would-be donors should consider whether “doing the most good” might mean supporting one of the many other effective and reputable charities that provide for the needy without engaging in anti-gay beliefs, policies, or political activities.