We have all seen the picture of the Salvation Army bell ringer holding the sign that says they do not help LGBTQ people. For some, this is hard to believe but the truth is that they are a faith based institution that is part of a church. As such, the church’s doctrines play pivotal roles in how they distribute money to those in need. An organization that is supposed to work on the core principle of spreading the love of Jesus Christ to all people, but instead they subjugate those they feel do not fall under the graces of God. As such, you should probably really rethink about donating to a group that seeks to actively discriminate against an entire population.
Lets do some back story. The Salvation Army is an evangelical extension of the Universal Christian Church, not to be confused with the United Church of Christ. I can hear you asking, “what is the Universal Christians Church, then?” Well, I’m glad you asked. This church was also formally known as Christ’s witness. It is a Christian-oriented new religious movement founded in France in 1952 by Geroges Roux. Roux was a former postman who believed he was the reincarnation of Christ. He also wrote three books containing the doctrines of his group and included rejections of several doctrines that churches held in staunch belief. He writings refuted the divinity and resurrection of Christ, the existence of the Devil, and even the accuracy of the Gospels. His church promoted proselytism (converting to their faith) and faith based healing. Roux, himself, was said to have healed many people out of his house. When he died in 1981, the church renamed itself to Universal Alliance. They mirror Christian Scientists in their refusal, or did, of medical treatments.
The Salvation Army, while a branch of the Universal Christian Church, has its own governance and practices. In their doctrine, the follow mainstream Christian belief and its articles of faith emphasise God’s saving purpose. Though today, you will see the Salvation Army more aligned with Evangelical Protestant faith, instead of their roots. They are also structured more like a military with a general at its head who disseminates information to chiefs of staff and then down the chain from there. The kettle they use was an idea stolen from fishermen who were cooking their meals near the docks. It has moved to be their iconic symbol.
In 2001, the Salvation Army found an exception from discriminating against the LGBTQ community in their hiring practices by offering their support in Bush’s faith based initiative. They had also tried to stand in the way of LGBTQ domestic partnerships in San Francisco and New York. These missteppings have caused them to back pedal and revamp their entire website to remove anything negative about LGBTQ people and try to show a side of support, regardless of who or what you are. They were once quoted as saying “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 heterosexuaity-based family life do not conform to God’s will for society.”
The Salvation Army has a long history of ant-LGBTQ discrimination, espeically to their own employees. The Army claims to not have lobbyists, however they, themselves, lobby to shut down anti-discrimination laws. They have been known to shut down services in areas where equal-rights mandates apply. In Scotland, they fought to remove LGBTQ references from school cirrucula. In New Zealand, they fought to keep sexual relations between adult men a criminal offense. The Salvation Army Church still promotes conversion therapy to young people in their flock. They have fought, in the US, to withhold health-care coverage to same sex partners and have a long history of firing employees after finding out they were LGBTQ. As recent as 2016, the Army refused to back a Safe Schools initiative to combat anit0LGBTQ bullying, classifying it as “toxic” and “pro-homosexual.” In 2017, the Salvation Army Church was caught in a sting in New York City subjecting transgender people to humiliating physical examinations and discrimination in housing at a substance abuse treatment center, a direct violation to their public service contracts.
So where does this leave us? The holidays are about sharing goodwill and cheer with those who are without. All to often you will hear our community say we should boycott companies or organizations that are anti-LGBTQ, however boycotting the Salvation Army really doesnt hurt them. Now before you get all indignant on me, I am not saying give them money. In fact, I am saying the exact opposite. You should donate money to organizations you know will directly help people in need in the LGBTQ populations. This has a far greater impact than simply denying your giving needs to the Salvation Army. Below you will find a few charities that are non-religious affiliated and actively pro-LGBTQ that you can donate to during this season of giving. Make your dollars count in ways that serve you and others best.
The LGBT Center of Greater Cleveland (lgbtcleveland.org) – Works to serve the needs of the LGBT+ community of Northeast Ohio
The Sylvia Rivera Law Project (https://srlp.org) – Works to guarentee that all people are free to self determine gender identity and expression, regardless of income, race, and without facing harassment, discrimination, or violence.
Housing Works (www.housingworks.org) – Fights for funding and legislation to ensure that all people living with HIV/AIDS have access to quality housing, healthcare, HIV prevention, and treatment, among other livesaving services
Trans Lifeline (www.translifeline.org) – A national trans-led organization dedicated to improving the quality of trans lives by responding to the critical needs of our community with direct service, material support, advocacy, and education. Our vision is to fight the epidemic of trans suicide and improve overall life-outcomes of transpeople by faciliatating justice-oriented, collective community aid.
The Trevor Project (www.thetrevorproject.org) – If you are a young person in crisis, feeling suicidal, or in need of a safe and judgement-free place to talk, call the TrevorLifeline at 1-866-488-7386