The Salvation Army’s bell-ringing volunteers and shiny red donation pails have become a familiar sight for many holiday shoppers during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, with their yearly “Red Kettle” campaign in full swing for this holiday season as volunteers aim to raise millions for families in need to help finance clothing, toys, and Christmas dinners. However, LGBT advocates are raising their voices against these seemingly neutral collectors. The Salvation Army lists many position statements on its website, including a statement on “homosexuality” which reads: “The Salvation Army believes…that Christians whose sexual orientation is primarily or exclusively same-sex are called upon to embrace celibacy as a way of life. There is no scriptural support for same-sex unions as equal to, or as an alternative to, heterosexual marriage.”
Last year, Jeffrey Curnow, the corporate and public relations manager for the Salvation Army, defended the foundation’s views, admitting that they are indeed theological, but are “intended for our church members and those who are interested in our church.” They “would never expect everyone we help, our donors, or even our non-church-member employees to necessarily agree with these theological positions.” The Salvation Army also includes disclaimer of-sorts in their public position statement: “Likewise, there is no scriptural support for demeaning or mistreating anyone for reason of his or her sexual orientation.”
Yet, despite Curnow’s claim that The Salvation Army “serves countless people…including gays and lesbians,” many cite the organization’s discriminatory past. Bil Browing of The Bilerico Project, a group blogging site for LGBTQ advocates, asks people to consider the group’s history before they donate: “While you might think you’re helping the hungry and homeless by dropping a few dollars into the bright red buckets, not everyone can share in the donations…The organization also has a record of actively lobbying governments worldwide for ant-gay policies.” Browning was turned away when he and his boyfriend were homeless, and was told to leave “the ‘sinful homosexual lifestyle’ behind” if the couple wanted help.
The Salvation Army is known to have fought against U.S. anti-discrimination laws which prohibited employment discrimination against sexual orientation and sought exemption from federal non-discrimination policies. The group also threatened to close all of their New York soup kitchens in 2004 if they had to offer benefits to same-sex couples in domestic partnerships.
Yes, The Salvation Army does indeed help many families who urgently seek assistance in the holiday seasons, but at what cost? Andy Thayer from the Gay Liberation Network puts the problem in a unique perspective: “If a racist organization was trying to collect money with the massage that some of the money was going toward good, would you support them?” Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to donate to the organization must be determined on a personal level.
This winter, many supporters of LGBT equality are suggesting Americans donate to organizations that support the LGBT community. We hope you consider PFLAG National in your search for affirming organizations this season. PFLAG National directly helps LGBT people, their families, and friends by promoting education, support, and advocacy. PFLAG National helps by providing scholarships to young students, hosting national conventions, and fighting for equality at the state and national level. For more information on how to donate visit PFLAG National’s website or contact PFLAG National Member Services at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 467-8180, option 3.