3 min

Sally Ann controls

Companies donate to anti-gay religion, saying politics are none of their business

BRINGING IN THE BUCKS. The Salvation Army is happy to take homo donations. It's the homosexuality that's the hard part. Credit: Dean Tomlinson

Tens of thousands of Toronto tax dollars are going to the Salvation Army – an organization that bans practising homosexuals from wearing its crest or joining the ranks of Christian soldiers fighting evil.

And the discriminatory group has a stronghold on many charitable projects in the city. The Sally Ann runs 100 social services in Toronto alone.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” says Mariana Valverde, professor at the University Of Toronto who has written a book on the policing of morality which includes a large section of the Sally Ann’s history. “The Salvation Army has had this quasi-official status for a long time.”

Valverde says it’s unfair that taxpayer money goes into a religious organization, when many secular groups can run these projects as well.

“Experience doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the best,” she says.

Among those run for the city are the Jarvis Street Harbour Light Centre (that helps those with addictions), the Bethany Home And Daycare Centre and the several homeless shelters, including two large shelters for women that do not include transsexual women.

The Christian Sally Ann has long been criticized for its stance on homosexuality, which it regards as a sin and a controllable “tendency”.

In the US this year, the Salvation Army agreed to extend health benefits to same-sex domestic partners of employees – and then changed its mind (it does extend benefits to its employees in Canada, as it must under Canadian law). Some activists in the US and Canada have been putting notes instead of money into collection kettles to demonstrate their frustration with the policies.

“The Salvation Army takes the stand that we help all people equally,” says Sgt Andy Barrie, 35. “No one gets turned away.”

That is, unless you try to take the position of sergeant, or any other job within the church.

In order to wear one of the army’s badges you have to “come up to a certain standard,” says Barrie. You have to live your life according to certain principles set out by the Salvation Army including being a born-again Christian and living your life according to Christ.

“You can’t do that in a homosexual environment,” Barrie says.

Salvation Army public relations officer Major Joy Rennick explains: “Volunteers are just anybody who wants to come in serving soup or putting labels on our brochures and don’t get paid…. An officer is somebody who has decided to devote their life to serving God and has to go through a training college.”

Joy Peat, of the public relations department, says that 52 percent of funding comes from governments (in grants and user fees for services it provides), 33 percent from donations, nine percent from member contributions, five percent from investments and one percent from other sources. She would not say what the funding added up to in dollars.

Tim Rees, of the city’s access and equity department, says that religion based organizations receive funding as long they demonstrate the ability to provide services to all areas of society.

“If there is any indication that they are not wanting to provide services to residents based on [lifestyles], then we should not provide money to them.”

In 1993, the Salvation Army, in coalition with other groups, intervened to support the federal government in its successful challenge of a Canadian Human Rights Commission ruling that gay partners constitute a family.

Private sector supporters of the Salvation Army include Royal Bank, the Toronto Star, Sleep Country Canada, Lewiscraft and CIBC.

Media relations officer Jeff Keay says the Royal Bank donates $25,000 annually and that the Sally Ann does good work and provides services to all members of the community. “We don’t have a policy on examining every last detail of every last group.”

He says Royal Bank also makes donations to Toronto Pride and the Casey House AIDS Hospice.

CIBC also makes donations to the Sally Ann. Lyla Hage, CIBC’s public relations officer, says that “All [CIBC] considers is the work that they do. We stay out of anything that’s outside of that.”

The majority of the donations resold at the Sally Ann’s 20 thrift stores come from the public.

John Kernshaw, managing director of National Recycling Operations, says that revenues from the thrift stores average $12 million annually which go into the funding of Sally Ann programs.

The Salvation Army, was founded by William Booth in London, UK, as a movement called The Christian Mission, later renamed to the Salvation Army in 1878.

The organization began its work in Canada in 1882. Today, it operates in more than 100 countries.

Its Canadian headquarters are at 2 Overlea Blvd.

* With files from Billie Jo Newman