BY ANDREA HOUSTON - At some point over the holidays, Xtra usually writes a story reminding people not to donate to the Salvation Army and instead to boycott the bell-ringers who perch in malls and pull on the heartstrings of shoppers who may already be feeling guilt from the orgy of consumerism that we call the holidays.

Yesterday (Dec 12) I was a guest on the Mike Bullard Show on Newstalk 1010 talking about the issue.

Bullard said the organization has recently released a statement trying to rid itself of that pesky old image that it discriminates against gay people by pushing the "love the sinner, hate the sin" hard sell.

Hear the clip here:

 

I'm not buying it, and neither is the rest of the queer community. Rest assured that nothing has changed at the Ol' Sally Ann. Their core principles are still very much opposed to gay sexuality. 

Telling queer people they are "tolerated" now is simply not good enough.

And are we supposed to just ignore that the Salvation Army has a history of taking action against gay rights all over the world? In the early '90s, the Salvation Army fought a Canadian Human Rights Commission declaration ruling that same-sex partners constitute a family, as reported in Torontoist. In New Zealand it 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.

When I called the organization's head office Dec 13 to clear things up, official communication was that nothing has changed from their core position statements.

Major John Murray, communications spokesperson, would not answer questions in a phone interview; he insisted I send my questions in writing. (When I receive a response I will post them here.)

The "Gay and Lesbian Sexuality" link on the Position Statements page redirects to the American Salvation Army headquarters' "Ethics Centre" page.

"The Salvation Army believes that God’s will for the expression of sexual intimacy is revealed in the Bible, and that living fully in accordance with biblical standards calls for chastity outside of heterosexual marriage and faithfulness within it."

Under "Family" it states, "We believe that the family is ideally rooted in the biblical concept of a marriage covenant of one man and one woman."

(I find it interesting to note that when you click "Responsibility for the Earth," nothing appears on the page. As usual, a church is much more interested in telling people how not to have sex than in taking time to consider minor annoyances like climate change.)

This is because the Salvation Army is run by the Evangelical Church, and the core positions on things like gay sex, abortion, family, pornography, sex work and euthanasia never change. 

In Toronto, the Sally Ann gets tax dollars from the city, as well as millions in funding from the provincial and federal governments to operate about a hundred social services projects in the GTA, according to the 2006 Torontoist story. 

The real kicker, and one many people don't know, is that the money collected through donations, like the Christmas kettles, is said to pay for anti-gay lobbying. In an Xtra story from 2006, the PR director for the Salvation Army's national office says the Sally Ann has never used any government funding to fight marriage equality. As for money collected through donations, the spokesperson said that he "wouldn't be able to speak to what any individual churches have done."

Regardless, its past speaks for itself. The Salvation Army takes an impassioned position against poverty and homelessness. Then why in 2001 did the organization ban transsexuals from the Salvation Army’s Toronto women’s shelters? That isn't very Christian. Is that what Jesus would do?

This holiday, consider giving your money to a charity that doesn't take such a moralistic view toward sex. There are many other charities and organizations that do great ethical work, and some are really close to home, like the 519 Church St Community Centre, the LGBT Youth Line or Maggie's: Toronto's Sex Worker Action Project, which has been on the frontlines helping the city's most marginalized people for 25 years and desperately needs support. There are many charities out there that don't support hate.

This video from the Women Born Transexual Blog provides more examples:


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