Salvation Army: Ringing Anti-Gay Bells

1 Dec

Our friend Bil Browning over at 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 The law has since been repealed, but it led many schools and colleges to close LGBT student organizations out of fear they’d lose their government funding.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:

If you know of others, please email me at and I’m happy to post them.

5 Responses to “Salvation Army: Ringing Anti-Gay Bells”

  1. blogattack December 4, 2011 at 12:17 am #

    I worked at a thrift store for awhile that was part of a chain, it’s called Savers, or Value Village, or in French Canada, Village des Valeurs. They pair up with local charities and buy items donated to the charity, so the store gets stuff and the charity gets money. They’re another alternative to Salvation Army.

    • Lisa Schwartz December 7, 2011 at 9:06 pm #

      Does anyone have a roster of local atrocities around the country? I want to prepare a flyer to use in an education campaign around this issue but these incidents were mostly too long ago to have impact. In my town they worked to oppose the formation of a gay-welcoming christian church – it makes me want to vomit, and to organize because I think most people dont know that SA is so virulently anti-gay. EMail to if you have any information for me. THanks! Lisa

  2. JR December 5, 2011 at 4:06 pm #

    Seriously, I’m offended by this article.

    I have worked for the Salvation Army for just over a year and have seen some of the most selfless acts of kindness on a daily basis, by people who dedicate their lives to be compassionate humans.

    All the money we collect through the Kettle Campaign goes DIRECTLY back into our community, to support our local Food Bank, Thrift Store, and various other programs that are extremely important to those less fortunate.

    I have seen first hand the true meaning of Christmas spirit, and to read this author’s proposal to boycott the Salvation Army is incredibly shameful. It is not our job to judge ANY individual, but to give support to those who ask.

    Please do your research before engaging in this kind of smear campaign, and realize that you are potentially hurting THOUSANDS of families who rely on our support – especially during the Christmas Season.

    • Lisa Schwartz December 12, 2011 at 9:05 pm #

      I am glad you have had a positive experience with the salvation army in your area. Unfortunately they are not so happening with the true christmas spirit where I live, and in many many other communities across the county (or at national headquarters). And there are plenty of other groups that are not bigoted and do essentially the same work as SA. So to me its a no brainer where to give my money. And so far pretty much everyone I talked to agrees.

  3. AnnS March 18, 2012 at 10:37 pm #

    just found this blog and post. As a former SA employee, the truth is that the SA should lose its religious designation and fed exemptions as a “church” organization. The only employees who work for the SA as employees of a “church” or a “religious” organization are the SA “officers”.

    These people are treated much differently from regular employees. Regular employees have no connection to the religious work/church/program AT ALL. There have been many EEOC complaints filed against SA officers. I personally know of one so-called officer-minister who was a mean, bigoted person. The EEOC approved a lawsuit and the employees decided they did not have the time or money to go through it.

    It is disgraceful that the SA just moves these kinds of “officers” from city to city with no consequences.

    Where do your red kettle coins go? This officer I worked for took “coffee money” off the top that was never counted in with the donations. He and his wife bought hundreds of dollars in food for their family use as “shelter” supplies. At least 12% of local Salvation Army’s bottom line raised or received goes directly to the HQ. So when they tell you it stays locally, think again. And those bell ringers, most are paid and have no business ringing bells that attract children and teens.

    When they tell you they do background checks, I know for a fact that this one area sent many out the same day hired straight out of the shelter because “no ringing, no money.” He was determined to have the schedule filled at every location no matter who rang the bell. They cannot keep up with the background checks, period.

    The Salvation Army owns hundreds of high end homes across the US to house its officers. In my area, SA owns 3 or four homes averaging at least $250,000 each. In Boston, the Salvation Army officer lives in a $900,000 home because he didn’t want to be near the people he serves. Officers have lovely summer cabins and homes paid for with your red kettle money. They have new cars every two years, they get to buy the “old” cars for dimes on the dollar. They target elderly people with frequent direct mail pleas. They claim not to make much money. The fact is that every living expense, cars, food, utilities, gas, uniforms, and furniture are paid directly by Salvation Army. “Petty cash” covers the rest. Regular employees wait TEN YEARS to vest in retirement. Officers get a fat check upon retirement and full benefits free before/after. It is disgraceful that the Federal government treats the Salvation Army as though it is a religious organization. I have worked for a church. We ALL were involved in worship services, religious programming and serving our members and community. The Salvation Army is no longer a church organization. It is a big corporation that benefits mightily from public money and local donations from unsuspecting people.

    The truth I learned from working for the SA was an eye-opener. Routinely, the SA counts shelter residents 2x for federal and state “emergency” shelter grants, charges shelter occupants by the week (although SA gets grant money to house them), claims on grant funding apps to serve 3 meals/day when it did not, and received city funds for “cooling” and “warming” programs when utility costs were already covered under another grant, and took city funds for a breakfast program that duplicated the grant money received.

    The SA is so far away from its humble Christian service roots. I did meet some nice people and officers in SA and we did our best to help those in need in spite of the “officers” in charge. The overall Salvation Army has closed-minded, closed door management practices that reward the mean-spirited behavior and conduct that contradicts what I believe as a Christian. God calls on us to tell the truth and expose those who contradict Him. There are many LOCAL-headquartered options in your city to help the homeless and others in need. Give to those good, selfless, faithful-to-all LOCAL groups all year, not just at holiday time.

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