Salvation Army says it’s ‘evolved’ on LGBT rights but we’re not too sure about that
A national spokesperson for the Salvation Army is attempting to show that its differences with the LGBT community are over, and that it “meets human need without discrimination.”
US National Spokesperson for the organisation, Lt. Col. Ron Busroe, spoke to Advocate about how The Salvation Army is now trying to address its negative image in the LGBT+ community.
“All of us have evolved on a number of issues. We’ve all made a paradigm shift over the last 30 or 40 years.”
Many people will require a more convincing argument before accepting this statement, given the Salvation Army’s past and recent discrimination against LGBT people, much of which has happened in the last decade.
A current legal battle is waging in New York City between the Salvation Army and the NYC Commission on Human Rights, due to alleged discriminatory policies at four Salvation Army run substance abuse centres in the city.
The Commission found that one of the centres completely refused to accept transgender patients, with other centres insisting that transgender people would be housed according to their gender assigned at birth, rather than their actual gender identity.
This is in direct violation of anti-discrimation legislation, and the case is still ongoing.
The Salvation Army organisation is also known to have internal policies actively banning gay people from serving as officers, unless they remain celibate.
Although the enforcment of this policy is often debated, the head of the Salvation Army in the UK admitting last year that gay people were still banned from becoming officers.
In 2012, a senior official in the Australian Salvation Army suggested that sexually active LGBT people should be put to death, though an apology was given at a later date.
Discrimination is also said to be rife within the organisation’s hundreds of homeless shelters.
This summer, a trans woman detailed her experiences in a Salvation Army shelter in Portland, Oregon. Heather Snow described the harsh conditions that she was faced with in the shelter, including poor physical facilities and unchallenged prejudice from other shelter users.
In 2014, the Salvation Army reportedly refused to house a homeless transgender woman due to the fact that she had not had gender confirmation surgery.
The Salvation Army has also previously insisted that allegations of homophobia are a “myth” and that it “abides by all applicable anti-discrimination laws in its hiring,” despite significant evidence to the contrary.
With this record, it is clear why many LGBT+ people are wary of the organisation, with some people saying that any attempt of the group to include the LGBT+ community is self-serving in terms of expanding their donor pool.
However, Busroe said that when it comes to LGBT+ people, his concern is making sure people in need can access the support they require, rather than soliciting donations from the LGBT community or trying to promote a good self image.
He said: “My greater concern is not whether they’re donating, but if they’re saying the Salvation Army won’t help you because you’re gay.”
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The Salvation Army is a Christian organisation, but Busroe stressed that the Salvation Army’s intention is always to help those who need them, not to act as a conversion service.
Busroe said: “We’re not out there saying you need to become a Christian. We are at the front lines of serving those in need.
“The Salvation Army meets human need without discrimination.”
In 2013, the group removed links to religious organisations offering conversion therapies, which some took as indication that the charity would be moving beyond its difficult past with the LGBT community.
With the organisation’s history and recent record of discrimination, it may be some time before LGBT+ people will be able to feel comfortable with the Salvation Army.