By KONRAD JUENGLING
The Salvation Army is one of the most recognized charities in the United States. Each holiday we see the bell ringers outside of businesses collecting change in pots while the bell ringer shivers in the cold. It’s a regular part of the shopping experience while we rush about to get the presents that we need.
When I was a child, I always asked my mom for change so that I could give it to the bell ringers and feel like I did something that made a difference. The difference people are making when they donate to the Salvation Army, though, is a difference for a very select population of people: heterosexual Christians. What a lot of people, myself included until recently, do not realize is that the SA is actively and institutionally homophobic and works against people in the LGBTQ community.
This inequality is built into the very structure of the SA. For this self styled “evangelical part of the universal Christian Church,” the homophobia is literally written into its handbook. For its position statement on LGBTQ individuals, ”The Salvation Army believes, therefore, that Christians whose sexual orientation is primarily or exclusively same-sex are called upon to embrace celibacy as a way of life.” Telling people that they are not entitled to love another person because of their sexuality is degrading and inappropriate. You could argue that they are only staying true to their beliefs, but what if one of their beliefs was not to help African Americans? Or the disabled? Is it appropriate for a tax-exempt organization to discriminate against a certain population of minorities?
Mark Oppenheimer wrote a 2011 story for the New York Times solely about the SA turning away people because they are gay. While the SA has denied this, with their culture of discrimination and continued media reports, it’s a slim-to-none chance that people aren’t experiencing that discrimination when they look for help. We’ve also seen the SA threatening to leave New York City altogether in 2004 if they were “forced” to abide by the law of requiring health benefits for employees’ same-sex partners. In 2012, we heard SA media relations official Major Andrew Craibe imply on national radio that gays should be put to death. These aren’t isolated incidents; they’re just a small sampling of the SA’s continued dedication to only minister to heterosexuals.
Donating to an organization that actively works against LGBTQ rights supports the belief that heterosexual people are worth more than LGBTQ people. For those that believe that people are all equal, tossing your coins into the red bucket is in direct contrast to that. For those that donate to the Salvation Army, you’re saying that it’s OK to discriminate and to turn needy people away because they are different than the majority. These aren’t the values that Christianity, America or common sense ascribe to. Instead of donating to SA, donate to the American Red Cross if you’re looking for a large organization. If you want something a little smaller, there are any number of local shelters that would be grateful for your support.
When shopping, remember how you choose to spend (and donate) your money shows support for that organization; just make sure you’re supporting the right cause. Skip the red buckets and support an inclusive, non-discriminatory organization that truly wants to help everyone that comes through its doors.
Konrad Juengling is attending Portland State University with the goal of working with juvenile sex offenders.