Bil Browning

Why You Shouldn't Donate to the Salvation Army Bell Ringers

Filed By Bil Browning | November 21, 2011 8:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Best of, Fundie Watch, Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: anti-gay bigotry, anti-gay organizations, anti-gay policies, bad charities, bell ringers, Christmas, give to Salvation Army, holiday season, Salvation Army, Thanksgiving

As the holidays approach, the Salvation Army bell ringers are out in front of stores dunning shoppers for donations. If you care about gay rights, you'll skip their bucket in favor of a charity that doesn't actively discriminate against the LGBT community.

The Salvation Army has a history of active discrimination against gays and lesbians. While you might think you're helping the hungry and homeless by Thumbnail image for Why you shouldn't give to the Salvation Armydropping a few dollars in the bright red buckets, not everyone can share in the donations. Many LGBT people are rejected by the evangelical church charity because they're "sexually impure."

The church claims it holds "a positive view of human sexuality," but then clarifies that "sexual intimacy is understood as a gift of God to be enjoyed within the context of heterosexual marriage." The Salvation Army doesn't believe that gays and lesbians should ever know the intimacy of any loving relationship, instead teaching that "Christians whose sexual orientation is primarily or exclusively same-sex are called upon to embrace celibacy as a way of life."

On its webpage, the group claims that "the services of The Salvation Army are available to all who qualify, without regard to sexual orientation." While the words are nice, their actions speak volumes. They blatantly ignore the position statement and deny LGBT people services unless they renounce their sexuality, end same-sex relationships, or, in some cases, attend services "open to all who confess Christ as Savior and who accept and abide by The Salvation Army's doctrine and discipline." In other words, if you're gay or lesbian, you don't qualify.

The organization also has a record of actively lobbying governments worldwide for anti-gay policies - including an attempt to make consensual gay sex illegal. (Yes, you're paying lobbyists with those donations.)

After the break are some highlights from the evangelical Christian charity's recent anti-gay political lobbying, a handy video with more information, and a list of charities who don't discriminate against their clients and employees.

Since 1986 the Salvation Army has engaged in five major assaults on the LGBT community's civil rights and attempted to carve out exemptions that would allow them to deny gays and lesbians needed services as well as employment.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • 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.

I've seen the discrimination the Salvation Army preaches first hand. When a former boyfriend and I were homeless, the Salvation Army insisted we break up before they'd offer assistance. We slept on the street instead and declined to break up as they demanded.

Instead of donating to the Salvation Army, choose a different charity that will help everyone without prejudice. Find a local secular charity - or here are some national organizations that provide help to anyone who needs it:



I did a quickie post on the topic last year, "Why You Shouldn't Give to the Salvation Army This Holiday Season," that has become one of the most popular article on the site with over 14,000 Facebook shares alone. This year I've included much more information.

If you're so inclined, share this post on Facebook and other social media sites to spread awareness. If you're here via one of those services, be sure to become our fan on Facebook or follow Bilerico Project on Twitter to get links to posts as they go live on the site.

(Photo credit: Ryan McFarland)


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Now days when I give, its to either True Colors (a local non-profit for GLBTQ youth) and The Trevor Project.

I give clothing and non-monetary donations to Boomerangs: http://www.shopboomerangs.org It's run by the AIDS Action Committee and does a lot of good work.

Monetary donations fluctuate between certain political candidates and the Trevor Project.

I've pointedly been rude to and insulting to Salvation Army since a friend of mine got kicked out of their store for being affectionate with his boyfriend.

I don't think it's fair to be rude to all their staff, many of whom are people who are getting services from them. But I am going out of my way to explain to them why I'm not giving them any money, who I'll be giving money to instead and the issues I have with their organization.

I've previously been someone who goes out of my way to drop some change into their bucket and give the bell ringers a warm Christmasy smile. They're making an effort to make the world a better place, I thought.

I won't make that mistake this year. Thanks for the heads up.

And a lifetime of celibacy for the sake of someone else's religious beliefs? Sounds gloomy and dreary. No thanks!

jeebus, is it the holiday season already?

Time to boycott, boycott, boycott the SA.

There are dozens of groups collecting money to help out the people getting, shot, beaten, and tortured to defend us and to prevent Congress and the WH from slashing Medicare, Social Security and Medicare.

All my discretion money is going to feed and clothe them and to build the trade union left wing.

Happy Thanksgiving, Juvenalia (*) and New Years.

in ancient Rome, a holiday established by the emperor Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus and celebrated with games and theatrical presentations in honor of Juventas, the goddess of youth. According to the Roman historian Tacitus, celebrations of the holiday were marked by extreme licentiousness.

Hear hear! There are so many worthy charities around, both local and national/international.

I have not given to SA for many years because of information such as in this article. Thanks for revisiting this issue. I would like to add that everyone should consider refraining from shopping at any business with bell-ringers stationed out front. I work in retail and, barring a local ordinance or regulation, solicitation on premises (including the sidewalk and parking lot) would be only allowed with prior consent from the management.

Happy Juvenalia, y'all!

I have not contributed to the Salvation Army in over 25 years. Their homophobic religous policies are well know to me. In fact, a day after the horific events of 9-11, LifetimeTV (TV for women) was running ads for them, suggesting their audience give them donations and I wrote Lifetime a very stern warning about the Salvation Armies hateful homophobic ways and with a few hours those ads were pulled! I suspect a lot of people are completely unaware of the underlying bigotry of this "Christian Organization" (similar to the Boy Scouts which is now almost exclusively run by the Mormon Church, who's homo-hatred is well know since they forced Prop 8 to pass in California)! In fact, when I see a red bucket in front of a store (typically Walmart's) I make a point of going over and telling the bell ringer why I will never give them a donation. Typically it leaves them with their mouths dropped on the floor. I guess such outspoken honestly is unusual in Oklahoma!

I will never donate to the salvation army again. A year ago when I was unemployed and struggling to survive as a single father I could not even get their help to keep my electric and or gas from being shut off. You might want to read my blog post on "so-called charitable organizations" written by someone who couldn't get help from any of them when it was needed: http://thetruthisinplainsight.blogspot.com/2011/01/so-called-charitable-organizations.html

The Salvation Army actually does help a number of people, and I won't take that away from them. But they also promote bigotry and hatred, and they won't do either thing with any of my money.

Like the Southern Baptists and the Catholics the Salvation army does a great deal of good. They helped me after Hurricane Katrina with both food and money. (So did the Red Cross.) And in Atlanta I went to them a few times when I needed help with utilities. They were the most dependable. At the same time when my friend was going to their church they would not let him sing in the choir because he was gay and critical of their theology. But they would pick him up and at that point he was not very independent having been shot in the head and was legally blind and living in a nursing home waiting for his SSI to come through. ONe thing that needs to be remembered is that most of the people who work for the Salvation Army do not have anything to do with the theology of the Salvation Army. They work for the non-profit, not for the church, which is pretty good about separating the two, much better than other charities.

What charitable work needs is benevolent, rich liberals who are doing God's work in God's inclusive way. The United Methodist and Presbyterian USA churches also step in in times of crisis, but it is usually with the big ones, like Katrina and they don't have the manpower of the conservatives.

The problem is that today it is the big charities that are able to call up the numbers of people, and have the organization to meet big needs. Small charities just don't have the manpower. And frequently the big charities are run by conservatives since conservatives have most of the money.

Like the Southern Baptists and the Catholics the Salvation army does a great deal of good. I don't think that's true at all.

Tens of thousands of children who were raped and enslaved might disagree with you about the catholic megacult, as would victims of Nazi persecution.

The southern baptist megacult was one leg of the tripod of slavery, Jim Crow and racism from the 1870's until very recently. The other legs were the KKK and the Democrat Party.

southern baptists, the mormons and the catholic mega cult combine to oppose same sex marriage equality and promote hatred and violence against the GLBT communities. These megacults will always be our enemy.

Their 'charitable' agencies should be secularized without compensation and run by councils composed of those who work there and those who use their services. We need a society that jails the 1% and takes care of the 99%, a socialist society where charity and all the scams associated with it are unnecessary.

. ONe thing that needs to be remembered is that most of the people who work for the Salvation Army do not have anything to do with the theology of the Salvation Army. They work for the non-profit, not for the church, which is pretty good about separating the two, much better than other charities.

There is no Salvation Army nonprofit separate from the church. The Salvation Army is 100% church, which is the entire basis it uses to argue that it should be absolutely exempted from all federal, state, and local anti-discrimination laws regarding both hiring and access to services even when receiving taxpayer funds.

It really hurts me to make a post like this, but I have to agree with the article and ask people not to donate to The Salvation Army.
I was raised as a member of The Salvation Army during the '50s and '60s. My parents became members in the 1930's in New York City and were active all of their lives. As a kid, I saw my parents and other "Sallies" work with people who were alcoholic, addicts, prostitutes, homeless, emotionally ill, or people who needed some help financially or with food and clothing during times of hardship. I recall one Christmas eve watching one of the members of our local "corps" take the boots off of her own feet to give to a woman who wandered in from the snow who was wearing shoes that weren't warm or snow-proof. Back in those days, like other members, I wore the traditional Salvation Army uniform, played brass instruments, participated in street corner "open-air" meetings, and helped out in feeding and helping in any way we could those in need. There was never any question about their sexual orientation. This was before the great strides within the LGBTQ community that have taken place.
As a young adult, I left that tradition, seeking answers in other traditions and today identify as a Buddhist. But as a straight man, I still rejected any practice that discriminated against the LGBTQ community. And as The Salvation Army became increasingly vocal in its stand against the gay community, I had to make a painful decision to begin speaking out against the tradition of my youth, the very tradition that taught and instilled in me the very social justice values I hold and practice today. I believe those are the same social justice and spiritual values taught by Jesus of Nazareth, who never asked anything of anyone either as a prerequisite or as a condition to receiving his help or his healing. That The Salvation Army has forgotten this unconditional, selfless aspect of the teachings of Jesus is a blot on the wonderful work they have done since 1865 when they were founded in London and it is, indeed, a very sorry example of the state of affairs within the extremist, right-wing, ideological "Christian" camp. I'm glad that there are still many Christian organizations who understand the simple message of Jesus: Love God, love your neighbor. Those are the two great commandments. Everything else hangs on those.
Please contribute generously to a charity, Christian or non-Christian, of your choice that sees *all* people as worthy and complete just as they are without regard to their sexual orientation, color, class, faith, or any other qualifier.

You can donate to The Night Ministry or to UCANN's Host Home program to help Chicago's LGBTQ homeless youth. http://www.thenightministry.org/ and http://www.ucanchicago.org/host-home/

Every time I pass them, they ask me if I want to donate. I would like to say to them, "When the Salvation Army accepts people like me: gay people, lesbian people, queer people, trans people, then...then I will want to donate...but not one second before."

But, I don't, because living in this area, the only place I ever encounter them is at my local grocery store, and when I'm there, I have better things to do than make a statement to a small cog in a large machine.

So, I just say, "No," and keep and walking. And when I do donate goods, I bring them to local charity, or to Goodwill, which has at least tried to reach out to trans people.

If you look at what the salvation army provides verses what they take in from fund raisers and thrift store income, one must ask some serious questions about the SA. Perhaps at one point they "did the most good" but I am not seeing this today. Rumors of what is essentially slave labor in their "treatment centers" persist, while I have not seen any social benefits being offered - even the men's "shelter" in Portland's old town is more of a dormitory, charging money to the homeless for the privileged of living in dehumanizing conditions. With the amount of money which the SA must generate running a *BUSINESS* which has zero inventory cost, you'd think that not only they could run a proper shelter, but also provide more than meals on wheels.

the_blue_dynamo | November 23, 2011 10:04 AM

I work for The Salvation Army, and I found the article very interesting and brings up important issues. I would love to talk to anyone about this, and more specifically, how we operate at the Corps I serve at.

the_blue_dynamo | November 23, 2011 10:13 AM

I just realized that everyone on here uses their actual name- my name is Joshua.

Joshua,
Do you have anything that contradicts what the Salvation Army has done to fight GLBT rights? Stories about how your corp helps people are great but they do nothing to address the harm that the SalvationArmy has done to the GLBT community. Do you have something that shows that the Salvation Army has changed their policies?

the_blue_dynamo | November 23, 2011 7:08 PM

frankly, no, I don't. That is why I want to see this as a mutual opportunity for education. The Army works alot together and as a whole, but in alot of ways we work seperately as well. So what may be funded by a specific corps, division, or territory, may not be supported by another. However, the claims do trouble me, and I would like to look at the legislation regarding that to really understand it. I myself want to know the truth of the matter, so that way I can respond in the way that I feel that God would want me too. Thanks for responding, Tim W.!