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The Salvation Army’s Hot-and-Cold Relationship With U.S. Gays

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Wednesday Dec 28, 2011
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Although the Salvation Army has done much good to help the needy, especially during the holiday season, it is no secret that the organization has discriminated against gays, which has conjured up a large amount of controversy in the U.S.

In a Dec. 24 article by the New York Times, Bil Browning and his then boyfriend were homeless and living in southern Indiana nearly two decades ago. The couple sought shelter at a local Salvation Army facility but they were refused because of their sexual orientation.

"The Salvation Army refused to help us," Browning tells the NYT, "unless we broke up and then left the ’sinful homosexual lifestyle’ behind. We slept on the street, and they didn’t help when we declined to break up at their insistence."

Browning’s boyfriend was wearing an AIDS pin that read "Silence = Death." The worker must have recognized the pin and told the men that they needed to "be saved."

"If we were willing to attend church services, he could help," Brown said. "We would have to break up, only one of us could stay in the shelter, and if there was room for the other, he would have to be on the opposite side of the room, and we wouldn’t even look at each other."

Browning, along with several others, has boycotted the Salvation Army for 20 years now and he has blogged about the organization’s anti-gay beliefs. People who are against the Salvation Army’s views say that many Americans are not aware that the organization is rooted in evangelical Christianity, which is against homosexuality. In addition, the organization has tried to "influence public policy on gay rights," the article says.

The Salvation Army has been criticized for discriminating against homosexuals in the hiring process as well. The organization believed that the White House gave it permission to override local anti-discrimination laws. They say, however, that they were "not trying to get permission to discriminate against hiring gays and lesbians for the majority of its roughly 55,000 jobs and merely wanted a federal regulation that made clear that the charity did not have to ordain sexually active gay ministers and did not have to provide medical benefits to the same-sex partners of employees."

The organization is also against same-sex marriage and says, "Christians whose sexual orientation is primarily or exclusively same-sex are called upon to embrace celibacy as a way of life." In 2001, however, the Salvation Army began to offer domestic benefits to gay employees and said that they understood, "a clear difference in how we deal with homosexuality as an employer and as a church in ministering to our followers."

Once again in 2004, the Salvation Army made headlines as it threatened to stop all work and shutdown its offices and stores in New York City unless it was exempt from a municipal ordnance. The ordinance made groups that contracted with the city government offer benefits to gay employees’ partners. The City Council said it would not exempt the Salvation Army but Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration decided not to apply the ordinance on the organization. The New York State Court of Appeals upheld their decision in 2006 but each Mayor is to decide whether to enforce the ordinance.

The Swedish Salvation Army was also criticized when it said that gays are sinners who can be "cured" of their homosexuality, EDGE reported in a May 10 article.

"The Salvation Army’s basic position is that homosexual sex is a sin," a Swedish Salvation Army leader claimed. "A man shouldn’t sleep with a man in the way he sleeps with a woman."

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