One mark of the holiday season in much of the US is the Salvation Army bell-ringers on every corner, asking for donations. Though the organization downplays it to an extent, they are still a conservative Christian institution, which begs the question: how do they feel about LGBT rights?
The short answer: not as positively as they might claim.
Their mission statement declares that their ministry “is motivated by the love of God…to meet human needs in His name without discrimination,” but on a page that seems to have been taken down recently, the organization added that “sexual intimacy is understood as a gift of God to be enjoyed within the context of heterosexual marriage…Christians whose sexual orientation is primarily or exclusively same-sex are called upon to embrace celibacy as a way of life.”
The sentiment is one still shared by many conservative churches, but like many other religious institutions, the SA is also known for trying to impose its morals on non-Christians as well—through legal means. According to the Daily Kos, the SA has “an active history of LGBT discrimination.” In addition to supporting anti-gay laws in New Zealand in 1986 and the United Kingdom in 1988, neither of which had to do with business or charity regulations, in 2001 the SA tried to get the White House to exempt them from laws prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people, claiming that it was needed so they “did not have to ordain sexually active gay ministers and did not have to provide medical benefits to the same-sex partners of employees.”
Additionally, in 2004, the organization made headlines when it threatened to close all of its New York City soup kitchens if forced to comply with all civil rights laws—because it would mean they were legally barred from discriminating against LGBT employees.
Stories also circulate about the SA refusing to serve LGBT people in their soup kitchens or other social programs, but none have been substantiated.
Public opinions on whether or not people should still donate to the SA vary; college freshman Sarah Kannall told the Marquette Tribune, “Other people still need help. I would believe the people that say they are not being helped, but at the same time, millions of other people need the aid…Me giving two dollars would help someone in general.”
A co-founder of the Gay Liberation Network, Andy Thayer, told the Huffington Post, “If a racist organization was trying to collect money with the message that some of the money was going towards doing good, would you support them? I would hope not.”