Our friend Bil Browning over at Bilerico.com has doubled-down on an important message this holiday season. He’s getting a lot of attention this year for a blog post titled “Why You Shouldn’t Donate to the Salvation Army Bell Ringers.” The now annual post receives thousands of hits on his popular blog and for good reason. He’s asking people to avoid the bell-ringing Santas outside every supermarket and mall across the country.
And with money as tight as it is this year, we can’t help but agree with him. The Salvation Army has long been a Christian missionary association. It would be one thing if they, like some Christians, practiced tolerance and equality towards the LGBT community, but as Bil points out, since 1986, The Salvation Army has been involved in at least 5 major assaults on LGBT equality:
- 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 The law has since been repealed, but it led many schools and colleges to close LGBT student organizations out of fear they’d lose their government funding.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.
While no one wants the services the Salvation Army provides to end for those they help, we must be cognizant of where are pennies are going when we drop them in the shiny red kettle. In addition to these anti-gay fights which the Salvation Army has participated in, they have also fought in court in defense of their virulently anti-gay hiring and employment practices. So please understand that the pennies you drop in those buckets may be going to lawyers which are defending bigotry in court and coming nowhere close to buying clothes for the homeless this winter.
Instead of putting your pocket change in the kettle outside the mall, why don’t you give one of these inclusive organizations a try:
- Goodwill – doing much of the same work the Salvation Army does, but also focusing on the disabled and unemployed.
- The Ali Forney Center - providing shelter for homeless LGBT youth in New York City
- True Colors Residence – Cyndi Lauper’s new shelter for homeless LGBT Youth
- Doctors Without Borders – providing medical and emergency relief all over the world
- Urban Peaks – assistance for homeless LGBT youth in Colorado
And if you have things you’re getting rid of which you were considering donating to the Salvation Army, try the aforementioned Goodwill if there is one in your area, or in several cities there are thrift shops which assist those living with HIV/AIDS. Here are a few of those:
- Housing Works – NYC
- Philly AIDS Thrift – Philadelphia
- Boomerangs – Boston
- Our Store – Salt Lake City
If you know of others, please email me at TalkAboutEquality@gmail.com and I’m happy to post them.