While Christmas is a decidedly Christian holiday, there are certain elements of it that seem to transcend their religious contexts to simply become a part of the background of everyday society. Garland and wreaths adorn light poles in small towns, trees are covered in lights, and the Salvation Army bell-ringer collecting change for the poor. Yet (most likely photoshopped) images are circulating on the internet that are meant to bring attention to the Salvation Army’s history of “anti-LGBT” behavior. However, their track record is fairly typical of most religious organizations.
A comprehensive catalog of their offenses was compiled by Zinnia Jones, a self-described “secular trans feminist” who has documented her transition from male to female in a series of video blogs on YouTube. Mostly the Salvation Army has found itself embroiled in scandals typical of church-based organizations. In 1998, they chose not work in San Francisco because they did not want to extend medical benefit to same-sex couples. Individual members have advocated in favor of anti-LGBT legislation in the past. The most egregious charge is the 2012 firing of an employee in Vermont, allegedly because she was bisexual.
Jones also downplays the organization's recent PR push to “debunking the myth” in which they reaffirm their commitment to helping people “without discrimination.” They distance the statements and activities listed in Jones’s article from the organization, saying “because of our size and scope, occasionally one of our millions of employees and volunteers might say or do something that does not reflect our values.”
In October, they participated in a fundraiser held by David Bromstad of HGTV and the 2013 “man of the year” for the Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of commerce. They also recently released a video detailing the story of “Ricky,” a gay man who went through the program and now works for the organization. They have also only recently removed links to “ex-gay therapy” organizations originally listed as a resource for dealing with “sexual addictions.”
This, however, is not enough for Jones. She writes that these efforts “completely ignore the reality that the Salvation Army continues to maintain anti-gay theological stances, and continues to discriminate against its own employees and their partners” (emphasis added). While the latter part of her statement makes sense, it seems unrealistic to expect the Salvation Army to make a theological statement—especially considering that most charities try to avoid inciting controversy.
It also seems like a stretch to suggest that supporting the Salvation Army during its annual Christmas drive is “assisting an aggressively anti-gay church in further its goals of discrimination.” The site that originally published this article, NoRedKettles.com, does offer suggestions for other charities all worthy of support. Still, given the recent actions of the Salvation Army one could easily call these steps in the right direction.
Ultimately, as with any charitable effort, it is up to the discretion of the donor. Some believe that the best way to address the Salvation Army’s troubled history with regard to the LGBT is by no longer supporting the organization. Others might believe that best way to change it is from the inside. Both are valid options.