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?

Do you?

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.)

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  • Michael L

    Dear doom and gloomier folks.

    This article is got so much love……

    When you are asked to give it is your choice.
    And as such Every single request is energy you have created(as you are ONE) to give you a chance to be loving.

    Does NOT giving make your loving action-ed life happier? Of course not… as giving is what love is all about and not giving is not.

    This Christian organization has the same energy of helping folks that it has had for many years and countless masses have been loved. Is it restricted in it’s ideology ??? yes, but so are many organizations, just the nature of organizations.

    So as a loving giving person I will give to all who ask. Because I love what shows up. Period.

    • Hello Michael…If we could all peer into the underlying and mostly unseen framework of the comings and goings of our money, I think many of us would be surprised to find out where that energy goes and what it supports. Some of the clothing we buy is crafted by young children in workplace environments that are subhuman. That beautiful ivory chess set sitting on your desk came from the tusks of a majestic elephant who was slaughtered for its body part. There are puppy mills who breed animals in horrific conditions and sell these sick puppies for ridiculous amounts of money to pet stores around the world. And there are organizations who openly admonish and discriminate against entire segments of humanity because of sexual preferences.

      In each of these few examples, I am offered an opportunity to, as you say, give to them all simply because they are asking, or I can say no, which is what I personally would say to any of the above-mentioned examples. Both choices become expressions of love experienced from different perspectives. Saying “no, I don’t agree with that” to someone or something can also make life better for others. Anyone who has children has most likely experienced this level of love.

      Blessings to you…

      • Michael L

        So my Question to you Lisa will be …..? What is unconditional love.
        The love that life has all the time.
        Would the Source you know ever say no?
        Or would life find a way to uplift the regulations appearing as low vibration.
        I understand the childish way you are explaining. Folks see life in a Good or Bad way.
        I just choose to see life as a way that works as it is created and love what shows up. Striving to up lift my frequency to raise… lift higher, by giving.

        Blessing envelope you also.

        • You ask, what is unconditional love, Michael? What I can tell you is that it is a level of love that I have yet to experience for any extended period of time, if at all, in my lifetime. Humans place conditions upon love. The way marriages are designed, they would fall apart without the conditions that most who enter into them expect and rely upon: fidelity, sex, financial contribution, attention-giving, truth-telling, etc.

          Since we do not live in a realm which knows of the type of existence you are suggesting, we are dealing with a reality that places choices before us. I understand that in a very large cosmic spiritual sense that there is no “good” or “bad.” Sure, I can grasp that concept and agree with it on a very broad scale. But right here, right now, there could be unforeseen events in my life that would, and often do, feel “bad.” If you have spent any time at all around someone who is grieving deeply, you would learn very quickly that saying something like “there is no good or bad in the world, c’mon, just love what shows up” is not helpful or healing.

          Would source ever say no? I don’t know. I know that people do all the time. And depending upon your belief system, if we are aspects or pieces or outgrowths of this all-encompassing life-originating source, then by deduction, yes, source says no all the time, too. Momma bears say no to those who threaten her cubs. Rocks say no to water attempting to traverse through it and require the water to find another way. Fathers say no to their sons who want to run into a busy intersection. Sexual partners say no to each other on occasion. Obviously, the list could go on ad infinitum, Michael.

          Thank you for your thoughts and for being here.

          • Michael L

            Thank you Lisa.
            I understand you beliefs better now.
            Sending you beaming light energy that never says no.
            No conditions just giving love.

          • Karen G.

            Hi Lisa,

            You have given us much thoughtful conversation on this issue and I grateful, and can say that I am very disappointed with the Salvation Army. I make a point of having something to put in the kettle rather than pass by embarrassed. This will now change for me. When we see ourselves as connected to each other, we are persecuting the same people that we are feeding. Would we accept the abuse of a child because it was fed dinner every night?

            As to what source does, I think source gives us an endless array of contrasts from which to choose. I think source is neutral about that choice. What we choose reflects who we are and when we choose a loving action I feel that it raises us as part of the evolution of humanity. We are in a time of no more secrets and many of the institutional practices that we have been, sometimes deliberately, blind to, are presented for our choosing.

            As we continue to evolve, and choose love without conditions attached to its provision, we may see things that we have thought were long gone show up once in a while, which will be source allowing us to confirm what we want in our world.

            Thanks Lisa.

  • WoW I never heard about this side of the Salvation Army before & I just dropped in some money just a few minutes ago. Further I’ve yet to see a news story mainstream or alternative bring this up. So thanks for the education.

    Now many may not want to think or face what I’m about to say but most of everything we buy & have is tainted on some level.

    There’s usually, almost always some if not tremendous environmental damage, resource reduction, enormous waste pain & suffering on animal, human & nature that can be greatly reduced if we choose. Even the very flowers we have in our vase have dark often underpaid energy from underpaid workers with bloodied hands & toxic-cide waste to contend with.

    This is changing slowly & with unfortunate push back & resistance from the status quo.
    However, as more of us evolve, become mindful etc., we will make better decisions. The better informed we are the better the decisions we can make.

    Think organic, free range, free trade, conscious capitalism as continually growing ideas that are finding larger favor as part of our evolution.

    There is a lot of back lash of being politically correct, but behind it is the evolution of reducing the epidemic of continuous condemnatory energy.

    Many feel their freedom is taken away when they can’t feel comfortable saying things as freely as they use to. But this limitation has a greater intention & potential behind it. Some reductions in freedom create greater freedoms.

    I have the freedom to stay up as late as I want & get 4 to 6 hours a sleep at night. Yet that freedom has a cost of needed sleep loss that creates a dysfunction of energy. My limiting how late I stay awake gives me a greater freedom & feeling better when I get the right sleep for my body.

    The Salvation Army if they believe as they do against gay sexuality have to contend with the consequence of these beliefs as we all have consequences for anything we do.

    Magically,
    -Marko

  • Steve Kostov

    Wow! What a timing for me to see this post! I was looking for Neale’s latest article, as I only have few minutes, but this is what I landed on. Thank you Lisa. What an eye opener 😉 I had no idea, and yes, it does matter to me where I channel my resources. We have those kettles almost in front of every major store here in Hawaii. And with the risk of me appearing to brag, I constantly give them a rather large paper bills (three times just yesterday, as I was looking for a birthday gift for my girlfriend, and was resonating gratitude for being the recipient of her child-like innocence, and I remember thinking I had to stop at an ATM if I keep cruising the stores, as I was running out of bills to give).
    I have an opposing view with the other gentlemen as to what unconditional love is. When I’m exercising discernment as to what is the best way for me to express my self-assessed unconditional love, I prefer to direct my expression of it to a channel who will not filter and restrict that unconditionality and bottleneck it selectively, especially me knowing it will come under a condition on the other end. It does not make sense to me to enable conditional love-givers via my unconditional love. For the same reason I would not donate money for someone to buy a gun, as it does not resonate with who I imagine to be. One can argue that this is the definition of “conditional”, but I do not see the connection between a boundless capacity to Love and accept and expressing a gesture or an act I’m nicely asked for, that goes against my very definition of “unconditional”. In other words, “give me your money because you can’t refuse (you have no conditions), so that you can enable us to do it for you. We will say “no” to the gay folks for you, on your behalf, with your unconditional love, we will tell them they are not human enough to be clothed and fed”.. I’m so sorry if I’m offending someone, that is how I see it, how I feel it. Being in the world of performing arts, 95% of my colleagues are Gay. Took me years to get rid of stubborn homophobia myself, and now I witness how they are subjected to cruel judgments in society all the time.
    So, no. Not on my behalf you are not turning human beings down for the most basic of needs. I know it’s a hard call as the Church has and is helping many. Credit will be always given where due. But during this time of global change, we can no longer afford to be non-selective with selective people, non-discriminating with discriminating folks. I don’t mean discriminate against them. That does not mean we will turn them down when is their turn to be fed and clothed. It just means I choose to contribute where Everyone is counted. That includes them.
    So call me conditional. I’ll have to live with it 🙂

    • Wilma Ice

      I enjoyed reading your thoughts, Steve. Seems to me that unconditional love can be experienced only through the energy emanating from the heart, as making choices does immediately result in some conditions being set. Make a choice, and something is chosen and something is not….that is a condition, yes?

  • Erin

    I suppose this proves that money is an expressive tool. We define our Life-support via this tool…consumerism expresses.
    I, often unfortunately, know how NFP orgs…Almost All of them…work. They struggle more with losing money for paperworks than in actual action. They ‘give’, but only what is ‘allowed’ by their books…those of laws & those they carry. Sad, since many of these orgs. produce incredible amounts of ‘profit’. They do not ‘share’ such among each other, either…in other words, they are not charitable to other charities…and this makes no sense!
    Timely upbringing, Lisa…As always! 😀

  • Wilma Ice

    What an interesting and thoughtful posting! However, the real question for me is not what are my donations supporting, but rather how do I maintain open heartedness when interacting with those who do not see things my way? Now that I am aware of this aspect of the Salvation Army, will I discontinue my coin dropping? Probably not. Will I be able to remain silent about this agency’s rejection of a whole group of fellow humans? Nope.

    I do not believe that the answer is to turn away from giving, nor is it to be silent about agency policies, past or current. I understand that there is something ‘wrong’ with everything, and I understand this to be true, even as I understand the perfection in how life is designed and the manner in which it unfolds for each one of us. How do I influence loving choices, loving experiences, and loving actions with people who simply do not understand things my way? Is withholding a few coins the best way? Or, is adding something to my giving a better way to create lasting impact?

    How might it work if I held a sign, or distributed business type cards next to my red kettle friend, proclaiming a belief in relationship equality for all? Or if, as I drop my coins, I linger a few moments to learn what the kettle holder understands about his agency’s position on the treatment of sexual minorities and their partners? What difference would it make, if one kettle holder at a time, I harnessed the courage to speak what I believe, even as I affirm the work I appreciate being done by this agency? Or would it be make a phone call, or write a letter the Salvation Army administration, along with any donation intended to help fulfill the mission to the poor?

    If I walk away, insisting that I will put my money into programs that seem to have nothing “wrong” with them, to whom will I give? Reaching out. Standing still. Listening. Openness, coming from at least one direction, is very important to me.

  • Kristen

    You are not taking into account that like all Jewish, Muslim and Christian religions, the Salvos are followers of the biblical God. He is completely opposed to homosexuality in a sexual context (“you are not to make love to a man as you would a woman and later homosexuals are to be executed”). Neales God is not the biblical God so obviously views would differ between Gods and religions. I support their stance of holding onto the view that they must adhere to Gods views when anything is associated with their religion, and that they do not allow the general population to convince them to practice teachings within their religion, that God forbids them to. They have chosen their God just as you have chosen yours.

    • Wilma Ice

      Hi Kristen,
      It has been said that I have a little bit of an “I Believe in Santa Claus/Tooth Fairy” approach to life, but this is a part of the “I Believe in a Loving Universe/God” experience/perspective for me. Tis all a part of the dynamic of change, the way of influence, the path to developing understanding, the expressing of the fullness of love.
      Sending love,
      Willie

    • Christopher Toft

      What if there was a religion where god commanded groups such as Jews or homeless people should be stoned to death Kristen? To my way of thinking, Just because god “says” something is wrong this doesn’t make it so. In my view a moral position has to be justified on more than authority, an act must be demonsratatively wrong. Would you choose to endorse a god who behaved like Hitler or Stalin? People are perfectly entitled to believe what they choose to, but this doesn’t mean we must choose to agree with intolerant unjustified beliefs.

      • Kristen

        I agree. I support God as the Universal God of Law but do not support his religions nor OT views. My sons would have been stoned to death as would my dog based on the instructions. Every God acknowledges they are made both half good and half evil, including the biblical God. and He is fine with people like Moses telling Him when He is wrong. I do all the time, it’s what the word Isrealite means – to fight God and win. In His role as the Universal God of Law He has kept His views out of it as He can only bestow them on those who make a freewill decision to join His religions. Which Y’shua stated when telling people not to be evangalists, religion must be a freewill choice. As a whole I do not support the manmade religion of Christianity.

        But the point is that God does not agree with gay SEXUAL acts (sexual only, no-one can block love and He does not care about relationships) and the entire point of the Salvation Army is that they are one of Gods religious churches. And a damn good one too, so discuss a matter of which they have to support God as a part of any Churches vows when they are doing more good worldwide as Christmas time is a bit mean and the poor will be the ones missing out.

        As individuals in the Church they probably do not care if people are gay or not, and probably have gay members, but we all have to remember that the Church is God’s church, not that of the individual members. It’s not like they are stoning them or attacking! I think this entire thread is unfair to the Salvos and those they help. Are CwG going to replace them?

        • Christopher Toft

          Kristen, you have an interesting point of view. I would like to ask you what is destructive about expressing sexuality with a member of the same sex? These beliefs can be justified if there is something genuinely destructive in same sex relationships.

          • Kristen

            Hi Christopher,
            Sorry I cannot ask your question. It is forbidden to put words into Gods mouth, He has said what He has to say. This may sound rude, but it is said with a smile – you may like to ask God yourself why he opposes it but pray to The True Biblical God so you don’t get Neales God just as Neale did. Or you may like to pray to Creator and ask why he did not give males a vjj as spare parts just in case they were naturally gay. Or ask those in the afterlife why people CHOSE to come here and be gay when they knew the formulas and deliberately chose to be gay. The two easiest ways are a soul in a body with a gender that differs to its own so they will be naturally attracted to the same sex body or to have males doing desk and more feminine jobs which reduces the male hormonal levels in sperm so their offsprings brains will test closer to the opposite gender. The original studies on this started to determine why there is a higher rate of gay offspring of ministers. Likewise for females being too sporty and especially sweaty, which can adapt the female hormonal levels in female babies. Gay people should look at their parents in a non judgemental way. I think grandmother raising grandsons also has a huge influence on developing, they do a good job but I don’t think being surrounded by teacups and knitting is going to produce much testosterone. Smile.

            With regard to God – I am an Israelite and scripture states that God would imprint His Laws on the hearts of His people Israel. Isrealites are different to other people for this reason. God always also states “you are to hate this” which typically of God has a double meaning of ‘I want you to’ and ‘in the future you will feel this way’. I am as high as you can get on the Tree of Life so can access God but I don’t need to on this occasion cos I’ve already delved into this. God has covered his butt, haha, with a general Law. As an Israelite it would not be possible for me as a female to have anything to do with sodo.. and more than I would feel as a male, I would die before it happened but I also feel the same way about catheters, chose surgery over a bum exam for appendicitis, would never have smears, allow anyone to see my butt hole even during childbirth, would not allow internals in childbirth, would never allow a prostate check if a male SO God has made sodo.. a part of a general rule of nothing is to be in any hole that is an exit, and foreign bodies are not to be introduced into any hole either. Many rules are like this – He’s good. God will not be punishing gay people, He is now the God of Law, Dec21 2012 was a status change for everything BUT he will never allow gay males into His Heaven as He owns the land and they all observe how gay guys generally perve at any guy with a good body especially teenagers. When 50yr old gay guys do this, and take photos and videos no-one bats an eye especially at the beach and they openly share it with their mates, but if a 50 year guy did it of a teenage female major shite would hit the fan and he would be branded a sicko. Remember they see what we don’t and I believe them.

            I hate elephant trunks which I think is because of a Hindu God He hates, I could not have a mammogram as that is the same Eden Law of not displaying your boobs, bums and bits in front of anyone other than your spouse. Sorry to waffle on but you need to understand God to understand His views. God is not Creator, the church changed bibles to suit themselves and God did not make our physical bodies, Creator did. Ask him.

            I do not write Law, I just know what they are, and I do feel intuitively that Creator and The Source are opposed to same sex genital interactive relationships BUT cross dressers and lesbians using strap on pe….. are in a hell of a lot more trouble than any gay males. And this is a full concensus from the very top – they all hate it with a vengance.

            Again all said with a smile and sorry it was hard to keep it short. I have gay friends, and as long as they never look at my sons or their friends, and keep what happens in the bedroom to themselves I do not care what they do.

          • Christopher Toft

            Sincere thanks for your reply Kristen. If this is Yaweh, He is a very strange being. Kind of playfully rude & perverse, like “No, i’m not telling you. I don’t have to i’m god!”(Sticks tongue out & blows raspberries at perplexed homosexuals).

          • Kristen

            He says it like it is, and has what we would call asbergers. Be gay, be happy, be in love, just don’t put any bits or things in odd places!
            Later

          • Christopher Toft

            🙂

  • Sue

    It supports the hush money paid to victims of sexual abuse. About time the Salvation Army was closed down altogether in Australia. The money they collected for the homeless and all the other natural disasters paid to their sex abuse victims.

  • InsideTheSalvationArmy

    The Salvation Army is a very deceptive organization which is extremely politically active despite its protestations and claims to be “apolitical”. As well as outright deception it is also extremely manipulative and exploitative of the poor. What many people don’t realise is that the donations of money do not go to homeless people at all, they go to officers who are paid substantial salaries. These officers do none of the actual work and employ staff at minimum wage to do that for them, keeping the difference from which they draw their salaries. It is a very profitable organisation. Homeless people are turned away for accommodation unless they are eligible for welfare housing benefits and in that way The Salvation Army can charge around £200 per week for a very basic room. The homeless person has to pay a top up charge for meals out of their welfare, so a hostel housing fifty people, for instance, receives £10,000 a week for keeping them. However, they don’t tell you this, they prefer to keep that quiet so that gullible members of the public will donate money thinking that goes to house and feed homeless people when it doesn’t. If a homeless person cannot pay for food and accommodation (via welfare assistance), they are rejected and told to sleep on the streets outside. This information is from an insider, by the way.