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.)

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | 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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