Every month, Andrea Houston will be here talking about important issues that our queer community is, or should be, talking about. Part of new series of community voices we’re bringing into our blog to bring the conversation beyond the theatre and out into the city.
The Salvation Army has been in damage control mode this year, trying to convince the world that the evangelical religious organization is not actually anti-gay.
This is absolutely false. Not only that, it also sweeps a significant anti-LGBTQ history under the rug without taking any accountability for it or making any public apology.
Many of us do annual reminders on social media, urging our friends and followers to not to donate to the Salvation Army and instead boycott the bell-ringers in favour of the many inclusive charities and community organizations that do not openly discriminate against LGBTQ people.
This year, my reminder tweets were replied to by the official Salvation Army Twitter account. And by the looks of things, they are responding individually to many others tweeting with similar concerns.
I have no doubt that the Salvation Army has taken steps to not appear overtly homophobic, such as scrubbing its regional websites to hide passages quoting scripture, calling gays sinners and proclaiming the Army’s belief in “one man, one women” relationships.
But the reality is, this is a massive, international organization that unambiguously condemns homosexuality. All donations to the Salvation Army are supporting an extensive record of homophobia and transphobia and a symbolic approval of escalating anti-LGBT violence in the developing world.
Remember the Salvation Army is a quasi-militaristic Methodist Church, consisting of soldiers and officers known as Salvationists. The Army’s lengthy history of anti-LGBT political maneuvering and discrimination is well documented.
The most glaring example is a 2012 interview on an Australian radio station, when Andrew Craibe, the Salvation Army’s Media Director in Australia, said gay people should be “put to death”.
Since the Salvation Army is essentially an evangelical church, the core positions on things like gay sex, abortion, family, pornography, sex work and euthanasia never change.
Earlier this year, a Salvation Army woman shelter in Texas denied access to a trans woman who was forced to flee her home after receiving death threats.
And it was only last winter that the Salvation Army finally removed links to “ex-gay” organizations on its website.
Even closer to home, L’Abri d’Espoir, a Montreal shelter operated by the Salvation Army, maintains a very clear policy – unless you have an “F” designation on official documents, you can’t come in.
Historically, the Salvation Army has attempted to lobby politically to stop pro-gay legislation. In the early 1990s, the Army fought a Canadian Human Rights Commission declaration ruling that same-sex partners constitute a family.
In New Zealand, the Salvation Army vocally opposed the repeal of laws against homosexuality. In New York, it threatened to close a soup kitchen for tens of thousands of homeless rather than support health benefits for gay city staff.
Here’s the problem: the Salvation Army receives funding from the City of Toronto, as well as millions in funding from the provincial and federal governments to operate numerous social services and outreach projects in the GTA.
This holiday, consider giving your money to a charity that doesn’t take such a moralistic view toward sex. There are many ethical organizations that do wonderful work, and many are local, such as the 519 Church St Community Centre, the LGBT Youth Line, Buddies, Sherbourne Health Centre or Maggie’s: Toronto’s Sex Worker Action Project, which is currently fighting to repeal C-36, the federal The Protection Of Communities And Exploited Persons Act, which Salvation Army-types stand to benefit greatly from.
Here’s a few more examples and some history:
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Andrea’s column appears every month, right here on our blog.