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December 26 , 2014

Has the Salvation Army been saved?

With the holiday season come the bell-ringers. You know them. You hate them. They give you a migraine.

They are collecting money for the work of the Salvation Army, founded 150 years ago by a Methodist minister to fight sin and help the needy. In recent years, however, that “fighting the sin” bit has brought them under a rather glaring spotlight, since their religious tenets are opposed to same-sex activity and marriage.

The Salvation Army says unequivocally that it does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in the provision of its services. One fifth of homeless youth sheltered in their St. Paul, Minnesota facilities, for instance, self-identify as LGBT.

However, as Truth Wins Out points out, the Salvation Army also refers some clients to a duo of “ex-gay” ministries, despite reparative therapy having been condemned by virtually every association of mental health professionals in the country.

Queerty.com obtained two internal documents circulating in the Salvation Army, one a list of public talking points, the other a February 21 letter by Midwest Commissioner Paul Seiler. The two documents contradict themselves in some ways, and give hope in other ways.

While the Salvation Army views marriage as an opposite-sex institution and will not perform same-sex weddings, it may be possible to rent out facilities from the organization for receptions after gay nuptials. The documents also say that they will provide spousal or domestic partner insurance benefits in jurisdictions where the law requires it.

The documents agree that homosexuality as a sexual orientation is not in itself a sin, but any sex outside of marriage is. While the public talking points omits it, the other letter indicates that any gay sex is a sin, even if it occurs within a legal same-sex marriage.

Employees and volunteers will not be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation, except if they are ministerial staff, which are expected to adhere to the organization’s interpretation of scripture.

So, what it all boils down to is: Probably better to donate to a different charity, although it does appear that the Salvation Army is taking some small steps in the right direction.

 

 

 

 

 

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