Chick-fil-A stated Monday that starting at the beginning of the year it will no longer donate to The Salvation Army, to which the restaurant franchise gave $115,000 in 2018. This decision came shortly after LGBT groups pressured Chick-fil-A into closing its first location in the United Kingdom.
Chick-fil-A was accused of donating money to, as CNN reported, “anti-LGBTQ” organizations, including The Salvation Army. GLAAD, an LGBT organization, argued LGBT people should “greet today’s announcement with cautious optimism,” while LGBTQ Nation dismissed the change as merely a PR move to make more money. The accusation of The Salvation Army as an “anti-LGBTQ” organization, however, requires a deeper dive.
If you read The Salvation Army’s page dedicated to LGBT concerns, you might imagine it was from any major LGBT advocacy website. The first posted statement concerns housing obstacles for some LGBT people. It states, “Because LGBTQ Americans living in poverty often experience unacceptable homophobia and transphobia, many become homeless.”
Arguing that nearly one-third of transgender people have been rejected from homeless shelters around the country, The Salvation Army provides details about a dorm in Las Vegas it built specifically to help this vulnerable group. Their messaging addresses substance abuse, access to food, job training, and suicide prevention.
Stating that a donation to its cause can provide three nights of shelter, the charity assures the reader, “When a transgender person seeks help from us, we serve them in the same manner as any other person seeking assistance.” It even offers rental and utility assistance, arguing on behalf of LGBT Americans, which it states are more likely to be poor.
This information is not buried deep within the website, either, to be found only through dedicated searching. On its What We Do page, The Salvation Army includes “Serving the LGBTQ Community” right alongside “Love the Elderly” and “Stop Domestic Abuse.” It clearly communicates that the burdens of LGBT people in need are just as urgent and important as everyone else’s.
Pop Culture Clashes with The Salvation Army
Yet British singer Ellie Goulding recently told her fans she would refuse to participate in the Dallas Cowboys versus Buffalo Bills game on Thanksgiving Day, sponsored by The Salvation Army, saying, “[S]upporting an anti-LGBTQ charity is clearly not something I would ever intentionally do.” Goulding previously worked with The Salvation Army and posted on her Instagram the work she had done.
She did so with pride. It was only after fans began inundating her with outrage that she changed her position. One fan lamented, “A little disappointed considering the salvation army has a long standing history of anti lgbtq+ rhetoric. i appreciate the positive things they do but there are other, better organizations that don’t discriminate against others.” Another said, “They only help *certain* people. Very homophobic, transphobic, anti-LGBTQIA+ organization. Please do your research before endorsing a company that continues to hurt our community.”
Goulding gave The Salvation Army an ultimatum. “Upon researching this, I have reached out to The Salvation Army and said that I would have no choice but to pull out unless they very quickly make a solid, committed pledge or donation to the LGBTQ community,” she said.
Jon Rich, a Salvation Army commander in the area serving the upcoming football game, quickly responded: “It brings attention to how inclusive we are as an organization and serving everyone no matter who they are, what their sexual orientation is, what their station in life is. We serve without discrimination.” After reaching out to Goulding and reassuring her of The Salvation Army’s equal treatment of all people, she agreed to do the show.
The Salvation Army Northern Division FAQ page provides insight, addressing concerns related to how it engages with LGBT people. The page firmly states, “Any person who comes through our doors will receive assistance based on their need and our capacity to help.”
The organization investigates and takes action in cases of alleged discrimination. It has spent $300,000 on diverse lobbying efforts in the last two decades, 0.0009 percent of its income. As Rich stated regarding same-sex employees, “Now, nationwide we offer health benefits to same-sex couples, no questions asked.” He continued, “But we think everyone should have access to healthcare. So why wouldn’t we do that?”
LGBT Media Goes After the Salvation Army Regardless
Despite this overwhelming assurance that The Salvation Army in no way endorses or engages in discrimination or hatred toward LGBT people, LGBT media overwhelming include it in lists of “anti-LGBT” organizations. ThinkProgress in 2019 argued, “The Salvation Army has a long record of opposing legal protections for LGBTQ Americans.” The Huffington Post cited the same reasoning, “The Salvation Army, which has an extensive record of anti-LGBTQ advocacy.”
Transgender activist Zinnia Jones published a list of the organization’s anti-LGBTQ history on the Huffington Post back in 2013, and it has been referenced ever since. The list begins in 1986 and covers the organization worldwide, which is active in 130 countries.
The official list includes five examples. In 1986, the New Zealand Salvation Army helped collect signatures to oppose a law that would decriminalize homosexuality and issued an official apology in 2008. In 1998 a branch in San Francisco chose to turn down money from the city that included a requirement to provide benefits to employees with same-sex partners.
In 2000, the Salvation Army of Scotland submitted a letter to Parliament opposing the teaching of homosexuality in public schools. In 2001, the U.S. branch lobbied to protect religious institutions from being held liable under anti-discrimination policies. The Salvation Army addressed this, saying, “[T]he effort was solely focused on allowing our clergy and those involved in our religious activities to work on federally funded social service programs without having to compromise core religious beliefs.”
In 2012, the only stated accusation of discrimination, Danielle Morantez, a case worker for the office in Burlington, Vermont, claimed she was fired after coming out as bisexual. The story’s latest update appeared in 2012 on the GLAAD website. Jones recognized then that The Salvation Army had already set up pro-LGBT pages and removed reportedly offensive information on its site.
Confusion Over Biblical Teaching on Sexuality
Also in 2012, a controversy arose, as the Washington Blade reported, “[A] Salvation Army spokesperson told an interviewer that gay people deserve death, according to scripture.” The Salvation Army addressed this as well, stating, “The officer was responding to a question about a Bible passage which most Christians understand to be a discussion of spiritual death, meaning a separation from God, their creator.” The organization widely condemned the statements shortly after the interview was reported.
Essentially, the issue for LGBT activists, despite the information the organization has provided over the last two decades, is as Jones puts it, “These statements completely ignore the reality that the Salvation Army continues to maintain anti-gay theological stances.”
Time and time again, the biblical belief system of the organization itself comes up as a fundamental argument used to demonstrate the hatred and bigotry the organization represents: “The Salvation Army states clearly they believe, The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God, and that they only constitute the Divine rule of Christian faith and practice.” For many on the left, this alone is enough to dismiss the organization as hateful.
In 2013 Jones made the plea, “Supporting the Salvation Army this season, whether by tossing your change in their red kettles or donating your used goods to their resale shops, means assisting an aggressively anti-gay church in furthering its goals of discrimination.”
In 2018, LGBT author James Finn wrote, “Did you know that when you give money to the Salvation Army, you’re giving money to a church? Did you know that the Church is viciously homophobic and transphobic, fighting all over the world for the right to discriminate against LGBTQ people?” This reasoning, in part, motivated Noah Michelson to pen his 2018 Huffington Post article titled “If You Really Love LGBTQ People, You Just Can’t Keep Eating Chick-fil-A.”
The Good Guys Shouldn’t Bow to the Outrage Mob
Regardless of the factual information, the context of several decades, scattered accusations firmly condemned by the core organization, and the open welcoming of LGBT people, all that matters for the left is the idea of Christian faith behind it all. As CNN reported, “The Salvation Army has said in the past that the Bible forbids sexual intimacy between members of the same sex, that gay Christians should embrace celibacy and that scripture does not support same-sex marriages.” This on its own seems enough to justify the left’s hatred.
The thing about attempting to appease those who hate you is that whatever you do will only deepen their suspicion of you. As GLAAD’s director of campaigns and rapid response Drew Anderson cautioned, “In addition to refraining from financially supporting anti-LGBTQ organizations, Chick-fil-A still lacks policies to ensure safe workplaces for LGBTQ employees and should unequivocally speak out against the anti-LGBTQ reputation that their brand represents.” It will never be enough when the opposition views you as a threat based on what they think you believe rather than on what you express to the world.
Christians should follow The Salvation Army’s lead and continue to stand for their faith while speaking to the accusations against them and opening their arms as they would anyway. But we cannot underestimate the power of propaganda and simply hope Chick-fil-A realizes the mistake it has made. The Salvation Army argued, “When misinformation is perpetuated without fact, our ability to serve those in need, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, religion or any other factor, is at risk.”
In the left’s crusade against the Christian faith it refuses to understand or tolerate, it harms the people it claims to defend and protect. This means good people must step up to ensure no one in need is left behind in the meantime, and for the record, The Salvation Army is very good people.