Does Salvation Army really include gays in its nondiscrimination policy? Not so much

There was an article in the Advocate recently claiming that the Salvation Army now includes sexual orientation in its non-discrimination policy (no mention of gender identity).  But is that really true?  The evidence is to the contrary.

The Salvation Army, as you may know, has been facing a growing backlash the past several years as potential donors have come to realize that the organization is not simply a “charity,” but rather, an “evangelical Christian church” that actively advocates against the civil rights of gays and lesbians around the world, in addition to discriminating against gays in employment.

“On the question of hiring gay employees, ‘it really begins to chew away at the theological fabric of who we are.’” – Salvation Army spokesman George Hood, 2001

And there are quotes far more recent than 2001, see below.

As a result of its increasingly bad publicity, the Salvation Army has been increasing fighting back, claiming that it provides services to everyone, of all orientations.

But that wasn’t really the question.  At least not entirely.

Yes, in the past the Salvation Army has in fact turned away people for being gay.  We’ve discussed that before.  And that’s great if, in fact, the Salvation Army no longer turns away gays – though I’d be very curious to know for a fact that the Salvation Army in say, rural Mississippi, wouldn’t turn away a married gay couple needing a place to stay the night.  But let’s say they wouldn’t discriminate against a gay couple, just for argument’s sake.

What about in employment policy?  Can a gay person be hired for any Salvation Army job and make their way up through the ranks to the top position, without having to swear an oath of celibacy, among other things, that presumably includes never getting married to another gay person?

And what about the Salvation Army’s decades-long anti-gay activism – has that stopped too?

If the Salvation Army wants to convince us that they’re no longer hateful and intolerant religious right activists, I’d like to hear a full coming to Jesus accounting of all of their past sins.

Let’s look at what the Salvation Army’s employment policies actually say about sexual orientation.

Salvation Army’s EEO Policy and Gays – Southern California

In the Advocate story, they link to the Salvation Army’s EEO policy in Southern California.  It’s a trickly little document – first take a look, then let me walk you through the subterfuge.

Salvation Army Southern California has a gay inclusive EEO policy.

Salvation Army Southern California has a gay inclusive EEO policy.

At first glance, you might understandably think, this is great, the Salvation Army in Southern California includes gays in its non-discrimination policy.  Putting aside for a moment the fact that they don’t include “disability,” which is odd (as that’s been a non-controversial category for years), and they don’t include gender identity, there’s something else a bit strange about the document.  If you read more closely, you’ll see that the phrasing of the “employment” portion is different than the phrasing of the “delivery of services” and “volunteer” portion.

In the delivery of services and volunteer policies, the Salvation Army of Southern California specifically says it will not discriminate against gay people, and it “will comply” with all federal, state and local anti-discrimination laws.  Meaning, both elements are mutually exclusive, they’ll do both.

But in the employment section, however, the Salvation Army of Southern California mentions gays, then it doesn’t say “and will comply,” rather, it says “and in compliance with all federal, state and local anti-discrimination laws.”

Why the different language for employment at the Salvation Army?  As a lawyer, I read that employment section to possibly mean that we will cover these categories of people if local, state or federal law requires it, not in spite of those laws, which is what the other two sections say.  So it’s not at all clear if the Salvation Army of Southern California doesn’t discriminate in employment against gays.  (Not to mention, I’d be very curious how local and state gay rights laws apply, if at all, to the Salvation Army, or whether they claim some kind of “church” exemption.)

Salvation Army & the Gays: Southern Territory

Curious as to whether this was just Southern California’s policy, I did a little searching on the Salvation Army’s Web site and found that all their regions have different policies, all of which are pretty bad on sexual orientation.  Next up, the Southern Territory.

Note that not only is sexual orientation not mentioned, but the Salvation Army makes clear that even if the law says they can’t discriminate, they will discriminate anyway if they deem the law “inconsistent with” their “religious principles”:


Are you feeling the love?

The Southern Territory Salvation Army also includes a “diversity statement” that’s rather non-diverse. Note how the diversity policy states that social welfare services will be provided to everyone, period.  But it goes on to say that in employment, not so much:


Salvation Army & the Gays: Eastern Territory

In the Salvation Army’s Eastern Territory, I found a general blanket nationwide employment non-discrimination statement that covered sexuial orientation, and seems to contradict several of the other territories:


Salvation Army & the Gays: Central Territory

The Salvation Army’s Central Territory includes the awful diversity statement, and simply reiterates the national policy – no details as to who’s covered – but with a clear “but” concerning any employment practices that rub the Salvation Army the wrong way as a “church”:

Salvation Army Central Territory diversity statement is full of loopholes.

Salvation Army Central Territory diversity statement is full of loopholes.


Salvation Army & the Gays: Canada

I couldn’t find an EEO policy on the Canadian Salvation Army site, but I did find a link to a response to concerns about LGBTQ discrimination.  The response is classic Salvation Army.  They simply state that they don’t discriminate in the provision of services.


But what about employment?

What about support for anti-gay laws and policies at the federal, state/territory and local level in Canada and internationally?


The Salvation Army refuses to come clean and rebuke its anti-gay past and present

We’re seeing a lot of flim-flam from the Salvation Army, and not a lot of substance.

It’s nice that they no longer discriminate based on the provision of services – they say – but what about in employment?  Who knows.

And while one might argue that it was “all the way back” in 2001 that the Salvation Army spokesman said they wouldn’t hire gays, the Salvation Army Australia Web site only a few years ago (I found it myself) said this:

salvation-army-red-kettle-2“[Homosexual activity is] as rebellion against God’s plan for the created order…. Homosexual practice, however, is, in the light of Scripture, clearly unacceptable. Such activity is chosen behaviour and is thus a matter of the will. It is therefore able to be directed or restrained in the same way heterosexual urges are controlled. Homosexual practice would render any person ineligible for full membership (soldiership) in the [Salvation] Army.” – Salvation Army Australia Web site (emphasis added)

And there are allegations that the Salvation army, only last year in 2012, fired someone for being bisexual.

And we know that the Salvation Army’s employment non-discrimination policy(ies) is a bit of a mess as it concerns sexual orientation, changing by region, most of it bad.

And what about the Salvation Army’s decades-long support for anti-gay advocacy at the federal and local level, worldwide?  Is that going to stop?

Just last year, in 2012, the Salvation Army got involved in the gay marriage battles in the Britain and Australia.  Keep in mind, it was just in 2010 that the Salvation Army was calling on gays to be celibate. Is that a requirement for employment (they’ve since taken the statement down, but have they changed the policy)?

The Salvation Army’s “Position Statement” on homosexuality, found on its Web site, reads in part: “The Salvation Army does not consider same-sex orientation blameworthy in itself. Homosexual conduct, like heterosexual conduct, requires individual responsibility and must be guided by the light of scriptural teaching. Scripture forbids sexual intimacy between members of the same sex. 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.”

I’m happy to welcome the Salvation Army back to the fold of being just a good charity, but the organization insists on being a far-right, evangelical church that reserves the right to discriminate against gays in hiring, and to advocate for anti-gay legislation and policies worldwide.  (And forget about trans people, they’re nowhere on the Salvation Army’s site.)  And I don’t give my hard-earned money to Jerry Falwell wannabes.

All I want for Christmas is decidedly not you.

All I want for Christmas is decidedly not you.

The fact that the various territories of the Salvation Army can’t even get their message straight (as it were) as to whether or not gays are included in their employment non-discrimination policies, and to what degree there does or doesn’t have to first be a law requiring such non-discrimination, and whether the Salvation Army even recognizes that the law applies to it, leaves this gay troubled.

I’m not giving a dime to the red kettle until the Salvation Army comes clean.  If the Salvation Army wants to be an intolerant evangelical Christian, gay-hating, religious right activist church. God bless them.  But they won’t be seeing my money this Christmas, or any Christmas to come, because I don’t give to religious right activists.

Until they really change, the Salvation Army will be getting these instead:


(I’m told that in order to actually see my Facebook posts in your Facebook feed, you need to “follow” me – so say the experts.)

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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25 Responses to “Does Salvation Army really include gays in its nondiscrimination policy? Not so much”

  1. Josh says:

    The reason people don’t know Salvation Army is a fundie church is that they deliberately misrepresent themselves.

  2. Josh says:

    Not a disputed fact? I’m disputing it — I’ve never heard such a claim.
    Do you have any sources or evidence, or did you just make this up?

  3. Tori says:

    As humans, every single one of us sins. And not a single one of us deserves the Lords love…but he loves us anyway. The bible also states that we should love every single person and forgive them of their sins as God has forgiven ours. Also for the record: Leviticus 20:10: If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death…in the Old Testament people who cheated on their spouses were to be put to death as well. How bout you preach that as well!

  4. JasonSparks says:

    Source this please.

  5. dug says:

    This charity (Salvation Army) very obviously and very easily serves more people in the LGBT community than all other charities combined. That isn’t even a disputed fact.

  6. Butch1 says:

    Why wouldn’t we go after people who have been against us and our enemy for as long as I can remember? They are fair game for our people. I guess you would rather put up with a little bit of discrimination? Hell, we are just a small minority; you are not one of us; what do you care? Is that it? Try walking in our shoes and see what we have had to go through and you might change your tune.

  7. Butch1 says:

    You show your ignorance coming on a site like this and using pejorative names right off the bat. Who do you think you are? Would you feel as comfortable visiting a black site and using the N word so freely? Grow up and try using adult language when writing on an adult site. You’ve said your piece now run along.

  8. Naja pallida says:

    Sorry you had to go through that, but it does glaringly highlight why we need non-discrimination codified into unambiguous law.

  9. jomicur says:

    Exactly. The company I sued for discrimination a few years ago had a very strongly worded nondiscrimination policy in its employee handbook. Then one day the (fundamentalist) facility manager called me into her office and explained that I was being demoted from my management position because I was openly gay and “people find that offensive.” The following week I was fired outright, and I filed suit. And the day after they received notice of the suit, they issued a new employee handbook with sexual orientation deleted from their policy. That action, more than anything else, led to them losing the suit. For far too many companies, nondiscrimination is a matter of PR, not of principle.

  10. jomicur says:

    The Salvation Army has lobbied against legislation to protect LGBT people from violence and discrimination in most if not all of the jurisdictions where they operate. Herfe in Pittsburgh I still recall their virulent testimony against a simple nondiscrimination ordinance. You don’t seem to object to the Salvation Army making “political statements” against LGBT equality. Why is that?

  11. Monoceros Forth says:

    It’s sad that you would rather make a political statement instead of trying to help some kids at Christmas time.

    It seems to me that, considering that the primary function of the Salvation Army is to be a radical evangelical Protestant sect with definite political aims, you ought to aim your words more carefully.

  12. Naja pallida says:

    No, what’s sad is that we have an evangelical church, that pretends to be a secular charity to dupe people, who ordinarily wouldn’t ever donate to a church – especially one not their own – into giving them money. A church that does not believe in treating everyone equally. Educating people about what organizations who are begging for their hard earned money actually want to do with that money is not politicizing it, it’s simply informing. If the Salvation Army doesn’t like people telling the truth about them so the public can make an informed decision on whether to give them money or not, maybe they’re in the wrong business.

  13. Thom Allen says:

    What if those kids in Charlotte are gay and the SA refuses to help them? Not very charitable and loving then, is it? Your source for saying that NONE of what’s collected goes to SA admin, except for the pay for the bell ringers?

  14. BeccaM says:

    We donate monthly to our local food bank, and give extra at the holidays.

    Because, y’know, it’s hard to celebrate Christmas or any other holiday when one’s stomach is empty.

    The Salvation Army is not the only charity out there, and I don’t want my dollars going to support a church that lobbies against my civil rights as a human being. Or issues statements saying that my wife and I would be better off dead.

  15. Aaron J. Angel says:

    So. Your stance is that a church that advocates abstinence for homos but not straight married couples should have no problem hiring a “practicing homosexual”? Good, because we are all just lined up to work for the Salvos. Man, you’ve got me fired up, now! I think I’ll walk on down and pick up a job application on Monday.

    Now I wonder: What would happen if a Mormon politician — say, one who believed in so-called “traditional marriage” — was faced with a legally married homosexual applying for position on his staff, one who just so happened to be the most qualified for the job. Would anyone really be surprised at the results? Would anyone really be mad?

    I mean, I suppose we should start finding homos that want to work for the Salvos, or Romney, and test the waters, right? Should be easy. We’re all lined up.

  16. Stev84 says:

    There are plenty of other ways to do charitable things. Again, you’re acting as if the SA has a monopoly.

  17. Stev84 says:

    It’s important to note that the Salvation Army is literally a church. Not a charity. As such, they are exempt from a lot of anti-discrimination laws. Especially in the US. So they could easily say that they are complying with them and still fire gay people.

  18. Dr. Mike Wendell says:

    It’s sad that you would rather make a political statement instead of trying to help some kids at Christmas time.

    I’m not sure about other areas but here in Charlotte, the kettle campaign is specially earmarked for the Christmas programs. Not of it goes to administration with the exception of paying the bell ringers.

  19. Indigo says:

    Ah for the good old days when the The Advocate was militantly gay and black ink ran onto the hands holding up those huge sheets of scrap paper. Nowadays, it’s very pretty.

  20. karmanot says:

    Consider the source: the Advocate—–mainstream sweater set, Gucci loafer, accommodation collaborators.

  21. Monoceros Forth says:

    Almost every single corporation has a corporate policy that claims they don’t discriminate based on various things that make for good public relations, but wherever there is no law enforcing it, it means absolutely nothing.

    “Good morning, Mr. Employee. I have just been given your latest job evaluation and it seems that despite your spotless record of evaluations hitherto, we’ve determined that you are now substandard, belligerent, uncooperative, and a poor team player. Here’s your pink slip. A security guard will be escorting you out of the building. By the way this has nothing to do with the fact that you mentioned your boyfriend in a casual conversation with me last week.”

  22. Naja pallida says:

    Hey dcinsider, just so you know, I’m not going to murder anyone. It’s against my policy. :)

  23. dcinsider says:

    Salvation Army is still subject to state anti-discrimination laws to the extent they operate publicly accessible facilities or accommodations, so acknowledging they won;t violate state law is not exactly welcoming.

  24. Naja pallida says:

    Almost every single corporation has a corporate policy that claims they don’t discriminate based on various things that make for good public relations, but wherever there is no law enforcing it, it means absolutely nothing. Corporate policies can change, be ignored, or be selective applied, at the whim of any executive within the company. In the end, the Salvation Army is still a multi-billion dollar, pan-national evangelical church, with beliefs contrary to notion of equality for all.

  25. dcinsider says:

    Good take down, John. Posted you other article on FB and it has been widely shared.

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