rock, hard places

Can We Forgive the Salvation Army’s Gay Hate If It Does So Much Good?


Despite a public policy denouncing gay marriage, The Salvation Army insists it doesn’t hate the gays. It doesn’t even blame them for being gay! So is this organization — responsible for serving a reported 33 million Americans — getting a bum rap when it’s doing so much good?


But the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Phil Bronstein makes a decent, albeit brief case to say otherwise. Pointing out Sal’s contributions to bettering America — raising some $2 billion a year, and spending a whopping 89 percent of that on actual services — there’s a case to be made for putting the Army up there with laudable non-profits, given all its HIV and disaster relief work.

Defending the Salvation Army — as much of a Christmas tradition as lighting the tree — is sort of like defending the Catholic Church: They do a helluva lot of good things for society’s invisibles, sure, but they do so at the expense of actively endorsing discrimination. That’s why we’ve got little sympathy for the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington D.C., which says passage of marriage equality in the city (which is happening today!) will force it to abandon its social services programs, which help feed thousands of D.C.’s homeless and destitute. (As America struggles to survive a recession, it’s not just individuals hurting for cash these days: the Salvation Army is also seeing dwindling donations — though there are still some surprises.)

But if not the Catholic Church or the Salvation Army, who will pick up the slack? Great question. And while there are dozens and dozens of organizations deserving of similar grand funding, the situation remains: Sal’s still helps feed and cloth millions of Americans in desperate need of help.

For which they should be commended. But to excuse Sal’s faith-based homophobia, or to make the argument that they are somehow morally permitted to do wrong because they do so much right, is both a failed logic exercise and a failed moral one.

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  • Dave

    Why don’t we start picking up the slack? Stop supporting all the organizations that have become just part of the machine and create something that focuses on helping people and general and stop isolating ourselves. Making a difference without having to exculde anyone.

  • Qjersey

    The Salvation Army inserted itself into the gay rights debates in the late 90’s, which obviously has been forgotten. While they have not said much as of late, they never backtracked. I stopped donating my old clothes to them and instead drop them off directly at the local homeless shelter who are more than happy to accept clothes from a gay male couple with a smile and an eager thank you.

    I don’t care if they spend 89 cents on the dollar, if any of the other 11 cents is spent working against gay rights, even to pay a damn phone bill for telephone calls concerning LGBT rights, they are wrong.

    I personally have to pass TWO of the bell ringers every day to and from work. Nothing like having a cheery reminder that many don’t consider you an equal citizen.

  • Flex

    There are millions of atheist, and agnostic Americans who are more than happy to fulfill non-profit contracts to provide services to the needy. We should happily remind the Catholic, and christianist nazis’ to not let the door hit them in their over sized back sides on their way out!

    Go tell it to the mountain, bible thumping lunatics. We can the job better than you can!

  • RM

    There’s no shortage of worthy charities that oppose discrimination. Give generously.

  • Jerry Priori

    If they’re doing so well it’s obvious that they don’t need my support, which they will never have so long as it maintains discriminatory policies. I wouldn’t give any religious organization two nickels to rub together.

  • Jon

    “Can We Forgive the Salvation Army’s Gay Hate If It Does So Much Good?”


  • JR

    Sounds like some serious back-peddling on this story by Queerty… One of Salvo’s PR monsters must have gotten a hold of someone there. Like I said before, there are plenty of local and national charities that do just as much good without all the ‘Evil Twin’ syndrome that the Salvo has! I donate all my used goods to the Brown Elephant in Chicago… They are associated with Howard Brown Health Center and do much more good for the LGBT community and those affected by HIV/AIDS here than any other charity I can name!

    Have a backbone Queerty & stick to your guns! Nothing you say is ever going to endear us to that treacherous excuse of a charity… EVER! I think that those of us who have read the original story and this lame follow-up know what the real story is and are educated enough to follow our own convictions…

  • romeo

    Charity begins at home, not at your enemy’s house. Here in LA we have gay charities like Out of the Closet, which has the best thrift stores. (Naturally, they’re gay!) And there are plenty of others. Look for service orgs. that help LGBT homeless, etc..

    We’re not welcome with the Salvation Army, so we’ll not be missed as contributors. Simple.

  • DairyQueen

    I don’t care how much money they raise. The fact they would not budge (and still haven’t) in SF back in the 90’s to comply with the anti-discrimation ordinace was enough for me to stop donating or going to their stores. Like other commenters on here have said: There are many other groups helping the poor who are not discriminating people. This is them trying to use scare/bully tactics in DC. Let them stop serving the community. Why should we have to give our tax money to this group? Let them go ask the pope for the money they will lose because they want to be against equality. Boo-hoo. This is just like the Boy Scout BS. If you want to discriminate then do so, but do expect a free ride from the US/State governments.

  • Mike in Asheville, nee "in Brooklyn"

    @No.10 C. David Parsons:

    And what, do tell, is perversion?

    Is it a perversion for mutually consenting adults to suck eachother’s cock? butt fuck? eat pussy?

    Perversion is when Catholic priests use their authority as leaders of their flock to molest, rape and abuse children, girls and boys. Perversion is when a community endorses rape and mutilation as a means proving family pride. Perversion is when rape is used as a weapon of war.

    You, prick, are a perversion, attempting to promote your bigotry through the misquoted, misinterpreted, mistranslated Gospel of Jesus.

  • DairyQueen

    @ C. Davis Parson: WTF does jacking off have to with the Salvation Army and discrimation?

  • alan brickman

    Glaad and Hrc should evolve into these type of organizations…not just posy fundraisers and fey denoucements…

  • Forrest

    I internally shake with rage having to walk past the SA bellringers this time of year. Sometimes I can’t keep it bottled up.
    Last week I told one of them when their organization starts treating us fairly I will donate. She looked shocked and said she “did not know”. Which very well could be true. Still, I will never give support to an organization that uses “charitable” donations to fight against my rights.

    Other organizations do equally good work and don’t discriminate against anyone.

  • Paul

    As a non-theist, I give absulutely nothing to any religious-based charity. I’m one of thees folks that give change to people on street corners, but if they have a sign that says “god bless”, they get nothing from me. I left the catholic church (where i was raised) as soon as i realized i wasn’t wanted. So did my straight brother, who told me he could not abide any organization that hated his brother!

  • Todd

    Discrimination against gays is indefensible. Period.
    There are no valid, rational excuses.

  • romeo

    Did anybody click on that link in that creepy #10 post? If Jesus talked about masturbation, then I totally missed that all these years, and I sure as shit don’t want to find out about it now.

    I’d prefer to think of Him as this kinda sweet dude that liked to get drunk at parties and do some really cool tricks when the wine was running low.

  • Gary

    Fuck them – let Jesus pick up the tab, we’re human beings too, goddammit!

  • Bob R

    I donate nothing, money or property, to any religious charity. Nor do I donate to any political organization unless they represent a specific candidate or position that I can directly support.

  • Kevin

    You know, my mother used to ring the bell for Salvation Army. It made her feel good to collect money for the charity. She had absolutely no idea that they had a homophobic policy. Lets not bring hatred on the people who are trying to do something good during the holiday season. Many of them are not aware. I would hate to think that some gay person would have been rude to my mother. She doesn’t ring the bell anymore, because I told her about SA’s policies. We shouldn’t let them off the hook and definitely shouldn’t donate our money, but keep the attitude from the people ringing the bell.

  • SoylentDIva

    There are millions of charitable organizations out there to support. Why give our money to one that is anti-gay and pushes religion as well?

  • TVS

    Hamas also does a lot of charity work in some Middle-Eastern regions.

  • Erick

    No, there are other charities that are gay friendly and they do just as much good work and probably need the help a lot more that than the SA.

    Give your money to them.

  • Fitz

    The problem is even more serious than who we decide to donate to. The SA here was the county’s ONLY provider of certain services.. like medically supervised detox beds. Family Emergency Shelters. Things like that. So, if they don’t acknowledge your family as being a family, that means you don’t qualify for their services. It is important to remember that a lot of our queer kin are not doing as well as us.

  • romeo

    Kevin #20, you make an important point. The bell ringers here in LA look like very poor people, possibly homeless, making a few extra bucks. We should not take it out on them. Just politely pass them by.

  • Rob Moore

    I cannot knowingly give money to a religious organisation. I find a lot of secular alternatives exist. However much good a religious organisation does, it cannot help but advertise its religion. It is my contention that no one needs religion to live a moral life. So the Salvation Army hires a homeless person to ring the bell and gives them a few bucks for a few weeks. What is accomplished? The Salvation Army only started the practise of hiring bell ringers when their own numbers fell to low. It is a dying denomination.

  • Losenas

    @Kevin’s (20): While I agree that taking out frustration on bell ringers is generally wrong, I have run into some particularly obnoxious (pushy) bell ringers…at that point, I feel no remorse at knocking them down a peg or two. ;-)

  • Keith Kimmel

    Lets not forget that Hitler did some good things, too. Hell, even Sally Kern donates to a few charities and is not completely without a small speck of redemption. Doesn’t mean they are worthy of support, consideration or restraint in directing our ire at them.

  • DragonScorpion

    I’m never rude to those persons ringing the bells; they have nothing to do with policy, and, to my knowledge are volunteering their time in the cold because they believe they are supporting a good cause. Most of them, I’m sure, do not deserve any scorn.

    However, here’s what I drop in those little buckets when I see them:

  • Brian NJ

    One service I participate in is they have this used items depot, thrift shop in Pompton Lakes, NJ, and I donate my used things to them. Poor members of the community can buy things there. But I don’t donate to shop solicitations.

  • Fitz

    Brian– yea.. but they give vouchers for items to families in need to shop at those thrift stores. And a gay family does not qualify as a family. So poor gay people can’t get those free old fridge’s and crock pots. Just the straight ones.

  • Gary

    Wow! there is sure a lot of hatred being expressed on in these comments. you’d think that those of us who have experienced the hatred first hand would be more careful not to be like our abusers. Shame on us!

  • Attmay

    @28 Keith Kimmel:

    The Autobahn does not cancel out the Holocaust.

  • hannah

    the reason the salvation army is “homophobic” is because they believe sex outside of marriage is sin. A very wide majority of salvationists have nothing against a gay couple walking down the sidewalk, just as they have no problem with a straight couple walking down the sidewalk. The only thing the salvation army doesn’t like is premarital sex. They don’t turn anyone down and don’t use any of the donations, grants, etc. for anti-gay purposes. I think it is truly a shame that all of you cannot fully understand the salvation army’s mission. The only ones discriminating are you, saying you hate the volunteer bell ringers that stand in the cold for hours at a time to raise money for ANYONE who walks through the salvation army’s doors in need of help.

  • Anonymous

    The “Salvation” Army has permanently pissed me off. A woman in the Chicago area passed away in the 1990s and left them $100 million bucks. What did these arseholes do? They built themselves a regular Taj Mahal of a “community center”. Now, they need MORE money, just to maintain that building.

    That is not to say how one day I came across a pair of “Salvoes” (Aussie slang for Salvation Army “officers”) in June begging for donations. What a waste. If that widow gave me the money instead, at least you wouldn’t see more bell ringers than before. Those salvoes can go to hell in a hand basket nonstop. The faster the plane or spacecraft the better.

  • Daryl Lach

    The comments made by # 35 are a perfect example of a gay person who doesn’t know what the heck he/she’s talking about spreading rumors about The Salvation Army based on regurgitated hearsay.

    First of all the Army helps EVERYONE– that’s EVERYONE– who needs help—not just straight families. Also the non-discrimination policies that were to go into effect in 2001 were thrwarted by a man named James Dobson (Focus On the Family) in Colorado who caused such a ruckus among conservative Christians that the Commissioner’s Conference in D.C. found themselves backed up against a wall because they were going to lose an awful lot of financial support from conservative Christians at the time.

    If one were to read the comments in various SA publications back then (such as the Western Frontier) one would have seen that most Salvation Army officers were overwhelming in support of the change in health care policy and were unhappy that the fundamentalists in the organization and fundamentalist supporters outside of the organization won out.

    Also, the policy didn’t mention sex or gays. The news media (and then Dobson and Pat Robertson, etc.) blew the gay angle up. The policy simply stated that an employee could add any other person in their household to their health insurance by paying a small stipend with no questions asked as to the person’s relationship to the employee. It could be one’s own mother for crying out load. In this way TSA could apply for and get local, state and federal government grants, etc. to help with their work just like any other organization that qualified for such grants and funding.

    Since then TSA has instituted this policy quietly and without any fanfare in communities across America and will continue to do so. And just like all of society the younger Sallies and the Army’s younger leadership are exposed to and learning about homosexuality and its root causes, etc. in a much different way than the old-timers did. This change in attitude will be reflected in the church’s policies within the next generation and is changing even as I write.

    Btw, the “woman in Chicago who left TSA $100 million dollars” was Joan Kroc of McDonald’s fame and she lived in San Diego–not Chicago. She left TSA $1.6 billion dollars nationally with the specific purpose of building community centers (with a Salvation Army corps (church) attached to each one)because she liked the whole concept of a corps-community center. (Body, mind and spirt.) 25 such centers are either already up and running or being built throughout the US in underserved communities. But she also had very specific regulations attached to that money. She insisted that the communities involved were to be come up with a certain percentage of the endowment money to keep the Kroc Corps Community Centers running. That’s why more fund raising was needed. The $100 million the Army in Chicago got to build the center (which is in one of the most crime ridden areas of the city)had to be supplemented with more fund raising–for the endowment. Got that?

    Also she specifically stated that her gift was not to be used for any other purpose than the Kroc Centers. None of the money could be used for any other Salvation Army services or be put into the general fund.

    I hope this clears up some obvious misconceptions some people seem to have about The Salvation Army.

  • Diane Illinois

    I do know that TSA does not ask a person if they are gay or not before they provide help for them, and I do know that TSA does support ANY person who needs the help as much as is permitted by funds available. Shame on the gay community and the media for blowing this misinformation up so much bigger so they can hate a Christian organization. Lots of people are haters of Christians. Speaking of Hitler, religious persecution is nothing new, so what does that make you? The Salvation Army strives to make a better life for anyone who needs the help. They do a better job than many organizations, and certainly, the best they can do. Heart to God and Hand to Man.
    And, yes, shame on you for being so hateful and for all your clever little tricks to treat people poorly–hmmm sounds like discrimination/persecution to me!

  • Matt

    Here in Australia while The Salvation Army may oppose same sex marriage, it does not discriminate against gay people when it comes to providing welfare or employment. There are many homosexual identifying people who are employed by the organisation, many of whom are in active same sex relationships.

    In terms of things like homeless shelters, they’re open to anyone regardless of sexual attraction. In fact transsexual women are fine to stay at a female shelter.

    The Salvation Army operates different in different areas of the world.

    The fact The Salvation Army discriminate in the United States is more a testament to U.S. culture than anything.

  • k

    if salvation army has any decency and actually cares for those they help, they would not use withdrawn of service to support their anti gay agenda. that is dispicable.

    yes, it is about time that gay community consider more involvement in charity work.

    and maybe we should consider support more non gay bashing charity too.

Comments are closed.