Alex Blaze

Just say no to the Salvation Army's red bucket

Filed By Alex Blaze | December 23, 2009 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: donation plea, lisa neff, Mary Shaw, red bucket, red cross, Salvation Army

It's that time of year again. Actually, it probably started a while ago for those of you in the US, but it's good to remember each year why lots of LGBT folks don't donate to the Red Bucket. From Lisa Neff:

But I do not. I do not ring the bell for the Salvation Army. I do not donate to the Salvation Army, because the Salvation Army discriminates against gays and lesbians in employment, works to defeat civil rights measures that protect gays and lesbians and promotes position that gay relationships "do not conform to God's will for society."

They also went totally Catholic Church in New York City and San Francisco, saying that they'd cut services if forced to stop discriminating against LGBT people. They lobbied the Bush Administration to get federal money but keep on discriminating against LGBT people.

And then there's this from Mary Shaw:

I have spoken with a number of people who have sought assistance from the Salvation Army in the past, particularly for disaster relief. I was told of how these people were preached to and forced into praying with the Salvation Army folks to their Christian God as a prerequisite for receiving services. If you're Jewish, tough. If you're Hindu, tough. Gotta pray their way, to their God, or else you're not worthy of assistance. It's quid pro quo. Gotta take advantage of people when they're most vulnerable. Contrast this with the secular Red Cross, which just wants to help disaster victims, not save their souls. (In the interest of full disclosure, I personally received help from the Red Cross when my apartment building burned down in 2001. They were extremely helpful and compassionate, and expected nothing in return.)

Go Red Cross. I was once stuck in a blizzard in southern Oregon while on the Greyhound bus, and they set up a disaster relief shelter for the people stuck in the mountains there while Greyhound dropped us off and pretended like we didn't exist. They provided food and asked for nothing in return.

The Salvation Army, on the other hand.... Well, any charity that lobbies to discriminate and practices disaster Christianity doesn't need your extra dollar as you're leaving Target.

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I personally do not and will not donate to the Salvation Army for all the stated reasons of homophobia, championing hate legislation and proselytizing. However, the Salvation Army helped my mother's dirt poor family in the 40s/50s when they really needed it. She told me that as much as she hates their homophobic practices and policies, the organization saved her life and she feels she needs to give back so they can help others like her and her family. So she throws a dollar or two into the red bucket on the occasion.

For me, same with the Boy Scouts. They are heavy supported by the local United Way, so I direct my funds instead of just giving to the general fund to ensure that none of my money will go to them. I don't buy their popcorn either, and have struggled many times when the boys/parents have hit me up at stands outside stores to not tell them that I don't support homophobic organizations, or that their organization hates ppl like me or some such.

It tends to bother me that stores I frequent and help keep in business (to some tiny degree, at least) support organizations that actively work against my right to exist as a person.


Actually, if I remember correctly, Target doesn't allow Salvation Army outside their stores, but that could just be the one store that I have been to. Also, if you want to send Salvation Army a message you can print out bills that protest their discrimination here:

I rarely shop at Target, but a newspaper Q&A article states that Target doesn't allow anyone to solicit at their doors, finally removing the Salvation Army(SA) in 2004. However, Target continues to support the SA, giving over $3 million in cash and supplies.

Several US chain stores are either banning the bellringers altogether or greatly restricting the number of days they can be present.

I've know people who have been denied assistance because they were LGBTIorQ, and I do not support them. That type of selective salvation is not Christian to me.

They also do free drug and alcohol "rehabilitation"- emphasizing spiritual deliverance rather than therapy. I find it irresponsible.

From the webpage

"For those people who do have other options, or who can afford a private period of drug rehab, they may benefit more elsewhere. As a free rehabilitation organization, participants must expect fairly Spartan and shared living quarters, strict rules of conduct and limited therapy beyond religious instruction.
For people who are not Christian, gays or lesbians, or for anyone uncomfortable with evangelical Christianity, the programs are unlikely a good fit."

I ran into one outside of Frys and almost pulled out my pentacle, which was hanging in my blouse, just to see if I could get a reaction.

Alas, I didn't really feel like starting an argument so I just ignored him.

I can appreciate the fact people feel the Salvation
Army is homophobic. The Salvation Army does more good to actually help people in need than does the HRC.

We will continue to give to the Salvation Army.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | December 24, 2009 1:10 AM

Rick, I am with you. Not only did I give 20 or more sweaters to the Salvation Army as I left frigid Chicago we also support a Catholic orphanage here which is the only orphanage in this province in Thailand that cares for retarded children.

If I have to wait for a charity that I completely agree with I will never give anything to people who really need the help. Of course, this Catholic orphanage receives no money from the United States.

I have experienced problems with both S A and the
HRC, but realizing that no organization is perfect,
and even though the S Army had helped my family in the past, they have changed much over the last decade or two and I have no use for them because of their priorities. With them it has come down to
their religion-no exceptions. They are no longer the Salvation Army most of us remember.

Support who you will, but you might want to ask around to people who have had RECENT experience with them. And it's not just me -- I see and hear it everywhere. And I am a member of AA.

Robin's girlfriend

Why not just support the Red Cross, as noted above, instead of the SA? The SA is not the only game in town if you want to provide people with meaningful help...

in New Zealand, during the campaign for homosexual law reform, the Salvation Army pulled out its big guns to send volunteers door to door nationally for a petition against law reform. That year, we had stickers printed ready for the annual door to door collection saying This house doesn't give money to organisations that disxcriminate against gays and lesbians. There was a strong rumour that they had such a drop in donations that year a Christian millionaire made a large donation to cover the gap.

I used to feel this way as well. Then I volunteered for a disaster cleanup (which turned into a job) Worked with SA and Red Cross, and found that SA was local, Red Cross had attitude. SA worried about the people, Red Cross worried about press. The more I worked with them, the more I appreciated Salvation Army. There was no preaching, no questioning gender or sexuality.
As I went further along in the process I realized that the womon doing the disaster recovery work was the development director of the agency. Her brother, a gay man with HIV, works there too....doing the whole red kettle campaign.
I support my local Salvation Army, not the national (of whom I really do not know a thing), but the people I know, who care without bias

I am and have been openly gay since I was a kid. I worked for the Salvation army and had no trouble. Here in St. Louis they are very courteous and they don't request anything for the services rendered. They don't make you get saved , they tell you God bless you and have an excellent day. I think these are circumstances unique to these particular venues of the Salvation Army and need to be CLARIFIED to be unique circumstances, as our Salvation Army in St. Louis, MO has no such policy.
In the mean time I think it's interesting how the gay community wants to stir up hate for any Christian institution they can throw a stone at. I a really sickened by the current state of our community. Why not look inside for reform?

You raise several points.

1) Some Salvation Armys do discriminate against LGBT people, some don't. I know Salvation Army's in Chicago that have done both. (for example, their drug and alcohol rehab prg. DO evangelize)

2)Whether our community like it or not, the Salvation Army provides a lot of services that some of our community has no choice but to use, at times. Can the LGBT community provide these services to the number of our own that are in difficult circumstances?

3) Some Christians also stir up a lot of hate at the gay community, J. Michael. That hate stirring can and has gone both ways.

Thanks for posting this, the GLBT Community needs to be reminded whose our friends or foes.

In 2003 I posted a Selection of Salvation Army Protest Promissory Notes, Queer Dollars, Vouchers and Banners. To Print-Out, Drop in the Salvation Army Kettles Instead of Cash or Place Banner on Your Web or Social Networking Sites. I make a point of sending out a reminder message every Christmas with link to page and will continue to do so until the Salvation Army changes it's Anti-Gay policy. In fact, soon after I Tweeted Lisa's article and link to my Sally Anne Protest page this year, the Salvation Army started following me.

You can check them out, print-out your favorites and next time you see the Salvation Army Kettle, drop one in it. Instead of us just ignoring them, we can send them a message about equality. As well as remind them of the number of donations they're losing from our community and allies.

Tampa Bay Coalition Protest Salvation Army Page:

My best to you and your for a wonderful holiday. May this New Year bring us more steps forward to full equality.

In Peace & Pride

Alright, so we have a biblically-based belief that is part of our church doctrine. But this shouldn't effect the clients who use our services. LGBT people have access to the full range of services that the Salvation Army provides. I know, "shouldn't effect" and "doesn't effect" are two entirely different things. I am quite sure that there are some die hard dyed-in-the-wool Salvationists that will go out of their way to make things difficult for the gays (or the Muslims, Jews, blacks, etc). Sadly, the Salvation Army is made up of human beings, and humans have a tough time making it over some of their prejudices. Don't paint the entire Salvation Army with the same brush over the actions of a few misguided humans.

This particular human being thinks a little differently then blindly following doctrines. If someone asks what works for me, I will tell them, but I don't normally making a point of proselytizing. In fact I try my best to avoid it.

Love is love. If you are in love, and that love fulfils you, then that is all that matters. It doesn't matter if you are gay, straight, bi, transgendered, or whatever. Your love is the love that works for you.

Religion is religion. If you have religion or faith, and it fulfils you, then that is all that matters. It doesn't matter if you are Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, or whatever. Your religion is the religion that works for you.

What matters the most is living the life that you believe in. Finding fulfilment in the things that you do, and the people that you call your friends. I am blessed to have friends from many different religions, and of varying sexual orientations.

That all being said, what the Salvation Army believes mostly works for me. It might not work for you. It's your choice. More important that what the Salvation Army believes is what it does. That's what really attracts me to it. The Salvation Army walks its talk. I walk the talk. Heart to God, Hand to Man.

The Salvation Army is the largest non-governmental direct provider of social services in North America. In Canada (where I live) the Army serves in 400 communities across the country. The Salvation Army provides services in the following categories:

  • Emergency Disaster Services

  • Community and Family Services

  • Family Tracing Services

  • Camps

  • Street Youth Services

  • Homeless Services (one quarter of all shelter beds in Canada)

  • Addictions Services

  • Safe Houses

  • Palliative Care

  • Services for the Mentally and Physically Challenged

  • Corrections and Justice

  • Young Parent Resource Centres

Salvation Army services are provided by corps on the local level. A Salvation Army Corps or Church in your community serves that community. If you have questions about your local Corps, then drop in and speak to the officers there about what that Corps does for the community.

I personally serve as a volunteer in my church in the audio/video ministry. I serve as a volunteer in my community with our church's Emergency Disaster Services unit as a Rapid Response Unit team leader and incident commander.

We are not perfect, far from it, but we are out there trying to "Do the most Good." 100% of the money collected in our Christmas Kettle campaign goes back out into the community (some kettle workers are paid, their pay comes out of kettle donations)where it is collected. It is not used to fund churches or operation of Salvation Army offices. It is used to provide services to your community.

Not giving to a kettle doesn't impact the Salvation Army as a church, but it does impact what we are able to do for your community. It affects being able to send kids to camp, or shelters for the homeless, or services for the elderly. . .

If you have some change, drop it in the kettle! It will help. It will especially help this year, as donations are down in many places due to the economy.

However, if you are bound and determined to not support the Salvation Army, I still have a challenge for you:

Do something!

Give your money or volunteer your time to any group that is working to do good works in your community. Walk your own talk, and encourage your friends and family to do the same.

Merry Christmas!

Heart to God, Hand to Man
Charles, I think that phrase captures what Christianity should be. Certainly it describes what Jesus considered the most important commandments.

I'm kind of turned off organized Christianity right now, because it seems have gotten its priorities seriously messed up. Too many Christians prefer the traditions of man rather than love of God and our fellow humans. Some people in the Salvation Army may fall into that trap, but apparently others do not.

Thank you for speaking up, and Merry Christmas.

My conscience does not allow me to donate money to any large pro-homophobia advocacy group which promotes the anti-gay agenda. For this reason, I've not given a cent to the Salvation Army for about 10 years and will never give a cent as long as they try to redefine morality by making immoral homophobia into "love."

Regan DuCasse | December 25, 2009 11:55 AM

I'm more inclined to donate money and goods to more secular relief organizations as well.

I am all too familiar with homeless gay youth abandoned by their families. No home for the holidays, and having to listen to the same ideology through charitable orgs and shelters, that lost them their families in the first place, is salt to a wound, in my opinion.

And I don't have to agree that gay people need to be hostile to religious organizations, but I certainly understand the reason why.
People of faith can go on their merry way, without considering the devastation to gay lives they initiate and maintain in perpetuity.
And at the same time, people of faith will deny they have any influence or coercive motivation on that devastation.

THAT is especially what I can't abide and personally don't care to give more strength to.
That's why some of my charitable dollars and volunteer time goes to charities that directly help the LGBT.

Very recently, the Los Angeles Police Dept. has taken not allowing the Explorers program to continue within the agency. The Explorers is program for the Boy Scouts to initiate careers in law enforcement.
The LAPD actively recruits gays and lesbians (and atheists for that matter), and cannot continue recruiting the Scouts as long as there is an active discriminatory policy within the BSA against gay scouts.

The anti gay continue to blame the gay community as being destructive to the integrity of the Scouts.
Again, when is the faith community going to own up to being destructive to the integrity of gay lives?

I support the LAPD in it's decision, as I would for any organization that either didn't accept such discrimination, or changed their policy to be inclusive.

In any case, I have my preferred charities, and I've been a proud member of Scouting For All for over ten years.
And the family that founded it, are devout Catholics.
So there ya go.

Which just goes to show, that people of faith could engage the good of far more folks into their ranks if some of them weren't so busy investing more in discrimination, than in simply assuming the potential for alliance in gay AND straight folks working together.

Many members of the LGBT community are either unemployed or homeless or both. In most areas, the only place these individuals can get a free meal, warm clothes or a place to sleep is the Salvation Army or similar organizations. Some
of these are said to be "faith based" or "anti-Gay". In addition, in our own area the main organization which serves abused women and their children is "faith based" and uses the term "blessed" throughout their literature and their website.

To my knowledge, there are few if any LGTB organizations which provide free meals, clothes, or a place to sleep.

Where are all our great LBGT organizations in helping our homeless, our hungry, our unemployed, or our abused?

Exactly, Rick...

Or even a mass resource list that can be posted on the Internet.

I mean, people can say what they will about Catholic Charities, that organization did me an invaluable service in putting me through detox, putting a roof over my head as I was in the beginning stages of drug/alcohol recovery and the employed me for a good length of time (with generous promotions!). And I was very OUT on the job at that time and was not shunned; heck, the recovery house I satyed in was one of the gayest places I've ever been.

Regan DuCasse | December 26, 2009 2:06 PM

Hi Chitown Kev,
Happy that you are recovered and you had somewhere to go.
I'd say you and Rick have a valid question about gay focused charities.

I'll say this though: it's the exceptional gay child that is able to be out, and at the same time have a loving and supportive home with devout parents.

So isn't it true that these faith based charities create their own needy population among gays and lesbians? Just as faiths that don't want their members to use birth control, creates huge populations of poverty stricken children?

When a religious doctrine obligates destructive prejudice within a family against a gay child who is then abused or abandoned to the streets, or young people without the education and emotional and economic skills to have children: how can the consciousness that creates the issue, solve it without rejecting the doctrine?

Just a thought.

Yes, you ask valid questions, Regan.

That's my biggest problem with faith-based initiatives, in fact, in that it does leave it to the discretion of the faith based organization as to whether they can discharge services to an LGBT citizen or not...and, as you state, they may have started the problem in the first place.

Tired of lying | December 28, 2009 3:48 AM

Down in the Southeast, I once had to lie for food and shelter...and I'll probably have to do it again at some point. In Orlando, if you're not Christian, heteronormative, gendernormative, passing as female or legally married to someone who is- too bad if you're homeless. You're f*cked.

I lied to the Rescue Mission, to my ex-gay therapist, all the while hating myself every Bible class they required. But, I had no choice- it was that or the streets downtown and I was still a bit too innocent for that, granted I was forced into that anyway when they found me on the phone with another girl and discovered we had a gay LDR. They kicked me out without even a warning.

So, here in the Midwest, where I live now, where services are wonderful. I act however the agency wants me to. If it's Salvation Army (and I stayed there a month when I first moved here), I'll lie as much as I need to. It's cold outside. If it's some Christian group who asks if you're saved before letting you take two bags of groceries and bread from their food bank, I'll lie. After all, I was once ex-gay. Isn't an entire lie really. I did pray that prayer in 2002 and if "once saved, always saved" applies even to kippah-wearing me, then it should be a nonissue.

It bothers me that I have to lie to get services. And that the longer I take testosterone and the less I pass as female, the lower chance I'll have of even surviving the street next time.

On the one hand, Salvation Army sheltered me when it was cold out, fed me, and even gave me Christmas presents and help for getting my first apartment. On the other hand, there's the truth. What they stand for. How they aren't the only group to pull this crap. It makes me sick.

Catholic Charities practices DADT which is something, I suppose. And thank Gd for the people at United Methodist open door Ministry who couldn't care one way or the other. It would be nice to stop introducing my partner as my room-mate though. But, when will that ever be safe to do here?

Never give money to Salvation Army. It does go to promote bigotry (as well as to help people). There are other better organizations you can donate to that assist people without the accompanying baggage.

Here in the SF Bay Area there are LGBT organizations that assist LGBT folks that need it. I also have attended gay community fundraisers that contribute money to area food banks and such. To criticize LGBT organizations like HRC for not providing for the poor is idiocy. (Especially when there are many other reasons to be critical of HRC!) HRC and others are policy orgs.

You might check out Rainbow World Fund - they help raise money for America's Second Harvest as well as assisting around the world.

Yes, I'm for LGBT folks availing themselves of whatever assistance is needed/offered. But there are much better places for us to donate our money than homophobic organizations.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | December 28, 2009 8:21 PM

I would love to see an answer that does not involve exclusively a coastal area of the country. There is a big broad middle of the country and Rick and Chitownkev above illustrate that point.

I have also know single mothers who have put up with baloney just to advantage their children. Accepting and non judgmental charities are few in number and need competition from Gay orgs, but heck, we can't seem to keep Gay bookstores open or open Gay Community Outreach centers.

Allow me to add big urban areas like Chicago to your list, Robert...

In Chicago, it's pretty easy, actually, for a LGBT person in need to find LGBT friendly social services and charities as many such services are actually located in and around Boystown. Those services have been located there for a number of years (in fact, it was where I was introduced to recovery). There have been some tensions in recent years due to the gentrification in the area but those services are still there.

But, yes, in that big middle and probably rural parts of the country this problem is probably far more acute.

And, let's face it, Salvation Army is a brand name that everyone is familiar with.

Sometimes I feel that people tend to overlook, forget or simply ignore the fact that LGBT individuals also live outside of the large urban centers.

For many LGBT individuals in the outlying or rural areas, the only resources available are the Salvation Army or similar organizations.