bow down

Does the Salvation Army Actually Make the Needy Pray to Jesus For Their Handouts?


We know the Salvation Army is hiring this holiday season. But the charity is best known not as an employer, but as a provider of disaster relief aid, food and clothing to the homeless and needy, and prisoner rehabilitation. As such, just last week we wondered aloud whether Sal’s can be excused for its very public anti-gay positions because it does so much good. And then comes this stark reminder: In performing all these good deeds, the Salvation Army also makes the needy folks who turn to it for help … pray with them. To their Christian god. You know, the Christian god who thinks your homosexuality is a sin?

Philadelphia writer Mary Shaw points us to her article last year that exposed the Salvation Army for being as much a Christian missionary as it is a do-gooder: “I have spoken with a number of people who have sought assistance from the Salvation Army in the past, particularly for disaster relief. I was told of how these people were preached to and forced into praying with the Salvation Army folks to their Christian God as a prerequisite for receiving services. If you’re Jewish, tough. If you’re Hindu, tough. Gotta pray their way, to their God, or else you’re not worthy of assistance. It’s quid pro quo. Gotta take advantage of people when they’re most vulnerable. Contrast this with the secular Red Cross, which just wants to help disaster victims, not save their souls.”

Meanwhile, it wasn’t so long ago that Sal’s was sounding just like a certain Roman Catholic Church entity: “The Salvation Army is also homophobic — so much so that they would stop helping the poor if it meant they had to respect equal rights for gays and lesbians. In 2004, they threatened to close their soup kitchens in New York City rather than comply with the city’s legislation requiring firms to offer domestic partnership benefits to gay employees.”

And things haven’t gotten any better, relays Shaw. She’s heard from a number of people on the receiving end of the Salvation Army’s services, and those who have volunteered there, including one who raised some serious questions about whether the money donated by regular folks was, uh, actually going to those most in need.

We’re not going to make any judgment calls about needy Americans, gay or otherwise, who turn to Sal’s for help when they absolutely need it. Sometimes just surviving the day — with food in your stomach and clothes on your back — trumps any notion of principle. But it’s time to sound the alarm on an anti-gay organization so entrenched in local communities that it will grow increasingly harder to effectively criticize it.

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  • Bill

    Any and every ‘religion’ that participates in ‘good works’ does so for 1 of 2 reasons:

    1. To get money from the government.


    2. To convert the poor and needy to their particular religion.

    The same is true of missionaries who travel to foreign lands. I mean, come on folks, how hard is it to get someone to bow to your particular god when they are starving to death and you are holding the only sandwich in a 5000 mile radius???

    The transparency of these motives should be apparent to anyone with half a brain that has lived on planet earth for more than 5 minutes.

  • JR

    To Queerty: Thank you for having a backbone on this very serious issue! Charity should never come with the condition that you espouse the belief systems of the the organization that is doing the giving… It is disgusting for organizations like the Salvo to make those in need jump through hoops, do tricks and beg for the assistance that they should be otherwise entitled to as much as the next person!!!

  • Jaroslaw

    I certainly don’t like the homophobia of any of these groups and I will admit I don’t know exactly what the requirements are to receive assistance from Salvation Army since I never have needed to ask. But it does seem counterproductive to “force” people if that is indeed what is going on.

    On the other hand, if you are living full time at one of their missions, eating their food, using their medical care, living in their residences, going to Church one hour or so a week doesn’t seem like an excessive burden either.

  • Jaroslaw

    hold on JR – entitled to? You are entitled to benefits from a government agency. A private charity may make what we think are unreasonable demands, but they can do it. Having said that, then I think if they are going to discriminate, they should have their tax exempt status revoked.

  • Jadis

    So, basically they’re selling their assistance, just not for money.

  • Puck

    Salvation Army has never been shy about their pro-christian policies. They view themselves as a ministry that provides services. just like St. vincent de Paul, helps catholic families first. Non-profits are not required to be secular in their assistance policies unless it specifically states that in a grant received by them from the government. One of th reasons they get away with so much is because most of their funding comes from donations

  • Danska

    I have used their help before. I am outside chicago and am on disability. (and gay) When i needed my car fixed or something and have to pick rent or car, they where more than willing to help me. Once i showed them all my documents, they processed the paperwork and twice (in 3 years) they paid my rent for me. I hate using them, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do. They even asked me each time if i needed food or clothes. They never once asked me to pray or anything. Might be just a local thing.

  • Fitz

    The problem for me isn’t that a non-profit charity has prayer.. my problem is when government (like SF until 2 years ago) where the city pays the SA as a service provider. That means that the county’s services are only available through the SA– which means that they are only available to those willing to deal with the prayer thing. Example) all the ETOH detox beds for homeless and uninsured in SF were run by the SA until 2 years ago.

  • D.B.

    I don’t see how this is news — everyone knows that the Salvation Army is a christian charitable/religious organization, hence the name “Salvation”. (Seriously, have none of you gays ever seen “Guys & Dolls?”) While I am not religious, I have no problem with the SA, as they are not a government agency, the majority of their funding comes from private sources, and no one is entitled to their services.

  • mac mcneill

    I find it strange that a religious group does things in the name of God and Jesus, but won’t help you UNLESS you join their faith. That is one reason why I won’t donate a dime to any religious based organization. Charity shouldn’t come with a condition. God’s and Jesus’s love doesn’t come with a condition. Too bad the religious groups and for the most part churches haven’t learned what Jesus and God is all about.

  • Totakikay

    Religious-based organizations are not my thing. I’ll never give a dollar to the Salvation Army, or even support them, because of their “hidden agenda.” People can believe in a God but on this Earth doing GOOD DEEDS do not have any conditions. It is called sacrifice, doing everything you can to help people in the most humanistic manner. Even if you are religious at least PRAY that your good deeds turn out well as intended. Now that is ethical. Helpless people don’t need to join your religious organization in order to get basic life needs. You know as of yet, I have never seen a real and true religion in my everyday life, in my opinion.

  • ...

    Thanks, no I don’t feel bad about not giving them money.

  • SoylentDiva

    It wouldn’t surprise me. Many religious charities dole out a heap of religion with their “charity”. It’s not uncommon for them to require people pray, listen to sermons, profess the “appropriate” faith or even convert as a condition for receiving services. That’s not charity, that’s coercion. That they do it to truly vulnerable people makes it really sick.

  • Magnus67

    Salvation Army is among the best organized fundraisers out there. Sure they do good things, but when choosing to donate my dollars, time, or possessions to charity, I prefer a group which offers its assistance without such faith-based strings attached. I also try to support organizations that can help people BEFORE they’re rendered completely jobless, homeless and hungry. Once people hit the streets it’s much harder & costlier to get them back on their feet. Stories I hear at work from people on the brink of losing it ALL if they rack up medical bills, or miss a couple days of work due to illness, scare the hell out of me.

    Anyone who thinks “It could never happen to me” should have a conversation with someone who is only a single paycheck away from disaster: talk to the guy who cleans up your office building or the single mom who stocks shelves at a dollar store. Maybe your cousin or your former neighbor.

    Truth hurts so close to home.
    [time for me to down a single shot of generic whiskey!]

  • Fitz

    The red kettles are not their only income. They are the plan providers for many city’s drug and family courts.

  • Jaroslaw

    #10 Mac McNeill – God’s love doesn’t come with conditions? Better read your Bible some more. Ever read “no one comes to the Father except through me..” ? That means eternal life and salvation only comes if you believe. If you don’t, you go to hell.

    JADS- I suppose you can say they “sell” their assistance but only if you’re referring to the contracts with government. They and most decent charities give an great deal away.

    Puck – I was active in St. Vincent DePaul for many years – they do not help Catholics first (actually I think they probably should since that is where the vast majority of their money come from!) There is no religious test to receive items from their stores or to eat at their soup kitchens etc.

  • @ Jaroslaw the dipshit

    @ Jaroslaw No. 16

    God does not condemn. God forgives.

    And you are a dipshit.

    Merry Christmas, moron.

  • drew

    Hello – Facts anyone? Directly from

    1. The Salvation Army provides help as an outgrowth of faith and as an act of obedience to God, but no service is withheld because of a recipient’s beliefs.

    2. Scripture forbids sexual intimacy between members of the same sex. The Salvation Army believes, therefore, that Christians whose sexual orientation is primarily or exclusively same-sex are called upon to embrace celibacy as a way of life. There is no scriptural support for same-sex unions as equal to, or as an alternative to, heterosexual marriage.

    Likewise, there is no scriptural support for demeaning or mistreating anyone for reason of his or her sexual orientation. The Salvation Army opposes any such abuse.

    In keeping with these convictions, the services of The Salvation Army are available to all who qualify, without regard to sexual orientation.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if QUEERTY asked it’s readers to think? Get more information and then support a charity they feel is deserving of their dollars.

    I’ve personally volunteered at Salvation Army boys & girls clubs and none of the kids was ever forced into prayer nor were their parents.

  • Tessie Tura

    Why would anyone find this to be a surprise? Check out the name of the organization – Salvation Army. Duh.

    They make no bones about the fact that they are a religious organization. As such, they are no better or no worse than any other religious organization.

    Well, perhaps they ARE better. They don’t seem to match the Catholic Church’s track record in the pedophilia department.

  • Keith Kimmel

    No one gets a free one when it comes to my rights. I dont give a shit how much good they do. I have never encountered any church (including Episcopalians – I did my research as promised – im still not impressed) or church-related group that is worthy of our support. They are still with the enemy. As far as I am concerned, anyone or anything that is connected to Christianity is suspect and unworthy of support until proven otherwise. Since I have yet to find a single organization that meets that criteria, I think its fair to simply make it a blanket statement.

    @ No. 16 · Jaroslaw – Nice to see someone else gets it.

  • Jaroslaw

    #17 There is probably no point to reply to you, but I will anyway — I welcome any reasonable discussion, but your reply hardly shows the love of God you claim to espouse. Heck, I’d even settle for just plain courtesy. I feel sorry for you.

  • @ Jaroslaw the dipshit

    @ Jaroslaw the dipshit:

    On one thing you are correct, moron:

    There IS no point in your reply.

    You are now and will always be a dipshit.

    I suspect you know that already, which is why you visit a gay website.

    So that you might make yourself feel better about your tiny little life by trying to degrade others.

    Also, I never claimed to ‘espouse’ (what a dipshit word to use, oh wait – you’re a dipshit, nevermind) anything about ‘God’s love, ya tool.)

    Now please, please, please go back to your jack-off session.

  • B

    No. 16 · Jaroslaw wrote, “#10 Mac McNeill – God’s love doesn’t come with conditions? Better read your Bible some more. Ever read ‘no one comes to the Father except through me..’ ? That means eternal life and salvation only comes if you believe. If you don’t, you go to hell.” has a discussion of this part of the Bible, with containing a “pluralistic” interpretation. While some have a “my way or the boiler room” interpretation, others do not.

    One thing to keep in mind is that any discussion between Jesus (assuming existence, whether as a divine being, a “prophet” or a crazy “street preacher”) and his followers would have been in Aramaic, then translated into Greek, and then translated into English. Prepositions in particular are hard to translate well – the usage tends to be highly idiomatic and the mapping from one language to another is not one-to-one. According to the second URL, All of “John” was an attempt to reconcile Christian/Jewish beliefs with Greek beliefs about a divine “Logos” (or “Word”), so a translation that is restrictive or non-inclusive is not really consistent in context.

  • Jaroslaw

    #22 – B – I am very capable of having an in depth theological discussion and thank you for your thoughtful reply but I didn’t think it was necessary (for me to be so in depth as you were) I hope most readers here are aware there are many interpretations of the Bible and reasons to support or not support said interpretations. That is why we have 100’s upon 100’s of Christian denominations!

    My main point was that there are always conditions and requirements. Do you dispute this in general?

  • B

    No. 23 · Jaroslaw wrote, “My main point was that there are always conditions and requirements. Do you dispute this in general?”

    Well, yes given the qualifier “always” that you used. Take
    Unitarian Universalism for example ( ): “Concepts about deity are diverse among UUs. Some believe that there is no god (atheism); others believe in many gods (polytheism). Some believe that God is a metaphor for a transcendent reality. Some believe in a female god (goddess), a passive god (Deism), an Abrahamic god, or a god manifested in nature or the universe (pantheism). Many UUs reject the idea of deities and instead speak of the ‘spirit of life’ that binds all life on earth. UUs support each person’s search for truth and meaning in concepts of spirituality.”

    All they seem to agree on is that there are a number of opinions.
    I can’t imagine them putting preconditions about religious beliefs before giving someone a little food to eat. They probably don’t care about the sex of the person you want to have sex with either.

  • Jaroslaw

    #24 B – we’re apparently having a different discussion. A poster above said God’s love is unconditional and I said every religion has conditions. (eg. Jesus “no one comes to the Father except through me etc.) This was not about a particular charity having or not having requirements before they give a hungry person something to eat.

  • Frank

    Homosexuality goes aginst the laws of God!! Plan and simple!! Try And Pick Up A Bible And Read It And Do Not Add Any Words To The Words Of God For That Is Also A Sin Just As It Is For A Man To Sleep With A Man Or A Woman To Sleep With A Women!!

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