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The Salvation Army's red kettle of trouble

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First let me say that the Salvation Army has done some good work in the past in providing assistance to the poor, the addicted, and the marginalized. But their methods are not ones that I approve of. The Salvation Army has a long and disturbing history of religious coercion, abuse, and intolerance.

...The Salvation Army is also homophobic -- so much so that they would stop helping the poor if it meant they had to respect equal rights for gays and lesbians. In 2004, they threatened to close their soup kitchens in New York City rather than comply with the city's legislation requiring firms to offer domestic partnership benefits to gay employees.

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The Salvation Army's red kettle of trouble

December 13, 2008

By Mary Shaw

(Reprinted with permission from maryshawonline.com)

It's that time of year again. Outside the shopping malls and supermarkets we encounter the bell-ringing representatives of the Salvation Army, dressed in paramilitary uniform, with their big red kettles, begging for a share of our holiday dollars.

And, as I do every year, I will ignore them.

Not because I am selfish or stingy. In the past few weeks, I have contributed a healthy sum in end-of-year donations to the non-profit agencies that I choose to support.

But I choose not to support the Salvation Army.

My reasons? Read on.

First let me say that the Salvation Army has done some good work in the past in providing assistance to the poor, the addicted, and the marginalized.

But their methods are not ones that I approve of. The Salvation Army has a long and disturbing history of religious coercion, abuse, and intolerance.

I have spoken with a number of people who have sought assistance from the Salvation Army in the past, particularly for disaster relief. I was told of how these people were preached to and forced into praying with the Salvation Army folks to their Christian God as a prerequisite for receiving services. If you're Jewish, tough. If you're Hindu, tough. Gotta pray their way, to their God, or else you're not worthy of assistance. It's quid pro quo. Gotta take advantage of people when they're most vulnerable. Contrast this with the secular Red Cross, which just wants to help disaster victims, not save their souls. (In the interest of full disclosure, I personally received help from the Red Cross when my apartment building burned down in 2001. They were extremely helpful and compassionate, and expected nothing in return.)

As if the religious coercion isn't enough, the Salvation Army has also been implicated in a number of cases of alleged sexual abuse, ranging from molestation of child members of the Salvation Army's Red Shield swim team in Seattle to pedophile rings that operated out of Salvation Army run orphanages in Australia and New Zealand. (Yes, they like to "spread the love" worldwide.)

The Salvation Army is also homophobic -- so much so that they would stop helping the poor if it meant they had to respect equal rights for gays and lesbians. In 2004, they threatened to close their soup kitchens in New York City rather than comply with the city's legislation requiring firms to offer domestic partnership benefits to gay employees.

Another fact that many people are likely unaware of is that the Salvation Army is technically a church as well as an openly Christian charity. As such, they are certainly entitled to promote their church's dogma and operate their organization accordingly.

But I will not support it with my hard-earned money, especially given the organization's disturbing history, coercive methods, and unchristianlike intolerance.

So please think twice before tossing your spare change into their red kettle of trouble. Do you really want to support this with your hard-earned cash?

Comments

I am reminded of this Joe Hill song that Utah Phillips sang...

...about the "Starvation Army". Below are the lyrics:

THE PREACHER AND THE SLAVE
(TUNE: IN THE SWEET BYE AND BYE) (BY JOE HILL) (1911 EDITION)

Long-haired preachers come out every night,
Try to tell you what's wrong and what's right;
But when asked how `bout something to eat
They will answer with voices so sweet:

(Main Chorus)
You will eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay,
You'll get pie in the sky when you die.

And the Starvation Army they play,
And they sing and they clap and they pray
Till they get all your coin on the drum,
Then they tell you when you're on the bum:
(chorus)

If you fight hard for children and wife -
Try to get something good in this life -
You're a sinner and bad man, they tell,
When you die you will sure go to hell.
(chorus)

Workingmen of all countries unite,
Side by side we for freedom will fight;
When the world and its wealth we have gained
To the grafters we'll sing this refrain:

(Last Chorus)
You will eat, bye and bye,
When you've learned how to cook and to fry:
Chop some wood, `twill do you good,
And you'll eat in the sweet bye and bye.

Hmmm...

yes, although the Salvation Army did take me in when I was ill and on the street. the cops dropped me off there, and they gave me something to eat and drink, and let me share a room with a young lady. The young lady was a Moroccan immigrant who was working on a phone-sex hotline -- didn't seem to bother the people at the salvation army much, so long as she had work -- but i found them to be very kind and openhearted.

Wait, the Salvation Army is Christian?

Couldn't they choose a name that makes that more clear. Something like a land based force dedicated to saving people from sin?

Salvation Army sucks

I have personally represented a man who was thrown out of their shelter for refusing to attend religious services. He also witnessed a man in a wheelchair put out of the shelter into a Texas rainstorm for the same reason. DON'T DONATE TO THE SALVATION ARMY. (Ha, ha, my mother had a real hot affair with one of their generals just before my father divorced her. No reflection on the SA, just proof that the officer in question was both human and a hypocrite!)

A different perspective...

I think that we need to look at the bigger issue.

I think that the actions of a few (In terms of a small group of the THOUSANDS of Salvation Army outposts there are) are spoiling the barrel.

I have no doubt that there was child abuse...I have no doubt that people were forced to go to church services to live in the homeless shelters...I have no doubt that they threatened to close the soup kitchens. IN THOSE COMMUNITIES.

My personal experience has been far different. Every time that I have needed help, my local Salvation Army was there to assist me. Never said no...never forced me to do anything.

People CHOOSE to donate...some people choose not to. It is simply a matter of choice. Given that the Salvation Army returns over 80 cents of every dollar that is donated, and that all donations stay within the city that they are given, the donations serve a huge number of people. Not to justify any of their actions, but they do say that they are a Christian organization.

And...I have often worked for Salvation Army. And despite my personal issues, they always ASK for me to come back. So, instead of attacking the group in general, maybe people should say the Salvation Army of Topeka, Kansas sucks.