‘Tis the season. In cities across the country, Salvation Army volunteers wearing red Santa hats and aprons are ringing bells and soliciting donations. But if you were already thinking twice before dropping your hard-earned coins into those little red coffers you may want to think a third time.
Queerty has obtained SA internal documents that give lie to its propaganda campaign to win back LGBT donors and staff and confirm what we’ve suspected all along: The Christian charity discriminates against LGBT people, but it doesn’t want anyone to know about it.
Of course, this isn’t an entirely new revelation. But the documents underscore the tug of war within the Methodist organization between religious laws, which leadership believes requires discrimination when it comes to marriage and sex, and civil laws, which ban discrimination in hiring and in the workplace.
SA is no stranger to antigay scandals. Perhaps the most infamous occurred in 2012, when Andrew Craibe, media relations director for SA Australia, said gay people should be put to death. SA officials denounced the claim in the strongest possible terms, but each time a similar incident occurs, the organization goes into public relations crisis mode, arguing that the individual incidents do not reflect its larger stance.
One of the documents Queerty obtained is a memo regarding the SA’s official views on what it calls “LGBT issues,” by midwest Commissioner Paul Seiler. Dated February 21, 2014, the policy statement was emailed to officers in the Salvation Army’s Central Territory, which serves Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North & South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, and Indiana.
Subject line: “LGBT issues in light of equality of marriage laws.”
“This is not for public use,” the letter warns, “including social media of any sort.”
What follows are four pages detailing the SA’s theological views on the “homosexual orientation” (which it calls “a matter of profound complexity”), its position on marriage (which it states can only happen “between one man and one woman”), and its expectations that unmarried (a.k.a. gay) officers “be celibate in the expression of their sexuality.”
In addition to the letter signed by Seiler, Queerty also obtained the SA’s 24-page “Nondiscrimination Communications” memo, which was sent out by the charity’s national headquarters, detailing how spokespersons are supposed to respond when asked about its treatment of the LGBT community.
Let’s take a closer look at the organization’s public and private talking points, based on the documents which have not been released publicly before now…
What it says publicly:
Among the Army’s official talking points from its “Nondiscrimination Communications” memo on how it treats LGBT people are the following:
The Salvation Army does not believe that homosexual orientation is a sin.
We emphatically reject accusations of discrimination based on sexual orientation; claims to the contrary are false.
We simply do not discriminate against the people we serve or hire. Our doors are open to all.
We serve and hire all people without discrimination.
What it says in private:
The internal letter signed by Seiler and sent to officers on February 21 states:
Leadership roles in denominational activities such as teaching or holding local officer roles require certain adherence to consistently held spiritual beliefs. This would apply to any conduct inconsistent with Salvation Army beliefs and would include same-sex sexual relationships.
So the organization does not discriminate… except in policing the relationships of LGBT officers.
But it doesn’t stop there. Seiler’s letter also instructs:
For anyone in a Salvation Army ministry position, the theological belief regarding sexuality is that God has ordained marriage to be between one man and one woman and sexual activity is restricted to one’s spouse. Non-married individuals would therefore be celibate in the expression of their sexuality. This is the long-standing expectation of all individuals in ministry roles in The Salvation Army, including lay people.
In other words: Gay people can’t get married. Unmarried people can’t have sex. Therefore, gay people are forbidden from being intimate with one another.
The letter also forbids SA officers from marrying same-sex couples:
The officer would therefore decline acting in any officiating capacity at a same-sex marriage.
And that if an officer wants to attend a same-sex wedding as a guest, he or she must go incognito:
When an officer attends a same-sex marriage as a friend or family, it would be consistent with our policy that the wedding would be at a non-Army facility and the officer would be out of uniform.
The punishment for breaking any of these rules? “Termination.”
The memo states:
Officers are ordained and commissioned by The Salvation Army are expected to follow a number of organizational and denominational policies and there are consequences for internal disregard, which may include termination.
Now, here’s what the Salvation Army told Queerty:
Jennifer Byrd, the director of communications for the Salvation Army, responded to our inquiry on the matter with the following e-mail:
The Salvation Army is a religious organization founded in 1865 by a Methodist minister. As such all 3,500 officers that you see wearing a uniform are ordained ministers in The Salvation Army church. The letter you reference addresses the theology of the organization and is used to help guide Salvation Army officers as they navigate the LGBT issue nationwide. While The Salvation Army has a theology of marriage, it also has a theology of service. Please know that the requirement of celibacy for single officers – those who are heterosexual and those who are members of the LGBT community – has always been a policy in The Salvation Army. The Salvation Army serves 30 million people a year without discrimination, as you will see by the information included in the communications packet you have.
We realize our message of service to the LGBT community and our non-discriminatory employment practices have been overlooked, misconstrued or misunderstood in recent years, and our focus the past 12-18 months has to be address these failings. We have traveled the country extensively meeting with Salvation Army officers and employees to help communicate the mission of The Salvation Army as it relates to the LGBT community and encourage them to reach out to LGBT organizations on a local level as we have on a national level.
Just so everyone’s on the same page, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word “discrimination” is defined as “the practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or groups of people.”
Insisting that LGBT officers remain unmarried and refrain from “expressing their sexualities” is, by definition, discriminatory. But SA goes even further, requiring that officers distance themselves from same-sex weddings but not opposite-sex weddings.
The SA may claim it “serves 30 million people a year without discrimination,” and that may be true, but it doesn’t address the issue of how the organization treats its LGBT officers (a.k.a. those doing the serving). They remain marginalized.
To be clear: We’re not trying to argue with the Salvation Army’s theological views. It can believe what it wants to believe. The problem is, these beliefs, which are shared privately among SA insiders, are at direct odds with the organization’s public message, which states, in blanket terms, that it does not discriminate based on sexual orientation.
Sounds like SA wants to have its cake and eat it too.
Read Commissioner Paul Seiler’s memo in full below:
Salvation Army Says “No, Seriously. We’re Not Antigay. Now Give Us Your Money, Please. God Bless.”
Salvation Army Media Director: Gays Should Be Put To Death
Don’t Fall For the Salvation Army’s PR Spin! They’re Still Super Antigay
Graham Gremore is a columnist and contributor for Queerty and Life of the Law. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
I think the first point about SA that people really need to understand is that it functions as a church with employment policies not unlike the Catholic Church or any other religious institution. Their soldiers are like priests. Most people think of SA in a manner similar to Goodwill or Red Cross. Obviously, this is not the case. I’ve told friends this before, but they never seem to believe me.
Second, this is why I donate money and clothes to locally owned groups and thrift shops instead of the SA – which is similar to my position on the Knights of Columbus (a Catholic group). Religious orgs can do as they please, and I have no problem with that, but then again, so can I.
So my question comes down to this: I am gay and married. If some tragedy befalls me, would the Salvation Army decline assisting me if I ask?
This is America. A persons or corporations personal beliefs are their own, so long as the service they perform is not diminished based on the sexual orientation of the individual receiving the service.
If the answer is YES, that I would be treated differently, then I most certainly have an issue with the chain-smoking bell ringers that seem to proliferate every doorway in the region.
I found a template online that prints 1/3 of the front of a $20 bill. The other 2/3s states “This will be real once the SA stops discrimatory practices”. It’s legal as long as less than 1/2 of the bill is printed on one side. Fold it in thirds and it easily passes as a $20 bill. Once they get into the bucket and open the bill—–WA-LA!
The Salvation Army also hires people to ring those kettle bells. I took a pic of the job listing they had posted on the door of their thrift store back in October.
The SA bell ringers are annoying pests.
I make it a habit of not donating to any organization with religious affiliations. I haven’t found too many that are “gay friendly” and I just don’t feel like donating my money to a group who will use it to fight against my rights.
Never give them a penny!!!
Christianity was started by Jews, but that doesn’t make it a Jewish organization. Martin Luther was a Roman Catholic, but that doesn’t make the Lutheran denominations Roman Catholic organizations. Likewise, the fact that the Salvation Army was started by a Methodist minister doesn’t make it a “Methodist organization.”
Don’t spend any of your gay dollars at the numerous SA thrift stores around the country. There’s one in the middle of the gay nabe of Chelsea in NYC. I’m sure lots of gays are contributing to their own discrimination.
@jimstoic: I couldn’t care less. They’re all Christians to me. I have no use for any of them.
After 9/11, I learned that every single cent that the SA collected that was intended for the families of the victims went to the families of the victims.
The proof came from a private organization founded for that single overlook. Most of the charities kept the money in a bank account until it gained a significant amount of interest before it was given to those it was intended.
IT WAS A LONG WAIT.
That said, IMO– The SA should remember that, “Thou Shalt Not Bare False Witness”
OMG I’m so surprised!! Religious hypocrites…..what next??
Queerty, your investigative pieces are just getting better and better. So grateful for that, THANK YOU.
As for the Salvation Army, you said it perfectly. Theological beliefs are a matter of faith, and who here is going to argue that “My God can beat up Your God”? (You saw how that worked out for the Egyptians in “Exodus: Gods and Kings” 😉
However, their policy has a HUGE built-in contradiction.
First, they say that everyone who is single who works for them must be celibate.
THEN they say that LGBT people CAN’T LEGALLY MARRY. SO….that means they are condemning all LGBT people to a lifetime of celibacy, if they want to work for their organization.
Hmmmmm. The irony.
I wonder how they feel about unfaithful married people? I mean, technically, they are “married,” but they are also having relations with those they are not married to. Ergo sum, the only way to get around this for LGBT Salvation Army employees is to marry a heterosexual, then cheat on another married man/woman in a sham “heterosexual” marriage. I’m serious – that technically seems to get them around the problem.
The Salvation Army REALLY does a lot of good things. But there are just as many worthwhile organizations that embrace ALL humans, without misleading claims and bizarre dogmatic loopholes. Sorry, Santa with a Bell. I won’t be giving you that $100 bill this year.
@jwtraveler: @jwtraveler: @Mack: It’s all or nothing with those pesky Christians! SOME of us or ALL of us are pure evil.
jwtraveler says ” I have no use for any of them (Christians)” – until he’s bleeding out in the back of an ambulance, and won’t go to a Presbyterian, Episcopal, Baptist or Catholic hospital E.R.
Everyone is being used by labels – and really bad logic (a course they used to require in high school and college) When you make these broad sweeping assertions against others, it damages EVERYthing. It’s BAD thinking, purely emotional. Al Sharpton tactics.
Lots of people don’t even realize that the Salvation Army is an evangelical religious denomination. But they do a LOT of good with pulling substance abusers out of the gutters and into meaningful work. I don’t agree with most of my gay friends on EVERYthing, but I don’t boycott their store or their law office, or whatever they do. The army shows up at burned out apartments in the middle of the night with food, clothes and lodging when I doubt that you do unless it was maybe on your own street.
This is why I’m getting really tired of being a Democrat. We are being USED in a polarized, uncivilized society. I’ll still shop at S.A. stores and dine at Chick Filet.
Personally, I’d be more than happy to “argue with the Salvation Army’s theological views”, but if we accept that they hold them and will continue to hold them, these restrictions seem to me to flow from those views in a pretty ordinary way, and are comparable to the kind of rules any viewpoint-based organization would impose on its officers. It’s really kind of silly to think that a group that believes homosexuality is a sin would allow its officers to officiate at a same-sex wedding, isn’t it?
As others have suggested, the answer is to recognize their viewpoint as it is, and then make a decision as to whether or not to drop that bill into the bucket on the way out of Vons. For myself, I will not be doing so.
Not only does the Salvation Army consistently discriminate and disseminate anti-gay sentiments, in Australia they have recently been investigated by a Royal Commission into the institutional sexual abuse of children. A number of Salvation Army officers have been exposed as serial abusers and – wouldn’t you know – the organisation systematically covered up the abuse over many years. They are everything you’d expect of a religious organisation. Do not donate to the Salvation Army under any circumstances.
@RIGay: I’m not sure if you read the full article. It clearly states that they will not discriminate against someone coming in who needs services regardless of sexual orientation or the nature of their marriage.
The “restriction” of celibacy is no for all employees. This is only a requirement for the officers of the Salvation Army. An officer is another name for the pastor of the Salvation Army. I do not know many religions that allows men of the cloth to participate in sex outside of marriage. As far as employees go, there is not requirement to remain celibate or to straight for that matter unless they are a leader in the church side of the Salvation Army. I work for the Salvation Army and would and I have no idea how many gay, lesbian, transexual, or bisexual I have served because I have never asked. If you need help, then that’s all I need to know.
@Lance Mullholland: Actually, the Red Cross does a much better job of responding to local disasters of the house fire variety, and they don’t discriminate against their employees – so if disaster relief is your main concern, the ARC is a better fit for donor dollars. As for clothing donations, job placements, etc… Goodwill has a similar mission.
You are, however, correct with respect to their ministry-driven mission. All churches reach out within the community to help in some way, and with few exceptions, most don’t hire or support LGBT clergy or perform marriages for LGBT couples. All of the facts need to be taken into consideration when choosing where to send contributions – or, if to send. The problem with SA is that they try to have it both ways. They have a public “non-discrimination” policy, but they function very differently with respect to HR, and they seem to want to hide that fact from the public. The Catholic Church and the Baptists are not quite so coy about their policies. They proudly and openly discriminate… because Jesus said it was cool, apparently.
I am curious if anyone knows of a charity that doens’t discriminate against the LBGT community? The only one I can think of is the Metropolitan Community Church. Any other ideas?
where i live the SA provides food and shelter to anybody who gets in line. some of those people are gay, no doubt. some of them are down and out BECAUSE they are gay. before they give you food or a warm bed to sleep, nobody ever asks these guys “have you sucked any co*ck in the last 30 days”. why queerty jumps on christians the way they (consistently) do is beyond me. queerty is hurting charities who help gay homeless men, taking money from their coffers when they help so many gay people. aside from queerty’s consistently anti-christian aganda i don’t know how queerty thinks christian bashing is a good thing. in this case, it’s not.
A complete waste of everyone’s time, no matter how well intentioned, because its foundational premise is one of arrant, cherry-picking hypocrisy. The Bible condemns divorce far more than it can be held to outlaw intimacy between homosexuals, but how many so-called Christians are into their 2nd, 3rd or 4th marriage? One could go on about how the Bible also commands death for picking up sticks on the Sabbath, and the shallow “in context” excuses that are reserved for heterosexually based laws only, but you can Google all that.
The policies of the SA seem identical to those of the Roman Catholic Church with the difference being that the RCC is open about them, anyone can read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Lance Mullholland made a good point. I am NOT going to refuse medical aid from a Catholic hospital if I need it despite knowing their official position from a religious standpoint. In fact most hospitals around here are a part of the Franciscan health care family. They do not refuse service to ANYONE, gay or straight, Christian or Jew, Catholic or Protestant, Believer or Atheist, Black or White, etc. And they do not proselytize when you are there. And if someone is having a financial crisis and needs life saving surgery, they will perform it for free (someone I know had this done), once again, not caring what your religious beliefs are, your sexual orientation is, your race, creed, gender identity etc. I DEFINITELY disagree with them spiritually speaking but if I am bleeding to death and I need their help, I will take it gratefully. That being said, I do not excuse the Salvation Army’s dishonesty here.
I don’t think there is anything shocking here. The SA discriminates as to those ministerial positions which require adherence to their religious teachings. It doesn’t discriminate in filling positions that are not ministerial in nature or which don’t require adherence. It also doesn’t discriminate in the provision of services. The SA says it complies with the law, even if that means that a same-sex wedding is hosted at an SA facility and even if it means benefits are paid to a same-sex spouse. While partial discrimination/partial non-discrimination would not be acceptable in a business or in government, SA is a religious organization. So this situation is an improvement. I’m not sure why SA wouldn’t want this document to be seen.
Good for Queerty for doing some actual journalism, finding news and reporting it, rather than living off the work of others. Please do more of this.
My mother was saved from hunger in the ’30’s by the soup at the SA. That being said, this is the 21st century and to get my money they have a lot of explaining to do.
I’m a Christian but I refuse to support the SA ever since I learned of such views. We have so many homeless in our city but I still think there has to be a more compassionate organization I can support.
When I was a child The Salvation Army helped me and my family when my step-father abandoned us to the streets, and I will always be grateful to them for their help. However, the directors of The Salvation Army abandoned the Christian Faith of its founders, Pastor William and Catherine Booth, a very long time ago, and the current leader André Cox ascribes to Hitler’s doctrine of hatred toward homosexuals. The organization no longer represents the grace, kindness, and mercy that Jesus Christ offered to the Outcast, and I am ashamed of them.
-Rev. Jim Cunningham
King James Bible Ministries International
@gryphen: The Unitarians
I’d rather support political organizations that are working toward creating a society without poverty than contribute to an organization that gives handouts in a society that is organized to perpetuate poverty.
@Lance Mullholland: I live in NYC. I can go to the Jewish hospitals.
@Mack: My sentiments exactly. There are hundreds of other charity’s out there that are gay friendly, I can’t stand when the discriminatory one’s get the attention :/
@Lance Mullholland: Actually, the Salvation Army will not help people who are drunk or under the influence. This is why my former neighbour, who worked suicide lines, would never refer anybody to the Sally Ann.
Two good friends of mine from New Zealand were working for removing anti-gay laws from the books there. The major opposition was coming from the Salvation Army. It was shortly after NZ banned US nuclear ships from its harbours. These friends (one was my officemate) both said that the SA was being funded with American money in a political attempt to undermine the party that had both banned the ships and opposed the removal of anti-gay laws. The end was to punish the party for offending the US, but the means was to play on anti-gay prejudice.
HYPOCRITES ALL! NOT ONE RED CENT!
This holiday season, why not tell the Salvation Army to “eat shit and die”?
As if all of its non-married heterosexual workers were celibate; give me a fucking break.
I love the random never before seen accounts that come on and claim that the SA doesn’t discriminate against people that come there for services.
That is a complete lie. They have been caught multiple times doing just that.
My main issue is how very tortured the policy/talking points seem to be. It is as if SA is trying to have their cake and ice cream too.
A much better policy for the Salvation Army is to adopt a liberal experience of biblical teaching. They should support same sex marriage fully and without any tortured language.
My sense is that SA does a lot of good work and they help a lot of people. They need to get out of their own way.
If your city is NYC…..’you ain’t seen nothing yet’
The new mayor and his administration says it is among other things, pro Gays, but the residue of their ‘all or nothing’ attitude with respect to governing will backfire as it did in Detroit.
They have already lost the cops…soon you will see a slowdown of all enforcement activities ordered by the union, and after that, the firefighters, the garbage collectors, the subway system…..until the mayor capitulates, or takes early retirement.
Ms Urethra Johnson
We stopped in front of a bell ringer the other day… We looked at each other… and told him bluntly: we just got married and we’re not giving you money, but hey, Merry Christmas anyway… Felt really good… Haven’t shopped there in years… I see it as “blood” money…
I love the hypocrisy of all these posters. You all scream and rant how you want to be treated as an equal. That you deserve the right to live your lives as you want. That you deserve the right to think and believe in what you want.
So what right do you have to tell any one else how they should live their lives? Where do you get off telling others what the can and cannot believe in? Even worse you tell people to pray what you tell them to pray or you go after them like a vicious pack of rabid animals.
Apparently the real hate filled draconian players are you. You deny everyone the right to live as they chose- they can only live as you decide. You preach about people should be able to live as they want then you turn around and FORCE them to live the way you tell them.
You folks are beyond hypocrisy. It is quite clear that you are nothing but hate filled violent people. What’s next on your agenda- death camps for those who dare to worship a God you don’t approve of? Someone disagrees with you folks and you go out head hunting. Disgusting and pathetic.
Tell me- what is the difference between violent gay bashers and you? Not A Damned thing.
@BadgerBob: Ah yes. You’re a Sergeant or Captain in the SA then, yes? MMMmmm… your point is? Shaddap, silly little street urchin!
@Dakotahgeo: Hypocrites like yourself? What right do you have to tell others how to live? who they can worship? Don’t like the SA- fine. Go start your own agency that feeds the poor, helps the infirm, etc.. Oh wait- you would never do that. To much hate in your soul.
Have to love the hypocrisy of the posters here. Scream and rant for the right to live as you want but then you all turn around and show your true colors. You hate and wish violence upon those who are different than you.
@Maude: de blasio (his given name at birth was Warren Wilhelm), is going to be re-called for being an idiot. when he was busy suc*king giant, juicy hipster and furgeson “junk” he alienated the NYPD. they don’t want him at police officer’s funerals anymore. an open war has begun between this “not really ready to be mayor” mayor and the police. mutual hate. kind of like the same embarrassment of the electorate going for obama like they were voting on american idol. obama survived by electoral fraud, warren wilhelm will not be able to so the same.
Typical two faced Christian hypocracy. I just ignore the red kettles and give to non-religious groups.
GOD IS FAKE!
Men invented “GODS” out of fear of the unknown. Some men found that they could control others by claiming an association with a particular “GOD”. They used natural events of the cosmos such as Thunder, Lightening, Tornados,the Moon blocking the Sun, someone that died coming back to life (They were in a coma), and other events, to be the work of Gods. I understand that there are stile people today that actually believe in this nonsense.
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