News & Politics

The Salvation Army and the LGBT Community

Salvation Army Food PantryWhen do we start to forgive?

Personal anecdote time: I was abused as a small child. I’ve held a grudge for the last twenty-five years, and it has only began to heal in the last two years. So I’m not great at the forgiveness thing. (And forgiveness can be hard.)

As we move into the holiday season, the Salvation Army’s historically anti-queer stance is resurfacing as it does every year.

Recently, my local LGBT-publication ran an article about the Salvation Army.

In 2012 pop star Darren Hayes called for a boycott of the Salvation Army worldwide over their perceived anti-gay bias. In response, a radio show in Melbourne interviewed Major Andrew Craibe, a Salvation Army Media Relations Director based in Australia, to ask him about those accusations. Craibe’s response to the questions were damning and seemed to indicate that he, and the Salvation Army, believed that gays should be punished with death.

But the article isn’t about that.

Lost in the din was the Salvation Army’s own response to the controversy, and it’s one that seems to perfectly reflect [Dane County Salvation Army Coordinator Major Loren] Carter’s views and those of the staff who work in Dane County: “Members do not believe, and would never endorse, a view that homosexual activity should result in any form of physical punishment. The Salvationist Handbook of Doctrine does not state that practicing homosexuals should be put to death and, in fact, urges all Salvationists to act with acceptance, love and respect to all people. The Salvation Army teaches that every person is of infinite value, and each life a gift from God to be cherished, nurtured and preserved.”

According to the article, they work directly with our local LGBT community center to help the queer population; they are hurting for money because of the highly publicized stance against queer people; our local Salvation Army branch is good for queers. To say that the article has caused anger in the queer community is an understatement.

On a larger scale, the anti-queer language has been scrubbed from the Salvation Army’s international website. They even have a subheading on their website about the Salvation Army and the LGBT community. Up to a year ago, they linked to ex-gay therapy organizations—they don’t anymore. On the other hand, their advisory board includes folks like Elizabeth B. Koch and the Executive Vice President of Community Affairs for Chick-fil-A, Rodney Bullard.

So let’s say that Salvation Army is changing. The tides of society are turning, and Salvation Army, realizing that they were being left behind, is trying to catch up. I also want to acknowledge that there are homeless populations who want a place to sleep at night, food, presents for their kids at Christmas, and that that makes this a very complicated thing.

When does the queer community forgive? How do we start?

Personally, I want to see concrete action. I don’t only want to see an inoffensive website—I want to see work towards queer inclusively. I want to hear that queer individuals that reach out to them for help are met with knowledge and an open heart.

And honestly, that might not be enough for some of us. I give money to organizations in my community and despite the Salvation Army’s work highlighted in my local publication, they won’t be one of them. What about you? How do you forgive? Can the Salvation Army redeem itself?

FEATURE PHOTO CREDIT: SALVATION ARMY USA WEST via PHOTOPIN cc

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10 Comments

  1. The Salvation Army was always an organization that I gave to until I found out about their stance on the LGBT community. After that, seeing those red buckets really hit a nerve and I felt both hurt and angry because even though they were happy to take my money I knew they wouldn’t be happy to help me if I needed it. If they really are changing their stance, I would love to be able to support them again but, like you, I would need some concrete proof.

    • I’ve had people close to me who were turned away from the Salvation Army (a few decades ago) so I admit I wasn’t surprised when their stance came out. But yeah, seeing them all over after they were so specifically hurtful was and continues to be very difficult.

  2. I would love to believe this. I could see how The Salvation Army doesn’t discriminate in their services, but they do discriminate in their membership. I read this article where it shows a document stating how they are not allowed to hold any weddings on their church grounds or how their clergy are not allowed to perform weddings.

    http://aattp.org/aattp-exclusive-salvation-army-secret-internal-document-reveals-bigoted-discrimination-policy-document/

  3. After hearing about their views, I stopped giving. I can’t speak to forgiveness personally, other than to say that if forgiving lessens a burden for anyone in the queer community, than I say do it. As for supporting the homeless, there are many organizations and it’s ok to have this one that you simply acknowledge is not in line with your beliefs. I think that posts/conversations like this will bring us closer to a time when this stuff just won’t fly. I am so sorry for your friends who were turned away, that is unconscionable.

    • Agree! Though when SA is the only mover in the community that makes things more complicated, definitely. And thank you.

  4. I’ve been wondering about this, and I appreciate the update. Thank you.

  5. Do you know the Albert Kennedy Trust? I am hoping to write about them here in the near future—- but they have homeless shelters for the LGBTI population in the UK and are AMAZING!

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