In recent months, Salvation Army (SA) has been making efforts to shed its anti-LGBT (and anti-Semitic) history and reputation by removing anti-gay links and messages from its websites, and by posting a non-discrimination policy. The policy reads, in part:
The policy of The Salvation Army is to provide equal opportunity and equal consideration to all peoples without regard to race, religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, color, creed, sex, age or physical disability.
The SA’s Massachusetts Division has, in addition, posted a web page dedicated to “Debunking the LGBT Discrimination Myth“. Major David E. Kelly, Divisional Commander, echoes a recent blog post by National Commissioner William Roberts when he assures readers that “The Salvation Army does not discriminate against members of the LGBT community. …Salvation Army service is all about a person’s need, not their beliefs or background, not their orientation, just their need.”
The reformation has been slow and haphazard, however. For example, the SA’s hurtful “Position on Homosexuality“, approved in 2002, can still be found on at least one SA website. It reads, in part:
Scripture forbids sexual intimacy between members of the same sex. The Salvation Army believes, therefore, that Christians whose sexual orientation is primarily or exclusively same-sex are called upon to embrace celibacy as a way of life. There is no scriptural support for same-sex unions as equal to, or as an alternative to, heterosexual marriage.
Furthermore, although SA contends that it no longer discriminates against LGBT people in hiring or the provision of services, it has so far neglected to state whether it still permits its employees or volunteers to preach or counsel against same-sex relationships or same-sex marriage.
Salvation Army is, after all, an evangelical church. Usually that translates into preaching or counseling against same-sex relationships, as the excerpt above from “Position on Homosexuality” indicates.
What is missing from the SA’s posted non-discrimination policy is a statement that the organization prohibits its employees and volunteers from preaching or counseling against same-sex relationships or same-sex marriage. Until such a statement is in place, LGBT people will still fear the possibility of having to endure soul-crushing verbal judgment of their family while they’re being allowed equal access to SA services.
Judging by the numerous comments on yesterday’s Worcester Telegram article that attribute this year’s shortfall in SA’s red kettle drive to SA’s anti-LGBT reputation, it’s not just LGBT people who need to hear more comprehensive assurances from SA.
Late yesterday I wrote to Major Kelly, stating that I would like to know whether SA employees or volunteers are still permitted to preach or counsel against same-sex relationships or same-sex marriages, and asking what the SA’s policy is in this regard.
If I receive an answer, I’ll post it here.