Every year around the holiday season, people dressed in eye-catching Christmas attire can be found standing outside of almost every business you come across. They wear joyful smiles and ring bells in hopes of encouraging customers to drop their donations into the their little red boxes, marked with the Salvation Army’s familiar logo.
Those who donate, large and small sums alike, often feel a sense of pride. They have given their hard-earned money to charity, and it will go towards helping those in need.
At least, that’s what they believe.
While the donors are more than often just naive patrons with good intentions, the truth of the matter is that the Salvation Army is one of the worst charities that a person can support. Consisting of soldiers, officers, and adherents, there are over 1.5 million members of the Salvation Army worldwide. The group, structured in a quasi-military fashion, follows a Protestant Christian belief system.
Of course, while many people are unaware that the Salvation Army is a church, this is not what makes it a vile organization. There is nothing wrong with a person or group trying to spread their religion, especially through charitable means. The reason the Salvation Army is so offensive is more connected to the beliefs it stands for, and the lengths the organization goes to to uphold them.
The Salvation Army was founded in 1865 by William Booth, who spent years attempting to change the lifestyles of those he believed to be disgraceful and unholy. His goal was to banish the “three A’s” from the world and from England’s underclass: alcohol, atheism, and anarchy. Booth soon came to the conclusion that he would not be able to change people to think like him and behave the way he wanted them to unless he provided for them and helped them in some way.
Booth’s goal to convert the poor is the direct reason the Salvation Army performs social work and provides for families in need. He once stated that it mattered not “whether a man died in the poorhouse, but if his soul was saved.”
There are many predominantly Christian organizations that do genuine good in the world, but most of them do not receive the publicity that the Salvation Army does.
Even today, Booth’s ideals hold strong at the center of the Salvation Army. Their Mission Statement, as posted on their website, is “the Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God.” It also states that “its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination,” but the actions of the organization proves that discrimination is not beneath them. So what exactly is it that makes the Salvation Army so horrible?
They are everywhere, seemingly spreading cheer in order to draw people towards them with their donations. And they do use their money to help. The Salvation Army assists approximately 25 million Americans annually.
However, the organization has an extended history of homophobia and anti-LGBT discrimination. In 2009, the Salvation Army posted statements to their website expressing their belief that homosexuality is evil. A few of the posts made stated “Scripture opposes homosexual practices by direct comment and also by clearly implied disapproval. The Bible treats such practices as self-evidently abnormal…. Attempts to establish or promote such relationships as viable alternatives to heterosexually-based family life do not conform to God’s will for society,” and “Such practices, if unrenounced, render a person ineligible for Salvation Army soldiership, in the same way that unrenounced heterosexual misconduct is a bar to soldiership.”
The website also previously included links to religious ministries providing gay conversion therapy, such as Harvest USA and Pure Life Ministries, which were listed as resources for dealing with “sexual addictions.”
While these statements and links have recently been removed from the Salvation Army’s website, and while they currently deny any discrimination within the organization and its actions, homophobia has continued to be a persistent element in the Salvation Army’s actions.
More and more people have started to recognize the Salvation Army’s discriminatory actions and ideals, and as they receive more negative media attention, the organization has begun attempting to cover up their well-documented homophobic past and is starting to pretend to respect and accept any and all people. However, the head of the Salvation Army in the UK, Commissioner Clive Adams, admitted just last year that gay people were still banned from becoming officers. He told Paul O’Grady, a gay man who was interested in joining the Salvation Army, that he was allowed to volunteer for them and attend church services, “but if you want to become a soldier in the Salvation Army, you have to commit to what we believe.”
More recently, one of the Salvation Army’s facilities, a substance abuse center in New York City, was exposed and charged for discrimination after a sting operation conducted by by the NYC Commission on Human Rights in July of 2017. It was discovered that the facility held discriminatory housing policies, which included assigning rooms based on a patient’s biological gender rather than the one they identify with. They subjected patients to physical examinations and forced transgender patients into separate rooms. In some incidents, they refused to accept transgender patients at all.
The Salvation Army is seen as something that it is not, and that works in their favor and in the favor of what they stand for. Someone who supported LGBT rights would never knowingly donate to their cause. It is important to do research and know about who you are giving to, and next time you see someone dressed up and ringing a bell for donations as you shop, remember exactly what it is that person stands for.