March 18 2013 12:00 AM

LGBT community urges people not to donate to Salvation Army this year

For several years, protesters have circulated fake money such as this to place in Salvation Army buckets.

Wednesday, Nov. 30 — The Salvation Army bell ringers are out
once more seeking contributions. And leaders of the gay community are once more
encouraging people not to give.

Gay rights activist Bill Browning wrote on the LGBT blog The
Bilerico Project last week, “The Salvation Army has a history of active
discrimination against gays and lesbians. While you might think you're helping
the hungry and homeless by dropping a few dollars in the bright red buckets,
not everyone can share in the donations. Many LGBT people are rejected by the
evangelical church charity because they're ‘sexually impure.’”

Browning also writes, “If you care about gay rights, you’ll
skip their bucket in favor of a charity that doesn’t actively discriminate
against the LGBT community.”

Earlier this month, a “Boycott the Salvation Army” group
appeared on Facebook saying that people should not donate to Salvation Army
because the organization “is not only a charity, but an evangelical church
promoting conservative Christianity and anti-gay politics.” The group has over

But Captain Brian Davis, capital area coordinator for the
Salvation Army, says a person’s sexual orientation has no bearing on whether
they receive services from the organization.

“We don’t deny services to people who come in for Christmas
assistance because of (their sexual orientation),” Davis said. “In terms of
employment, in terms of services, it doesn’t have any impact because we don’t
ask those questions.”

According to the organization’s position statement, which is
posted on its website, “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.”

Davis said the statement applies to the organization’s
religious denomination, not to the services it provides. He said any member of
the church is expected to practice celibacy unless they are married because “we
believe that any sexual intercourse outside of marriage is not God’s best plan
for us.”

“It’s not really in terms of services or employment,” Davis
said. “It’s really about the denomination, and it’s not uncommon among
denominations in terms of that scriptural view.”

The policy does not prevent homosexuals from joining the
church, Davis said, but they are expected to practice celibacy just like all
non-married heterosexual members are.

Even so, Equality Michigan, a statewide LGBT organization,
is encouraging people to find other charities to donate to this year, such as Goodwill, the American Red Cross, Doctors Without
Borders and Habitat for Humanity, Michael Gregor, the group’s communications
director, said.

“We encourage folks to consider supporting charities that do
support gay and transgender equality either thought their employment practices
or their social services practices,” Gregor said. “We’re troubled that the
Salvation Army has its history of anti-gay activism and we’re grateful that its
been brought to light and that more people are aware of it.”

Gregor said the charities he mentioned do similar work
compared with the Salvation Army “without the anti-gay record.” While the
organization is not officially calling for a boycott of the Army, Gregor said
it encourages people to donate to charities that “don’t actively try to harm
gay and transgender people in the way that Salvation Army has throughout the

“In our work in Michigan we’re always looking to monitor
organizations and businesses and government entities that are actively working
against gay and transgender residents,” Gregor said. “It’s really important to
us that more folks are aware of what businesses and organizations support gay
and transgender equality and we’re encouraging more businesses to do so because
it’s the right thing to do.”