Irregular Times, Oct 31, 2006
It’s almost time for those red kettles to go up in front of grocery stores across America, and all across America, people get all rosy cheeked just thinking about doing good.... forgetting about all the organizations that do as much good without making such a big show about it... without thinking about where the money that goes into the red kettle really goes to.
Among other things, the money people give to the Salvation Army goes to pay the salaries of lobbyists in Washington D.C. What, oh what, do those Salvation Army lobbyists lobby for? The Salvation Army lobbies in favor of the political agenda of the Religious Right.
There’s the time, for example, when the Salvation Army leaders met behind closed doors with the Bush White House to come up with a strategy for passing a law that would allow government-funded groups to fire people for refusing to join the religions of their bosses. Convert and praise Jesus or lose your job, the Salvation Army law said. That was a practice that the Salvation Army was already engaging in, giving religious tests to employees and telling them to take a hike if the responses were not theologically correct, taking government money all the while. The Salvation Army spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of red kettle money on that political project alone.
What else does your red kettle donation pay for? Political organizing against same-sex marriage, for one thing. The Salvation Army uses its organization to promote opposition to equal marriage rights for same sex-sex couples. The web site of the Salvation Army states, “The Salvation Army believes, therefore, that Christians whose sexual orientation is primarily or exclusively same-sex are called upon to embrace celibacy as a way of life. There is no scriptural support for same-sex unions as equal to, or as an alternative to, heterosexual marriage.” Catch that other part too - the only good homosexual is a homosexual who decides not to have sex for the rest of his or her life.
There’s also the Salvation Army’s history of rescinding benefits to same-sex domestic partners. Said the Human Rights Campaign, “We’re talking about health care, about providing health benefits, and what the Salvation Army has decided to do is prevent certain families from getting health care, and that’s just mean.” Salvation Army supporters responded to Portland’s request that it adhere to the city’s ordinance requiring organizations receiving money from the city government to provide benefits to same-sex domestic partners by sending hate mail with messages such as “You are a sick person who doesn’t deserve to be mayor.” Compassion?
Still want to put that money in the red kettle?
Consider the Salvation Army’s decision to put its religion ahead of the needs of homeless people in Wisconsin. When the Janesville City Council asked the Salvation Army to stop trying to convert people to evangelical Christianity with government money provided through the city government, the Salvation Army said no. The Salvation Army decided that it was more important to keep trying to convert people to Christianity than to help people in need, so it decided to stop work on a homeless shelter until the local government relented and allowed proselytization with government funds. A spokesman said that stopping its religious activities as part of government-funded programs that it administrates would stop the Salvation Army from fulfilling its mission “to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ”. The Salvation Army would let the homeless freeze outside in the Wisconsin winter weather rather than just stop telling people to worship Jesus.
Yes, government funds. The Salvation Army gets a huge amount of praise for helping people in need, but the truth is that a huge amount of the money that the Salvation Army spends comes directly from federal, state, and local government. We, the taxpayers of America, make the sacrifice, but the Salvation Army gets the credit with none of the oversight and accountability that ordinarily goes along with government programs. In 2005, for example, 95 percent of the Salvation Army’s budget for children services came from the federal government, and was used, among other things, to conduct an anti-gay witch hunt in which employees were told to look for signs of homosexual activity in their colleagues, and to expose those colleagues so that they could be fired.
The plain fact is that the Salvation Army would only conduct a tiny fraction of its charitable works if it did not receive billions of dollars of government money. Much of the red kettle money goes toward building and maintaining Salvation Army churches, like the ones Wrangell, Alaska; Griffin, Georgia; Thomasville, North Carolina; Gilroy, California; Kalispell, Montana; Fort Lauderdale, Florida and countless other places across the USA. When you throw your money into the red kettle, are you thinking about helping people in need or about maintaining the temple in Rochester, New York?
I’m not denying that the Salvation Army does some good things with its own resources, but most of the good work it does is with government resources that could just as easily go to other programs that don’t discriminate, don’t lobby the government, and don’t mix religion with social services. Let the Salvation Army support itself, and rely purely on private donations. If the Salvation Army wants to keep preaching a right wing agenda, then it’s long past time that it get off the government dole.
In response, some at Live Journal have been slipping this fake $3.00 bill to Salvation Army bell ringers:
Want to get even with the Salvation Army
for discrimination in Jesus' name?
Click here to find out how!
At first, I felt that the Salvation Army's discrimination against gays among its employees to be totally wrong. Later I thought about it and I realized that the Salvation Army is, first and foremost, a religious organization which may choose at its discretion who is and is not eligible to serve on its payroll in accordance with religious legislation. I thought about the KKK for reference. It's not necessarily a religious organization, but does it make sense for blacks, Jews, and gays to petition the government to force the Klan to adopt anti-discriminatory hiring practices? I'd think not, yet the organization is allowed to thrive, spreading its message of hate, in accordance with free-speech laws and probably other types of legislation.
The conflict in my mind is overturned again, however, when considering the accessibility of the Salvation Army (i.e., its public service programs) as well as its heavy reliance on government (i.e., public) funding at the federal, state, and local levels; so wether we like it or not we're already supporting them. Still, as the article above states, they could get their funds from private organizations while we endorse, through our tax dollars, some other non-discriminating charity. So I think the issue is resolved for me: I'll keep giving them donations of food, clothes, etc.; but will they volunteer even a single penny out of me? Hell no.
Meanwhile, I may very well just print off a few pages of them there $3.00 bills....
EDIT: I have added the words "NOT LEGAL TENDER" to the bills. Here's a link (Right-click and "Save As" 381kb):