Tis’ the season for giving, but without a little research, your pink dollars could be going to charities that may be homophobic.
So next time you walk past one of those red Salvation Army kettles on a street corner while bargain hunting for stocking stuffers, perhaps think twice about supporting a charity that opposes gay sex.
The Sally Ann, as it’s often referred to, is a branch of the Evangelical Christian Church that aims to help people in need through a broad system of social programs. While that’s all well and good, they’re also strong opponents of same-sex marriage, a vocal opponent to the decriminalization of sex work and they strongly oppose any expression of sexuality outside of traditional heterosexual marriage.
And, if you needed more reason, in 2001 the organization banned transsexuals from the Salvation Army’s Toronto women’s shelters.
The Salvation Army did not return calls from Xtra.
“It’s incredibly important to know where you’re donating your money,” says Michael Cress, senior development officer at Casey House, a hospice for people with AIDS. “I’m finding donors are becoming more and more savvy as to which charities they direct their money to.”
New this year, Casey House is offering Holiday Cards. For $20, the hospice will mail out the card stating a donation was made in the name of the recipient.
“It’s really meaningful, especially because HIV/AIDS has hit so many gay and trans people in our community,” he says. “It’s a really effective way to give a gift that really counts.”
The deadline for mailing Casey House Holiday Cards is Dec 14 to get them out in time for Christmas.
For many people, holiday giving usually means a donation to a toy drive or the food bank, things that are specifically Christmas focused, says Brandon Sawh, the executive director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bi Youth Line.
But that’s the time of year when gay and lesbian non-profits agencies need help the most because donations might slide, he says.
“So it’s important to also give to LGBT non-profits. We need people to open their wallets and continue to give,” Sawh says. “When I give to a charity, I look for things that are important to me, and I do some research on that. Really be aware of where you dollar is going.”
The holidays can be a lonely time for some people, so the Lesbian, Gay, Bi Youth Line’s services may be needed more, he says.
“The media attention on the recent rash of teen suicides didn’t transpire into donated dollars, but it did bring some awareness to the organization,” he says. “Our calls are consistent throughout the year. There’s a peak when the school years starts and around the holidays, when some of us feel tired, alone and isolated.”
Similarly, at the 519 Church Street Community, Matthew Cutler, manager of resource and development, said the centre always launches a holiday campaign to get people to support and get involved.
While it’s one of the busiest times for donations, he says, it’s also when the need is greatest at the 519.
“This is the time of year we do the most community building work,” he said. “It’s often a difficult time for people struggling with addiction. So our centre is busier than normal, especially for those who don’t have families to go home to or a network of their own.”
Cutler said he always targets his donations to anti-oppression and anti-discrimination causes.
“The philanthropy is connected to what matters to you the most,” he says. “There’s lots of options.”
The AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT) is currently kicking off their World AIDS Day campaign, which will continue throughout the holiday season, says spokesperson Andrew Brett.
On WorldAIDS.ca, you can light a “candle of hope,” which translates into real dollars for HIV/AIDS programs and services, Brett suggests.
“For every candle that’s lit, you contribute a donation towards programs and services for people living with, affected by and at risk for HIV/AIDS, which includes the thousands of people living with HIV/AIDS as well as their friends and loved ones,” he says.
Or, browse through the “enlightened gift” ideas at the ACT store on the organization’s website, Brett suggests. The gift ties the donation to a tangible service we offer to people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.
The holidays are when people depend most on ACT because they provide practical services for people living HIV and AIDS, such as meal programs that allow long-term survivors to get together and meet up other over the holidays, he says.
“We see the health of people living with HIV is physical health, but also mental health,” he says. “So giving is essential this time of year, and all year round.”
Where Sally Ann stands:
On the Salvation Army website, the charity states clearly where it stands on hot-button gay and lesbian issues.
On gay and lesbian sexuality: “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. We do not believe that same-sex attraction is necessarily blameworthy and we oppose the vilification and mistreatment of gays and lesbians. We believe that we are accountable for the ways in which we express our sexuality.”
On pornography: “Pornography attacks and distorts God’s design by depersonalizing sex and emphasizing the gratification of selfish desires to the neglect of loving, committed relationships. Instead of providing satisfaction, pornography only intensifies lust and may even become addictive.”
On marriage: “The Salvation Army believes marriage is the covenanting together of one man and one woman for life in a union to the exclusion of all others.”
UPDATE 1 DEC 2010 – By Matt Mills
Hi All: Commenter Nadine Oberman below asked for some more supporting information on this piece so I’ve pulled together some additional source material for you to look at.
The first is this video piece thanks to the Women Born Transexual Blog:
And in terms of the Salvation Army in the jurisprudence, there are a few cases that speak directly to sexual morality, employment and the Salvation Army in Canada. The Salvation Army served as intervenor in Canada v Mossop. The Salvation Army was defendant in Lewery v Governing Council of Salvation Army in Canada. In the matter of Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board v Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, the events described unfolded at a Salvation Army site.