Salvation Army red kettles – what is your donation really supporting?
‘Tis the season to observe and hear the familiar sights and sounds of the Salvation Army red kettles, accompanied by the bell-toting, red-apron-wearing volunteers who faithfully stand in front of the big stores and busy street corners in hopes of being the recipient of your spare change. In response to some establishments banning the sounds of the bells and requiring the infamous holiday bell-ringers to wave at passersby in silence, my first thought was how much I had grown accustomed to and actually enjoyed the sound of those bells as a symbol of the beginning of the Christmas season, almost as much as my first delicious cup of eggnog each year.
But there is a larger and darker underlying story here in relation to the Salvation Army bell-ringers, one that might make you think twice about tossing a coin or two into those famous red kettles.
The Salvation Army has been facing a growing backlash over the past several years because people are discovering that their organization is an evangelical Christian church which actively advocates against the civil rights of gays and lesbians around the world, in addition to discriminating against gays in employment.
The website NoRedKettles.com has created a historical timeline which demonstrates the religious-backed organization’s anti-gay history:
“In recent years, the Salvation Army has come under fire for its lengthy history of anti-LGBT political maneuvering and other incidents. The church has publicly articulated its belief that homosexuality is unacceptable, stating:
‘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.’
While such statements were recently removed from the Salvation Army’s website, the church has yet to repudiate any of its explicitly anti-gay beliefs. And though these positions may seem to be limited to the group’s internal doctrines, they’ve become a persistent element of the church’s overtly political activities – activities which have negatively impacted the Salvation Army’s ability to provide charitable services, and have aimed to limit the rights and benefits of LGBT citizens in multiple nations.
1986 – The Salvation Army of New Zealand collected signatures against the Homosexual Law Reform Act, which repealed the law criminalizing sex between adult men. The Salvation Army later apologized for campaigning against the Act.
1998 – The Salvation Army of the United States chose to turn down $3.5 million in contracts with the city of San Francisco, resulting in the closure of programs for the homeless and senior citizens. The church backed out of these contracts due to San Francisco’s requirement that city contractors must provide spousal benefits to both same-sex partners and opposite-sex partners of employees. Lieutenant Colonel Richard Love stated:
‘We simply cannot agree to be in compliance of the ordinance.’
In 2004, the Salvation Army in New York City also threatened to close down all of its services for the city’s homeless due to a similar non-discrimination ordinance.
2000 – The Salvation Army of Scotland submitted a letter to Parliament opposing the repeal of Section 28, a law prohibiting ‘the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.’ Colonel John Flett, the church’s Scotland Secretary, wrote:
‘We can easily envisage a situation where, due to active promotion of homosexuality in schools, children will grow up feeling alienated if they fail to conform.’
The Salvation Army of Scotland has never retracted or apologized for its suggestion that homosexuality would be promoted in schools or that children would be encouraged to become gay.
2001 – The Salvation Army of the United States attempted to make a deal with the Bush administration ensuring that religious charities receiving federal funding would be exempt from any local ordinances banning anti-gay discrimination. Church spokesman David A. Fuscus explained that the group did not want to extend medical benefits to same-sex partners of its employees. The deal fell through after it was publicized by the Washington Post.
2012 – The Salvation Army of Burlington, Vermont fired case worker Danielle Morantez immediately after discovering she was bisexual. The church’s employee handbook reads, in part, ‘The Salvation Army does reserve the right to make employment decisions on the basis of an employee’s conduct or behavior that is incompatible with the principles of The Salvation Army.’
Later that year, Salvation Army spokesperson Major George Hood reaffirmed the church’s anti-gay beliefs, saying:
‘A relationship between same-sex individuals is a personal choice that people have the right to make. But from a church viewpoint, we see that going against the will of God.’
2013 – The Salvation Army continues to remove links from its website to religious ministries providing so-called ‘ex-gay’ conversion therapy, such as Harvest USA and Pure Life Ministries. These links were previously provided as resources under the Salvation Army’s section on dealing with ‘sexual addictions’.”
I wonder how many people actually know any of this? I wonder how many people, even if they did know any of this, would care?
Does the fact that the underlying belief system for this organization is one that breathes discrimination into our world change whether or not you toss money into that red bucket? It is undeniable that the Salvation Army aides thousands of people every day with food and shelter and other types of charitable assistance. I remember as a child, when a devastating tornado tore through our small neighborhood, The Salvation Army was quick to serve food so graciously to all those affected. All things considered, perhaps that high level of compassion and humanitarian assistance becomes the most important piece of the equation here. Or does it?
In a world where many feel powerless when it comes to implementing the types of social changes we desire to see, isn’t one of the most effective ways to create change realized in the way in which we choose to spend our money? I am fairly confident that a large percentage of people have no idea who or what they are supporting with their dollars…nor do they think ever about it.
Conversations with God says “Every act is an act of self-definition.”
Who are you defining yourself as when you give your money to an organization which espouses intolerance? Who are you defining yourself as when you have no idea where your money is going and what it is supporting, but continue to do it anyway? Who are you defining yourself as when you make conscious choices to share your money with organizations which are in alignment with who you really are?
According to NoRedKettles.com:
“The Salvation Army claims to offer its services ‘without discrimination.’ NoRedKettles.com therefore invites the Salvation Army to live up to its claims of non-discrimination by affirming the following:
- That the organization will no longer withdraw its charitable services from municipalities in order to avoid complying with non-discrimination laws.
- That the organization’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees, as well as their partners, will no longer face discrimination or unequal treatment in hiring, promotion, or the provisioning of employment benefits.
- That the organization will cease any and all political activities against fully equal rights and benefits for LGBT citizens of any nation.
These actions represent meaningful, concrete steps that the Salvation Army can take to show the world that it is genuinely and unreservedly committed to the cause of non-discrimination and equality for the LGBT community. Countless major charities worldwide are capable of effectively carrying out their charitable functions on a large scale without anti-LGBT political activities or anti-LGBT employment policies. NoRedKettles.com believes the Salvation Army is capable of doing the same.
We recognize that the Salvation Army is capable of extraordinary goodness. This year, we’re optimistic that the Salvation Army will choose to truly ‘do the most good’ by opening their hearts to treat everyone with equal love, dignity, and respect.”
If you are reading these words, the time has come for you, too, to make a choice. Of course, no choice being right and no choice being wrong, but all choices, rather, being a declaration of your own truth and an expression of who you know yourself to be.
So the next time you find yourself faced with a bell-toting, red-apron-wearing volunteer waving a bell in front of a red kettle, hoping silently for your contribution, what will you choose?
(Lisa McCormack is a Feature Editor at The Global Conversation. She is also a member of the Spiritual Helper team at www.ChangingChange.net, a website offering emotional and spiritual support. To connect with Lisa, please e-mail her at Lisa@TheGlobalConversation.com.)