Logo of the Salvation Army. (From Wikipedia Commons)

And a little bit of separation of church and state to go along with this.

Next time you go to the grocery store or some other place which has the Salvation Army out front with its bell and its bucket, there are two, not one, but two things you should do. The first thing you should do is to walk past the bucket without putting any money in. I don’t recommend being mean to the person ringing the bell, even though they represent evil (see below). They probably just don’t know they represent evil. Personally, I just don’t pay any attention to them. If the person asks how I am, I say “fine” which in Minnesota means “Kiss my ass” deniably.

The second thing you should do is to march over to the customer service desk and say something to the effect of “I don’t like the idea of having an intolerant evangelical organization soliciting me for money every time I want to buy a gallon of milk. I may need to look for a grocery store that does not have that feature,” and then walk away smugly.

Crest of the Salvation Army. (From Wikipedia Commons.)

Not all organizations allow the Salvation Army to bother customers out in front. I’m pretty sure that in Minnesota, Target does not. Target has a grocery store. With milk. So my threat is not without substance.

Many people freely give money and stuff to charities no matter what the charity’s philosophy or other connections because they figure that the charity is doing good work anyway and the details don’t matter, bla bla bla. But even if the charity gives all the cash it gets in a particular fund drive, such as the Salvation Army’s bell ringing hoard saturation approach, to feed and clothe poor people, charities and churches also use their “good works” to gain social and political power and credibility, and from that perspective, they may carry out acts you wouldn’t want to contribute towards, acts allowed and advanced in part by that dollar you dropped in the kettle.

In the case of the Salvation Army, it may be worse than average. Some of the “charitable acts” of this organization are biased. First you have to understand that the Salvation Army works in units (like any good army) that operate somewhat independently. Personally, I think this is a strategy to allow the national (or international) form of the organization to not explicitly state or support policy that is in fact mostly carried out on the ground. Two years ago it was discovered that some (many?) local Salvation Army groups were tossing donated toys of the Harry Potter theme in the dumpster instead of giving them to kids, because they regarded Harry Potter Satanic. One might think that it is their choice to give or not give a toy to some kid, but this could be a toy YOU decided should be given to some kid for the holidays but then THEY, the Salvation Army, overruled you using crazy paranoid irrational sky daddy logic. That was probably not your hope or intention when you dropped a handful of toys off at the Salvation Army.

Queer 3 Dollar bill. " A bogus piece of U.S. currency, a three-dollar bill, distributed over the Internet and promoted as "Queer Dollars" to be used to protest perceived anti-gay policies of the Salvation Army. A play on the proverb 'as queer as a three-dollar bill.' " (From Wikipedia Commons)

There is evidence that shelter and food provided to the homeless is withheld unless the potential recipients adhere to the Army’s belief system regarding relationships and sexuality. I don’t know of any specific examples in my area of gay or lesbian clients being turned away, but the belief system of the Salvation Army on Teh Gay is among the most extreme you will find among evangelical groups. There is a biblical passage referred to in a key Army document that refers to how homosexuals need to die. When asked about this, a senior Australian Salvation Army official confirmed:

Asked whether the Salvation Army took the wording literally, i.e. that practising homosexuals should be put to death, the Major Craibe replied in the affirmative. Truth Wins Out transcribed the resulting discussion

CRAIBE: Well, that’s a part of our belief system.

RYAN (cutting in): So we should die.

CRAIBE: You know, we have an alignment to the Scriptures, but that’s our belief.

RYAN: Wow. So we should die.

They then discussed the handbook’s section on sin (pages 61-63), which cites the same passage from Romans.

RYAN: … that you’re proposing in your religious doctrine and the way that you train — this is part of your training of your soldiers — that because we’re gay, that — we must die. If you go to Romans, book 1, 18-32, it’s all there, mate. I mean, how can you stand by that? How is that Christian?

CRAIBE: Well, well, because that is part of our Christian doctrine –

RYAN (interrupting): But how is that Christian? Shouldn’t it be about love?

CRAIBE: — that’s our understanding of that. Well, the love that we would show is about that: consideration for all human beings to come to know salvation –

RYAN: Or die. . .

CRAIBE: Well, yes.

Salvation Army volunteer with kettle in front of a supermarket in Michigan. You could always put that Queer $3 Bill in that kettle. (Photo from Wikipedia Commons.)

So, if you are gay, and you need food and shelter, and the only option is the Salvation Army, and you go there, and they figure out you are gay, the people who work there probably won’t kill you, but they will know that you should die. Have a nice dinner and sleep well, gay homeless person! But do try to get a cot near the wall and put some empty tin cans around for anyone who approaches you during the night to tip over. Just in case.

Bill Browning enumerates a number of political actions taken by the Salvation Army in the US and elsewhere. You know about “faith based initiatives” and you know about attempts by religious organizations to relieve themselves of the requirement to not discriminate against gays, lesbians, or other undesirables in employment, and so on. That, dear reader, is the Salvation Army doing that. Other churches as well, but the Army is a major mover and shaker in the effort to meld church into state and produce a non-secular, Christian evangelical society. If you are a secularist of any kind, when you throw money into that kettle, you are cutting your own throat. That is no way to run a war on Christmas, people!


  1. #1 MikeMa
    November 17, 2012

    I had heard about this a few years ago. I don’t contribute anymore and I don’t harass the ringers. I will make inquiries of the store though. That is a good additional bit of action easily taken.

  2. #2 Comrade Carter
    November 17, 2012

    I get annoyed at the Salvation Army every time I go into the local Walgreens, which is the closest retail environment to my home here in Wauwatosa. I don’t have any $3 bills, but I’m getting close to getting some.

    I’m not gay, that doesn’t mean I don’t want gays around me. I do, and even more, I don’t know anybody who’s gay but I’d bet at least a few of my friends are. So what?

    Of course, I am an atheist, so…

  3. #3 Earl
    November 17, 2012

    One person that says something dum and you try to bring down a organization who serves others without discrimination.

  4. #4 Drivebyposter
    November 17, 2012

    Go back to your moonshine still and leave readin’ for people who aren’t braindead.

    They DO discriminate. Did you have trouble understanding that?

  5. #5 David H
    November 17, 2012

    Any thoughts on what charity is better for my contributions? ( one were most of the donation goes to help local people in need)

  6. #6 R E G
    November 17, 2012

    I don’t want to start a flame war … and I certainly have no desire to support the Salvation Army but…

    Look around your community and consider where your charity dollars can go. In my smallish city, the soup kitchen and emergency housing are entirely supported by faith-based organizations. Our local mosque holds monthly fund-raisers for the inter-denominational food bank. I know people who work in the food bank and soup kitchen. They are definitely not discriminating against anyone.

    A friend gives a substantial donation and a couple of weekends each year to a church’s “In from the cold ” .program. They give out cots, blankets and meals – no sermons.

    If you want to make a statement against the Salvation Army that’s fine. Just be aware that the population they serve are not going to disappear if donations dry up. Try to find an alternative you can support.

  7. #7 Greg Laden
    November 17, 2012

    “If you want to make a statement against the Salvation Army that’s fine.”

    Well, I did, and I meant it. In the greater Twin Cities, the vast majority of soup kitchens and homeless shelters are not the Salvation Army. There are seven or eight major homeless shelters i the area one is Salvation Army. Many, but not nearly all, of the other facilities are faith based….the majority of long term supportive housing units in the Twin Cities are not faith based organizations. Of those that are, few are extreme fundementalist groups like SA, and I’ll be that in your community there are not many facilities that claim that the Bible is correct when it says that gay people must die!

  8. #8 Greg Laden
    November 17, 2012

    David H, good question, that may depend on which community you are in. You might have a look at this:


    Other comments or suggestions on David H’s question would be much appreciated!

  9. #9 solarspace
    November 17, 2012

    I just give a box of non-perishables to the food bank from time to time. help ease my feeling of first-world guilt a little. I know from personal experience that a free bag of pasta and a jar of sauce go a looong way for a local starving teenager.

  10. #10 Tonya
    November 18, 2012

    So according to this message, you are not only against the Salvation Army, but you are against any faith based organization that strictly follows the bible. I’ve seen messages like this around the holidays every year and it’s the same thing don’t contribute to The Salvation Army they are against gays, but there’s no real example of them turning away the GLBT community when help is needed. I’ve even read their mission statement (http://bit.ly/UNrJhy)and how they were against what that Australian officer commented on and explained the broader meaning of the scripture he was attempting to quote. It wasn’t physical death but spirtual death (http://nbcnews.to/U3Gcr9). And the message said we are all without sin, not just GLBT, but everyone. I agree if you don’t want to give to any faith based organization (not just The Salvation Army) because they believe that God doesn’t agree withe GLBT behavior than fine – you have that right. But don’t decide not to give because you think they are biased and you don’t have actual proof. What you do have proof of is the money that is donated is given back to the community. (http://bit.ly/Q33PBO)

  11. #11 Mark Stanley
    November 18, 2012

    One of the most telling statements you make in is when you say “I don’t know of any specific examples in my area of gay or lesbian clients being turned away.” But then you go on to suggest that an LGBT person staying at an SA shelter could be threatended or injured. That’s quite a leap – you don’t have know of any situations, but you go ahead an accuse regardless. That’s an interesting approach for a “Science Blog”.

    Just so I’m clear – what you’re saying is that its wrong to hate and condemn or try to destory (sending them to hell) anyone for who they are, i.e. part of the LGBT community. But its okay to condemn or try to destory other people, i.e. people who work for the Salvation Army. Hmmm.

    The Salvaiton Army is not a machine – its people. Its employees, its volunteers, its people in my community and your community. I’m not sure why you want to hurt all those people – is that your position when you encounter anyone who doesn’t agree or believe what you believe? So you’ll need to add Muslims to your list of people to hate, because the Koran not only condemns homesexuality, it condemns all “infidels” (thats you, me, every LGBT person, and every Salvation Army person).

    My experience with the LGBT community is one that has taught me that one of the key values is tolerance. I’m not sure your rant about Salvation Army is about defending LGBT’s – but I’m pretty sure its not about tolerance.

    Tolerance – how but giving it a try?

    Take care.

  12. #12 Greg Laden
    November 18, 2012

    Mark, I said I do not know personally of specific cases in myneighborhood

  13. #13 jane
    November 18, 2012

    Salvation Army “officers” are forbidden to have relationships with anyone but other “officers.” A few years ago, they kicked out one of their highest-ranking female “officers” because she married a man who (though as far as I know a mainstream Christian) was not in the “Army.” That alone qualifies them as a cult in my book.

  14. #14 Nicole
    November 19, 2012

    Last year I ended up sitting near a group of Salvation Army leaders at a restaurant. When someone mentioned Chaz Bono being on Dancing With The Stars I cringed inside expecting the worse – only to hear one comment about times changing and another about how the man’s Salvation Army location was adding a private room to their homeless shelter for trans* people in the community to use. Both said very matter-of-factly. I was shocked – I live in a very conservative state where even Christians in much less conservative groups would have terrible things to say about trans* people.

    I still don’t donate cash to the Salvation Army, but it’s for a lot of reasons, not just their LGBT views. But even in this conservative state they were willing to go out of their way to help trans* people in their community so I’m not going to assume the worst of the organization. Not the best either, but certainly not the worst.

  15. […] gifts to support anti-gay legislation in America and abroad. Other SA officials have seen fit to throw away brand-new, donated, Harry Potter toys and books, because they didn’t want to be complicit in turning recipients toward Satan. And still […]