Salvation Army and Discrimination, Part 2

A reader left a comment on the post about why you shouldn’t support the Salvation Army. He wrote a personal story about his own experiences with the Salvation Army’s bigotry toward gay people and I’m moving it up here because it’s a story everyone should hear.

Back in my theist days in the mid to late 80s, I was a deacon at the Metropolitan Community Church in Tucson. MCC is an evangelical denomination that serves a mostly lesbian and gay demographic, and MCC-Tucson was, at the time, located downtown.

We occasionally got homeless people coming by the church in need of services; often, they were gay and knew that they could get help from us. We kept a list of service agencies in the area, and would refer people to where they could get the assistance they needed, such as food, shelter and clothes. On that list was a SA men’s shelter three blocks from the church.

Eventually, the Salvation Army learned that the community church down the street from them was run by and for *gasp* homosexuals, and that we welcomed people rather than condemned them. The Tucson commandery sent us a polite but pointed letter informing us that all of their shelters and other services have been instructed NOT to take our referrals. It seemed they preferred to have gay men sleeping on the streets where they might be assaulted, robbed, even freeze to death (Tucson is pretty high in the Rockies, and the very dry air means winter lows in the 20s were not uncommon) than emulate the Good Samaritan.

I haven’t donated to them, or made any recommendation for their services, since.

How in the world can those two views be reconciled? The people who work with the Salvation Army spend their time helping others, so it’s not like they lack compassion. That particular group spent their time and energy feeding and sheltering homeless people, so they know the need first hand. But they didn’t give a damn about those people if they might be gay. And they call gay people morally perverse? Look in the mirror.

I actually explained to a Salvation Army bell ringer this week why I wasn’t putting any money in their bucket. I do think the group does a lot of good and important work, but so do a lot of other groups. Faced with a choice of giving to a group that actively discriminates and one that doesn’t, I’ll choose the latter every time.

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  • Tsu Dho Nimh

    Sounds like my early 1970s experience trying to refer women to any of the “pro-life” organizations that gave prenatal care.

    I worked for a local free clinic, one known to proscribe birth control and give referrals to abortion clinics. As soon as they heard the name of the clinic they hung up.


  • Aaron

    I’ve withheld donations from the Starvation Army for quite a long time. They’ve got a track record of similar offensive behavior going back over the 130 years of its existence. There aren’t many problems that apply to the entire organization at all times, but the nature of the organization- religious, paramilitary, and sectarian- has produced and continues to produce any number of objectionable actions and stances. The list contains nothing surprising: discrimination against LGBT, discrimination against non-Christians, discrimination against referrals coming from women’s health clinics who provide contraceptives, coerced conversions or religious service attendance, etc.

    They lack the kind of good governance expected of such a large organization.

    It seems to me that a secular charity should be favored if only because they’re required to open their books and be accountable to their donors.

  • fifthdentist

    Since I’m on their mailing list, I’ll return their correspondence with no check but instead a note detailing objections with their treatment of the LBGT community. And they’ll be paying for the postage. Win-win.

  • feministwhore

    Seriously. I’m not fuckin’ around. This video. You should watch it. Trafficking Victims, forced into ‘restoration’ programs, where the Salvation Army aims to heal “damaged sexuality” and return victims to an understanding of biblical sexuality, and they get government grants to do it.

  • Aaron



    Looks like you can find Unit 2 of the document here:

  • MikeMa

    Happy to send my donations elsewhere.

  • Aquaria

    I’ve been sending my donations elsewhere for a very long time, since a local news item (I think it was on KSAT) discussed a Muslim woman and her children who were thrown out of an emergency shelter in San Antonio for refusing to participate in a bible class. The Salvation Army said they would “investigate”, and that they didn’t require attending bible classes to get shelter. Don’t remember if they offered shelter for her again.

    I’m trying to find a link, but KSAT apparently doesn’t keep an extensive archive, and I can’t remember exactly when the story aired. I’m pretty sure it was 2006-2008, because I saw it at a particular workplace.

  • billydee

    I stopped giving money to the SA years ago because they are actually an independent fundie denomination. Many people do not realize this.

  • Pingback: There goes my Salvation Army post | | Furious PurposeFurious Purpose()

  • isilzhaveni

    Why make the assumption that religious people who do charity work have compassion for those who come to them for help? Even ‘Mother Teresa’ was a fraud and those who came to her for help suffered greatly for it.

  • stubby

    This is the first year I won’t give any money to the ringers. I gave the one I saw yesterday the stink eye. I know it’s his fault but, yeah, take that salvation army!

  • Childermass

    It is a shame for an organization that started on the premise that they would not turn away people to turn away people. The whole damn point of the organization was that unlike other churches, they would not turn people in need away.

    I have a friend in the Salvation Army. She told me that bringing in drugs into the shelter was about the only reason her shelter would kick anyone out (and I assume violence behavior). Oddly enough she is actually fully accepting of homosexuals. But then again, I have never really considered her “Christian” anyways as she has rather unconventional theological views that the high-ups would really disapprove of.

    I have however met someone in the Salvation Army though who is a nice person, but is a heavy-duty fundamentalist in the traditional sense.

    Still I would not be surprised that in a few decades the SA will be trying to forget that it ever was unaccommodating to homosexuals. Hopefully that that day will come soon. But in the meantime, no change in the kettle from me.