Saturday, January 16, 2016

Does the Salvation Army Discriminate Against Gay People?

I posted this earlier this week, which was probably a bit of a mistake because it touched a little too close to work and because there's controversy attached to it. That story involving the local Salvation Army's winter warming station was the latest in a series of Salvation Army-related connections that I've encountered within the past two weeks. First, there was the initial story about the temporary winter warming shelter that's currently placed at the Salvation Army. Then I received a DVD collection of a 1983 British television services featuring the Salvation Army called "Hallelujah!" Then I happened to listen to a series of 2010 podcasts featuring my friend Andrew Marin at a youth pastor training event involving the Salvation Army. Then came the latest back-and-forth involving the local Board of Supervisors and one person's concerns about the Salvation Army and the county government's involvement with it.

The latest story got me looking at the local Salvation Army's website, which features a video claiming that they do not discriminate against LGBT people. Which linked me to a variety of other videos on YouTube that also assert that the Salvation Army does not discriminate against LGBT people -- and they never have!

Which is interesting, given that I had literally just listened to a couple hours worth of training videos from 2010 featuring SA youth pastors who were figuring out how to deal with LGBT teens and other services offered by the Salvation Army. Most people that I heard in that video had really strong (and negative) reactions to LGBT people -- not to mention gay Christians! ("Gay Christians? How stupid! That's like saying that I'm a murderer Christian or a thieving Christian!")

I'm not saying that there aren't wonderful service ministries that have helped millions of people -- including LGBT people. But they have also worked hard over the years to support laws that penalize LGBT people. Example, the Salvation Army of the United States tried pushing through policies with the Bush administration in 2001 that would allow religious charities that accept federal funds to be exempt from local ordinances that bar anti-gay discrimination. They shut down programs for the homeless and the elderly in San Francisco in 1998 because they refused to provide spousal benefits for gay employees. And they have a mixed history when it comes to employing LGBT employees -- even non-ministerial employees. (source)

That said, the Salvation Army of the United States really does now seem to be stressing that it should not discriminate against LGBT people -- particularly when it comes to service provisions -- including allowing gay or lesbian families to remain intact while living in shelters. Employment is still problematic, but mostly with officers (ministerial staff). Supposedly, it shouldn't affect social workers and other non-ministerial staff. Supposedly.

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