I was out running errands today, and I pulled up to the grocery store. Just as they have done every year, the Salvation Army's "Kettle Drive" was outside the front entrance. The familiar sound of the bell rang through the parking lot as I walked up to the door. When I was little, I used to enjoy hearing the jingle of the bells as I walked in and out of grocery stores, department stores, and malls with my parents. However, now when I hear the bells ring, the sounds ring hollow in my head. I just can't bring myself to support the Kettle Drive, knowing what I know now about the Salvation Army's brutal anti-LGBTQ history.
Charity Run By The Church
The Salvation Army began back in 1865 when its founder, William Booth, a church minister, took his message of helping the less fortunate to the streets of England. 2 years later, The Salvation Army had developed into a ministry "offering basic schooling, reading rooms, penny banks, soup kitchens and relief aid to the destitute." By the 1880s, the first chapters of the Salvation Army had taken hold in Canada. Its members participated in both World Wars, providing much-needed relief aid to war-torn families.
After the wars were over, the Salvation Army continued its tradition of stepping up to help families in need, providing relief aid in such disaster situations as the Red River Flood of 1950, and the Quebec ice storm of 1998. Today, the Salvation Army is currently active in over 130 countries, and employs nearly 10,000 people. It also boasts over 15,000 'active officers' and 'soldiers' comprised of various clergy and church members, along with over 32,000 followers of the Salvation Army's particular brand of theology, which is obviously still rooted and couched in military rhetoric as well.
Bigotry Below The Surface
In the last few decades, however, it has become increasingly apparent that the Salvation Army's corps in North America and in Europe have been caught on numerous occasions breaking with William Booth's original vision for the registered charity. In fact, despite repeated attempts by the Salvation Army to deflect criticism by releasing statement after statement talking about how much it loves the LGBTQ community. its actions over the years have spoken much louder than these words. Here are just a few examples:
1. Forbidding Salvation Army officers from marrying same-sex couples, and from wearing the Salvation Army uniform when attending a friend or family member’s same-sex marriage.
2. Lobbying the Bush administration in 2001 to prevent extending medical benefits to same-sex partners of its employees.
3. Refusing to accept transgender patients and for discriminatory housing policies, along with subjecting patients to physical examinations, and forcing transgender patients into separate rooms.
4. Refusing to allow a transgender woman into their shelter during a cold snap in Austin, causing her to die on the street that very same night.
5. Firing a case worker after discovering she was bisexual.
What Charities Should You Give To?
There are many more examples of The Salvation Army's abhorrent behaviour than I've outlined in this blog post, but if you want a quick rundown with some more helpful links, you can go here and here. In those links, you can also get handy referrals to charities you can donate to which help many different people, including LGBTQ folks, the homeless, and those suffering from mental illness and addiction issues.
Below is a short list of the charities I like and that I feel you should donate to:
1. BC SPCA
2. Canadian Red Cross
3. Habitat For Humanity
4. Doctors Without Borders
5. World Wildlife Fund
I sincerely hope that the Salvation Army does more than release statements patting itself on the back for all the good it does, and that it walks the talk when it comes to LGBTQ rights and non-discrimination laws. Until then, statements like this one will only continue to fuel the controversy surrounding its troubled past, and the bells on their Kettle Drives will keep ringing into deaf ears.
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