It’s that time of year again — big red buckets everywhere and the ubiquitous bell-ringers. It’s pretty easy to throw a handful of change or maybe even a dollar or two in the bucket – it makes you feel good and helps the needy. Well, it you may not feel so good when you know that the Salvation Army might not be in it to help everyone.
The Salvation Army is not simply a charity: it is a religious sect. Their website gives this mission statement:
“The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination. (emphasis added).”
Without discrimination? Salvation Army Captain Mike Parker, of Mankato, MN, told a reporter that the organization doesn’t discriminate, either in hiring or helping. But some evidence shows otherwise. Stories about their stance on and treatment of LGBT individuals have driven donations down from last year. The kettle campaign has attracted some notes rather than donations, explaining that the group’s stance on homosexuality is to blame. One bell-ringer in Victoria, British Columbia even held up a sign reading, “If you support gay rights, please do not donate.”
One man tells of how he and his partner were turned away from a shelter unless they would agree to break up and “leave the ‘sinful homosexual lifestyle’ behind.” They refused and ended up sleeping on the streets. This video gives other examples:
Earlier this year, a Salvation Army media relations director said that gays should be put to death. On an Australian radio show, Major Andrew Craibe told the two gay hosts of the show that it was “… a part of our belief system.” The Salvation Army officially distanced itself from Caibe’s statements but one of the group’s books, Salvation Story: Salvationist Handbook of Doctrine, borrows heavily from Romans 1:18-32 and states:
“For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error … They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die — yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practise them.”
While the Salvation Army says that it is not their policy to discriminate in such a way, they do acknowledge that some “isolated incidents” may have occurred. The SA is a huge operation, they say, and it’s difficult to police all 60,000 employees and 3.5 million volunteers. But up until last year the SA website had a position statement on homosexuality reading, in part, that gay Christians should “embrace celibacy as a way of life.” Salvation Army Maj. George Hood, the organization’s national community relations secretary, said it was “… a theological statement not meant for an external audience and it was creating a lot of confusion.” He continues, “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.”
This stance has caused the tension between the Salvation Army and the LGBT community. The Salvation Army has claimed that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identification will not be allowed in determining who can benefit from their services, non-clergy employment and volunteerism. It has required any incidents that break this edict be reported immediately. The reaction from the LGBT community is a wait-and-see attitude, as they continue their campaign against donations to the Salvation Army.