Is there really "salvation" in discrimination?
When you search for the Salvation Army on Google, the first words you will see, under their URL, are "When you put money in our kettle, expect change. Make a donation now." But what kind of change can we expect when we drop money into those red kettles that we encounter outside of most grocery stores and inside most shopping malls?
The holiday season is about giving and being kind to all, and we live in a society that has made significant progress toward becoming an inclusive and tolerant one. While the Salvation Army does provide many services to those in need, and they should be commended for that, they have not only made hateful comments toward the LGBT community (for instance, when Maj. Andrew Craibe, the Australian Salvation Army spokesman, said on the radio that homosexuals “deserve to die”), but have also used their money, OUR money that we generously place into their red collection kettles, to gain access to the political arena in the form of lobbying in order to promote discrimination and injustice.
This is not a new phenomenon. On the LGBT Blog, The Bilerico Project, Bil Browning states that the Salvation Army has turned away LGBT individuals due to being “sexually impure”, and he goes on and cites five examples of the Salvation Army’s active pursuit of denying rights to the LGBT community within the past twenty years. Unfortunately, this list is not the entirety of their discriminatory behavior.
1. When New Zealand considered passage of the Homosexual Law Reform Act in 1986, the Salvation Army collected signatures in an attempt to get the legislation killed. The act decriminalized consensual sex between gay men. The measure passed over the charity’s objections.
2. In the United Kingdom, the Salvation Army actively pushed passage of an amendment to the Local Government Act. The amendment stated that local authorities “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.” The law has since been repealed, but it led many schools and colleges to close LGBT student organizations out of fear they’d lose their government funding.
3. In 2001, the organization tried to extract a resolution from the White House that they could ignore local non-discrimination laws that protected LGBT people. While the commitment would have applied to all employees, the group claimed that it needed the resolution so it “did not have to ordain sexually active gay ministers and did not have to provide medical benefits to the same-sex partners of employees.” After lawmakers and civil rights activists revealed the Salvation Army’s active resistance to non-discrimination laws, the White House admitted the charity was seeking the exemptions.
4. Also in 2001, the evangelical charity actively lobbied to change how the Bush administration would distribute over $24 billion in grants and tax deductions by urging the White House deny funding to any cities or states that included LGBT non-discrimination laws. Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary, issued a statement saying the administration was denying a “regulation sought by the church to protect the right of taxpayer-funded religious organizations to discriminate against homosexuals.”
5. In 2004, the Salvation Army threatened to close all their soup kitchens in New York City to protest the city’s decision to require all vendors and charities doing business with the city to adhere to all civil rights laws. The organization balked at having to treat gay employees equal to straight employees.
This type of discrimination and hate is hurtful. I fail to see how a non-profit organization that prides itself on “change” wishes to deny fundamental rights to a disadvantaged portion of the population. I acknowledge that I cannot change the Salvation Army’s mind, nor can I tell them where they can and cannot use their money. But we need to keep in mind that the money that they are using to enter the political arena comes partially from the donations we drop into their red kettles. When I donate money to help those in need, I expect that money to go, directly or indirectly, to those in need and not to be used to systematically deny many people their fundamental rights.
Therefore, I urge you to consider donating to other charities this holiday season, ones that do not have a history of active discrimination. The Salvation Army has the right to use their money how they want, but if they do not receive donations, their power to continue to systematically discriminate will be taken from them. If you are a store manager, and you work for a company that believes in a workplace free of discrimination, I encourage you not to allow the Salvation Army to collect outside of your stores. There are many other wonderful charities that will be able to help those in need.
Thank you for your support and hopefully together, we can take a stand against this injustice that has persisted for far too long. Once this gets enough signatures, we can try to go even higher up and attempt to get the attention of local and state governments to help us accomplish our goal.