The Bells Don’t Ring For Us

We will be ignoring the little ringing bells of the Salvation Army this year. In the past, we’ve given them money. They were even founded by a Booth: William Booth in 1865. Nonetheless, their homophobic agenda puts them off of our Christmas list.

From the beginning, the Salvation Army has been a very conservative Christian organization. For years, we have heard stories of their discriminating against gays and not providing charitable services to them, even kicking gay kids out of shelters. They helped support the anti-gay Proposition 22 in California banning gay marriage. We stopped giving many years ago when we first learned about how underhanded they could be.

During the Bush Administration, Salvation Army officials secretly met with Karl Rove, Bush’s senior advisor, to negotiate a special deal. In return for spending nearly a million dollars helping Bush promote his faith based charity initiative, they wanted the right to discriminate against gays in hiring. Admittedly, there is no Federal hiring protection for gays, nor is there local protection in most places. What the Salvation Army officials wanted was the right to discriminate in hiring even in those places that had enacted local laws to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. They wanted to be able to discriminate using government money, something that had yet to be tested in the courts and one of the big problem’s with Bush’s plan.

The White House initially denied the reports until documents were discovered and the story broke in the Washington Post. To our knowledge, they have yet to turn over minutes of those meetings as requested by a member of Congress, but secrecy (such as with the meetings on the energy bill) was a way of life with the Bush administration, who are fearful of many aspects of their governance becoming public knowledge.

That same year, the Western region of the Salvation Army decided to offer domestic partner benefits. This was under pressure from more liberal Western cities like San Francisco that penalize companies that do not offer domestic partner benefits. Offering those benefits to workers are a part of the city contracts and a requirement of doing business with them. Officials at the time called it a “a decision made on the basis of moral and ethical reasoning.” Apparently, moral and ethical (not to mention financial) reasoning goes out the window once the rabid hate-filled anti-gay fanatics start putting pressure on you.

Salvation Army’s National Commissioner Lawrence R. Moretz stripped the regional board of its right to make such a decision. “In rescinding the policy and establishing a national policy on health care benefit access to spouses and dependent children only, we must stand united in the battle that will undoubtedly follow from those who would now challenge our biblical and traditional position,” stated Moretz. “We will not sign any government contract or any other funding contracts that contain domestic partner benefit requirements.”

A lot has changed for the LBGTQ community since the Bush administration. Not a whole lot has changed for the Salvation Army. In 2013 they were still referring people to notorious “ex-gay” groups claiming that they could be cured. In 2014 as the Obama administration led on major changes that gave gay people more rights, the Salvation Army pretended to soften their stance. We know they were pretending as a leaked document surfaced. They did not like their growing reputation of being discriminatory and hateful, despite that being exactly what they were. While they were publicly proclaiming being more tolerant, the memo by their midwest Commisioner Paul Seiler outlined the various ways that they would continue to discriminate, both in hiring and in helping. It also made clear that they completely rejected the newly won right to same-sex marriage. They also rejected housing for people who were homeless and transgendered. Their Christian charity stopped at heterosexuality.

They have long been very conservative and extreme. In 2010, they threw Harry Potter and Twilight themed books and toys into the trash during their toy drive. They have crusaded against pornography and masturbation and BDSM. Sure, much of the Christian community shares these views, but they are not on street corners asking me for money.

Here we are in 2019 and they still don’t want to be called an anti-gay homophobic organization, but they still want to be an anti-gay homophobic organization. It is true that they are not ringing bells and shouting “death to gays,” but they are still very anti-gay. When Chick-Fil-A announced that they would no longer be contributing to organizations that were openly hostile to gay people, The Salvation Army was one of the ones they would no longer give to. Color me shocked. Despite the Salvation Army website that softens their language quite a bit, even Chick-Fil-A has their number.

Speaking of their website, they no longer have the information on their beliefs, that used to include strongly anti-gay and anti-porn messages. They have an entire section now on how they served the LGBT community. It looks like they have totally changed, offering services to LGBTQ people instead of kicking them out on the streets as they have done in the past. This is their public face, though.

The truth is harder to figure out. They do seem to be helping the LGBTQ community. But they have lied in the past. They are lying still. There has been a huge push this year to rebrand themselves as not being anti-gay. The problem is, as any good Christian knows, that forgiveness does not come without atonement. Instead of saying that they were wrong in the past, they claim that criticisms of them were based on hate and misinformation. No, they were based on the fact that the Salvation Army did lie, did hate gay people, and did discriminate. You can’t white wash that away with claims of prejudice against Christianity. They need to drop the bullshit line that it just took them a long time to figure out how to served the LGBTQ community. The truth is that it took them a long time to figure out how to not discriminate and say hateful things about the LGBTQ community.

Despite all their efforts to improve their image and do better, they still have not convinced the LGBTQ community, the LGBTQ media, and even Chick-Fil-A that they are not anti-gay. Neither is The Very Rev Kelvin Holdsworth, provost of St Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow. He wrote an article this month saying that they were lying about their new commitment to non-discrimination with the LGBTQ community. They need to do more, and they need to apologize for past transgressions, and they need to stop singling out gay people as sinners.

Maybe that will happen. By next Christmas, they may have reformed enough that I will give to them again, as they do a lot of good. I simply do not give to organizations that spread hate. This year, though, I am not convinced.

So, not this year Salvation Army. Maybe next year, and that is a big maybe.