The Salvation Army has warned members not to discuss their opposition to LGBT rights in public.
The religious charity, which has been dogged for years about its discriminatory approach to LGBT+ people, put out a warning to members in the US ahead of the Christmas season.
The guidelines, published by Fox News pundit Todd Starnes, warn Salvation Army volunteers to stay away from discussing “hot topic issues like LGBTQ Marriage” after an “increased number of complaints regarding comments made on social media by Salvation Army officers and staff.”
“The guidelines are a reminder to personnel that we must stay focused on our mission during this politically-charged time.”
The group warned that officers and staff “must not take part in organised action in support of causes or movements,” describing controversy as a “threat to our reputation, our fundraising efforts, and ultimately our ability to serve people in need.”
The Salvation Army has a history of LGBT discrimination
The evangelical-dominated organisation, which pulls in most of its funding across the Christmas season, has a record of LGBT discrimination that has previously led to calls for shoppers to boycott it.
The organisation has internal policies actively banning gay people from serving as officers unless they remain celibate, with the head of the UK branch defending the policy in 2016.
In February 2018, the Salvation Army in Australia called for a broad ‘freedom to discriminate’ law.
In a submission to an Australia government inquiry, the Salvation Army advocated for legal exemptions from anti-discrimination laws for people and businesses who “hold, express or act on [beliefs about]… marriage, sexuality, gender and family.”
The New York City Commission on Human Rights launched action against the Salvation Army in 2017, due to alleged discriminatory policies at four 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.
Salvation Army says guidelines are meant to prevent ‘controversies’
The charity confirmed the guidelines are genuine.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Salvation Army said: “The Salvation Army is highly visible during the Christmas season – a blessing that allows us to spread the gospel and support those in need.
“The heightened prominence also means that any, and all, Army representatives could be subject to controversies which might distract from our purpose: to serve in His name, without discrimination.
“The guidelines are a reminder to personnel that we must stay focused on our mission during this politically-charged time. As stewards of donors’ dollars, and soldiers of service, we must use every opportunity possible, including social media, to share the love of Christ.”