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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