Salvation Army accused of discriminating against its gay officers
Dec. 19, 2014
- , A report published Thursday accuses The Salvation Army of discriminating against its LGBT officers.
The Salvation Army in recent months launched a campaign in which it denies allegations of discrimination against the LGBT community.
"The Christian charity discriminates against LGBT people, but it doesn't want anyone to know about it," wrote Graham Gremore in publishing two internal documents that appear to contradict the organization's public message.
Last month, the Salvation Army posted a video in which it denied that it discriminates based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
"For the past few years during the holiday season, a lot of chatter on social media was saying the Salvation Army was anti-gay and discriminates against people in the LGBT community. I felt we needed to be proactive on this," Lt. Colonel Ron Busroe, the group's national spokesman, said of the campaign.
The organization, however, has a long history of opposing LGBT rights and even supporting therapies that seek to turn gay people straight. In 2004, the group threatened to close operations in New York City unless it was exempted from offering benefits to the partners of its gay employees.In various countries, the Salvation Army has opposed repeal of laws which criminalized gay sex (New Zealand) or prohibited the discussion and/or "promotion" of homosexuality (Britain).
In 2001, The Washington Post reported the "Bush administration is working with the nation's largest charity, the Salvation Army, to make it easier for government-funded religious groups to engage in hiring discrimination against homosexuals, according to an internal Salvation Army document."
The document "defines the charity's objectives as making sure states and localities can't 'impose the category of sexual orientation to the list of anti-discrimination protections' or mandate 'equal benefits to domestic partnerships' unless religious non-profits are exempt from such provisions."
Appearing in 2012 on Talking Liberally, Army Major George Hood told host Stephanie Miller that discriminating against gay men and lesbians would violate the organization's mission. Less than a week later, Hood, the group's chief spokesman at the time, told the Chicago Tribune that being gay was a "personal choice" that goes "against the will of God." Miller, who is openly gay, later issued an apology for not challenging Hood's statements on her show.
One of the documents published Thursday is a 4-page memo from midwest Commissioner Paul Seiler dated February 21, 2014 and emailed to officers in the Salvation Army's Central Territory, which serves Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa and Indiana.
In his "not for public use" memo, Seiler reiterates the group's opposition to marriage equality and expectations that unmarried officers "be celibate in their expression of their sexuality."
"Leadership roles in denominational activities such as teaching or holding local officer roles require certain adherence to consistently held spiritual beliefs," the letter states. "This would apply to any conduct inconsistent with Salvation Army beliefs and would include same-sex sexual relationships."
Siler also states that Salvation Army officers cannot marry gay couples or attend the wedding of a same-sex couple in uniform, and that doing so may result in "termination."
Jennifer Byrd, director of communications for the Salvation Army, told Gremore in an email that the organization "serves 30 million people a year without discrimination" and "our non-discriminatory employment practices have been overlooked, misconstrued or misunderstood in recent years."
"We are not trying to argue with the Salvation Army's theological views," Gremore wrote. "It can believe what it wants to believe. The problem is, these beliefs, which are shared privately among SA insiders, are at direct odds with the organization's public message, which states, in blanket terms, that it does not discriminate based on sexual orientation."