The Salvation Army’s position on homosexuality is sometimes the subject of online and public discussions and chatter. Unfortunately, the conversations are at times animated by inaccurate information, innuendo and half-truths. Below, we address some of the most common questions we have in regards to The Salvation Army and LGBT issues.
Q: Does The Salvation Army turn people away from its center because that person was gay or lesbian?
- Any such incident is in clear opposition to all established Salvation Army policy. Indeed, our position statement could not be more emphatic – our Mission is to “preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and meet human needs in his name without discrimination.”
- Any person who comes through our doors will receive assistance based on their need and our capacity to help. The only requirement to receive service is to demonstrate need and abide by the rules and regulations set forth by The Salvation Army in order to maintain a safe and constructive environment.
- Any allegation of discrimination at a Salvation Army center is taken seriously and thoroughly investigated.
Q: Does The Salvation Army actively lobby the federal government in ways that promote discrimination against LGBT people?
- The Salvation Army does not employ any lobbyists at the national level and has spent less than $300,000 on federal lobbying efforts between 2000 and today, according to publicly available lobbying disclosures. To put that in perspective, that’s about .0009% of the $34 billion in income The Salvation Army raised during the same time period which allowed us to help some 370 million people in need.
- Like many churches and charitable organizations, The Salvation Army does periodically engage public officials on any number of topics, from emergency disaster service to human trafficking.
- At times, The Salvation Army has joined other religious organizations in solidarity on issues like religious liberty and the traditional definition of marriage.
- While we recognize that not everyone agrees with our stance on all of these issues, we have demonstrated a consistent ability over the years to work with and alongside individuals and organizations that may not always be in agreement with our theology.
Q: Does The Salvation Army provide benefits to same-sex partners of employees?
- The Salvation Army adheres to all relevant employment laws and provides for domestic partner benefits accordingly.
- We offer benefits to all Salvation Army employees and do so in much the same way that other companies and private organizations provide them.
- We extend access to benefits for family members of our employees, which may include same sex partners according to applicable law.
- Typically this is done through insurance vehicles that are set up for all employees within a particular Salvation Army unit.
Q: The Salvation Army’s position statement on homosexuality notes that “Scripture forbids sexual intimacy between members of the same sex. Does that mean The Salvation Army believes that Christians whose sexual orientation is primarily or exclusively same-sex are called upon to embrace celibacy as a way of life?
- The position statement also notes that “there is no scriptural support for demeaning or mistreating anyone for reason of his or her sexual orientation,” among other things. So, it’s important to look at the statement in its full context.
- It’s also important to note that our position statements are meant primarily as a theological guide for our church members and in no way impact our commitment to non-discrimination.
- While we certainly understand that some may disagree with our position, we hope they can come alongside us in supporting efforts to meet human needs.
Q: In 2001, didn’t The Salvation Army lobby the Bush Administration to allow discriminatory hiring practices against gays and lesbians?
- This incident has been deeply mischaracterized over the years. In a nutshell, The Salvation Army was attempting to ensure that it and other religious charities would be allowed to compete on a level playing field for federal dollars with non-faith-based groups providing social services.
- For us, and others, the 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.
- As recently as 2012, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of the so-called “ministerial exception” rule which affirms the right of churches to hire individuals for religious positions whose values are consistent with church doctrine.
- This had everything to do with maintaining our unique character as a church and nothing to do with discriminating in hiring.
Q: In 2004, did The Salvation Army threaten to stop providing services in New York City rather than abide by a new city ordinance requiring all city contractors to provide employee benefits to same-sex partners?
- The origin of this story is a single quote from an unnamed Salvation Army source in a 2004 New York Post article. Frankly, it continues to be unclear what, if any, involvement The Salvation Army had in this nearly decade-old debate.
- Mayor Michael Bloomberg ultimately asserted his right to veto the Equal Benefits Ordinance, a challenge that was subsequently upheld by the New York Court of Appeals in 2006.
- The Salvation Army was not involved in that litigation, and continued to provide services to the City of New York, as it does today.
Q: In 2004, Did 18 employees of The Salvation Army file a lawsuit claiming that they were subjected to a “religious litmus test” in order to be employed for social service work?
- The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York held that the discrimination claims against The Salvation Army were unfounded.
- As asserted in a unanimous decision by the Supreme Court as recently as 2012, the law permits religious organizations, like The Salvation Army, to consider religion in making employment decisions.
Q: In 2008, Did The Salvation Army turn away a transgender woman at a shelter in Austin, TX who subsequently died from exposure?
- This story, while tragic, is not based in fact.
- As reported by the Austin Chronicle at the time of the incident, there was no record of Ms. Gale being turned away by The Salvation Army or any other shelter on the night she died.
- Furthermore, as with many Salvation Army shelters across the country, The Salvation Army in Austin makes specific accommodations, including separate bathrooms, for transgender individuals.
- As appropriate based on needs in the area, Salvation Army staff receive extensive training on how best to accommodate members of the transgender community.
Q: In 2012, Did a Salvation Army officer in Australia suggest in a radio interview that the Army’s theology calls for gays and lesbians to be put to death?
- It is, of course, ludicrous to think that The Salvation Army believes or teaches anything close to what was suggested in that interview.
- The Army’s leadership worldwide issued public statements condemning the remarks immediately after the news broke.
- 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.
- In this instance the scripture was, unfortunately, misinterpreted.