Salvation Army battles gay discrimination allegations

Gay-rights groups are urging a boycott against the Salvation Army, saying the charity discriminated against the LGBTQ community for years. Photo by Amanda Frank/[email protected]

Just as the holiday season and the Salvation Army’s 120th Red Kettle Campaign gets underway, the organization faces allegations of discrimination from gay rights activists.

The allegations are that the Salvation Army’s “selective interpretation” of the Bible allows it to discriminate against members of the LGBT community. Due to this, activists are calling for a boycott of the organization’s campaign.

A Nov. 21 blog post entitled, “Why You Shouldn’t Donate to the Salvation Army Bell-Ringers,” on Bilerico.com, a blog run by members of the LGBT community across the nation, asserted the actions of the Salvation Army contradict the organization’s mission statement.

Bill Browning, the author of the blog, wrote that when it comes to members of the LGBT community, the organization denies aid garnered through donations unless the donor renounces his or her sexuality. Browning said the donations go to anti-gay lobbying.

Members of the Salvation Army in Milwaukee have not heard of the allegations.

Faithe Colas, community relations director for the Salvation Army of Milwaukee County Divisional Headquarters, said she was unaware of any allegations of discrimination facing the organization.

Despite the Bilerico project’s allegations the Salvation Army discriminates against the LGBT community, many continue to donate.

Sarah Kannall, a freshman in the College of Business Administration, said she will donate to an organization regardless of whether they are facing allegations of discrimination. She explained this by saying there are individuals who still need the aid, regardless of issues surrounding the charity.

“Other people still need help,” Kannall said. “I would believe the people that say they are not being helped, but at the same time, millions of other people need the aid … Me giving two dollars would help someone in general.”

Jeremy Fyke, an assistant professor of communication in the College of Communication, urged individuals to make informed decisions when donating to the organization.

“In addition to the MSNBC and USA Today stories (on the boycott), read the Salvation Army’s positions on homosexuality and marriage carefully,” he said in an email. “Then make a decision based on one’s beliefs.”

Fyke said the organization’s stance on homosexuality and marriage can be found on the Salvation Army website.

He also discouraged action based on only one person’s testimony.

“In today’s hyper-information age, we have too much of a tendency to hear a story and react, without close reading into context and hearing all points of view,” Fyke said. “To me, that’s irresponsible as a society.”

Some Milwaukee aid organizations, such as Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, do not take sexual orientation into account when it comes to donations.

Sandy Leske, advancement director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, said the organization does not ask questions of any of its clients.

“It doesn’t matter to us at all,” she said. “A person in need is a person in need.”