In the past few years, I have avoided the Salvation Army bellringers outside of Publix and the Post Office. As cute as their volunteers look with their elf-like caps, colorful aprons, and bells in hand, I averted my eyes as I walked past them because I would not give a dime to their organization that discriminates against gays.
In 2011, several LGBT advocates advocated a boycott of donations to the Salvation Army. According to NBC, they cited allegations that the evangelical charity refused to serve LGBT people because it considered them “sexually impure.” Their relationship with the LGBT community has been strained to say the least.
Salvation Army’s More LGBT-Friendly Tone
However, as recently as November 26, the Christian organization is trying to fulfill its new anti-discrimination policy which prohibits the denial of services or employment based on race, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex or sexual orientation.
In a response to a request from Truth Wins Out, an LGBT organization, The Salvation Army, on November 26, removed two links to ‘ex-gay’ therapy groups from its website’s resource collection for dealing with ‘sexual addiction.’ Those were conversion sites Harvest USA and Pure Life Ministries that claim to turn gay people straight.
This scientifically discredited practice called conversion therapy or gay-to-straight therapy was outlawed in California last August and more recently in New Jersey. The “pray-a-way” practice has often resulted in depression and low self-esteem for the gay people who partake and its long-term effects have not been studied. Last June, Randy Thomas, the Vice-President of the well-known Exodus International, a religious-based conversion therapy program, apologized to the gay community.
New Campaign Against LGBT Discrimination
Executive Director Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out, commended the immediate actions of the Salvation Army to correct itself. Besen said “this is a step in the right direction and congruent with their anti-discrimination campaign. We hope this action leads to further progress in gaining the full confidence and trust of the LGBT community.”
The Salvation Army’s director of communications claimed the “ex-gay” links were part of an archived page that was inadvertendtly republished when the organization relaunched its site in October.
Jennifer Byrd apologized in the letter for an “oversight and any confusion this may have caused. The Salvation Army does not consider homosexual orientation a sin. Please know that we serve anyone who comes to our doors without discrimination.”
Message Rings Truer and Clearer
With the Salvation Army distancing itself from conversion therapy with its more LGBT-inclusive policy, as an LGBT-ally, I’ll change my tone and contribute to their charity. I have my change ready.
When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know
For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.