A long-standing controversy around the Salvation Army and its stance on homosexuality has been reignited by singer/songwriter Ellie Goulding.
The situation arose when the NFL announced that the English recording artist would give the halftime performance for the Dallas Cowboys football game on Thanksgiving Day – a game which also serves as the kickoff for the Red Kettle Campaign for Salvation Army. Goulding praised the Christian organization on her Instagram Tuesday for “providing food for the hungry, emergency relief for disaster survivors, rehabilitation for those suffering from drug and alcohol abuse, and clothing and shelter for people in need.”
Goulding’s followers, however, were quick in expressing their disapproval, citing the Salvation Army’s long history of implementing “homophobic and transphobic” policies and of spreading “anti lgbtq+ rhetoric.”
One commenter pointed out, “They only help *certain* people. Very homophobic, transphobic, anti-LGBTQIA+ organization. Please do your research before endorsing a company that continues to hurt our community.”
Goulding then replied (in a since-deleted comment), “Upon researching this, I have reached out to the Salvation Army and said that I would have no choice but to pull out unless they very quickly make a solid, committed pledge or donation to the LGBTQ community.” She added, “…supporting an anti-LGBTQ charity is clearly not something I would ever intentionally do. Thank you for drawing my attention to this x.”
With Goulding seemingly poised to pull out of the performance, Salvation Army National Commander David Hudson made a statement via email declining to respond to questions about whether the show would go on as planned, instead saying, “With an organization of our size and history, myths can perpetuate. An individual’s sexual or gender identity, religion, or lifestyle has no bearing on our willingness to provide service. We stand firmly behind our mission to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.”
On Thursday, the Salvation Army confirmed Goulding would performing after all.
Hudson again issued a statement. “We’d like to thank Ellie Goulding and her fans for shedding light on misconceptions and encouraging others to learn the truth about The Salvation Army’s mission to serve all, without discrimination,” the statement read. “We applaud her for taking the time to learn about the services we provide to the LGBTQ community. Regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity, we’re committed to serving anyone in need.”
He went on to add, “Every day, we provide services such as shelter for the transgender community and resources for homeless youth – 40 percent of whom identify as gay or transgender.”
The Salvation Army was founded in England in 1852 with the stated mission “to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.” Nevertheless, the organization has a history of anti-LGBT policy, such as refusing to comply with legislation and ordinances requiring the extension of benefits to same-sex spouses of employees, refusing shelter and services to people based on their sexuality and gender identity, and offering links to gay conversion therapy organizations on their website. In 2012, a Salvation Army spokesperson told an interviewer that gay people deserve death, according to scripture. Despite attempts in recent years to downplay its anti-LGBT history, incidents have continued to occur which undermine the organization’s PR stance of anti-discrimination, such as the 2014 revelation that it was advocating against marriage equality legislation in New Zealand, and charges by the NYC Commission on Human Rights in 2017 that it was refusing transgender clients at a New York substance abuse center and was implementing discriminatory policies against trans clients in its New York housing facilities.
The NFL Thanksgiving Day Game will match the Dallas Cowboys against the Buffalo Bills, and it marks the official launch of the Red Kettle Campaign for the 22nd year in a row.
No word on whether the organization has agreed to Goulding’s stipulation of providing a “solid pledge or donation to the LGBT community.”