Salvation Army Responds…

9 Dec

TSAApparently my previous story on the Salvation Army’s sexist and homophobic practices caused a bit of a stir. Here is the original story from last week if you feel you need to refer back to it.  The day after I published the story, I received an email from Major Ron Busroe from National Headquarters for the Salvation Army. The email simply said:

Good morning Michael. I would appreciate if we could talk a few minutes about your blog. Let me know if you are willing and available.
Thanks.
Ron

In the interest of being fair, I called Ron and we did chat about the blog. The following is the exchange between Ron and myself.

I’m trying to reach out to folks and correct perceptions that are not accurate.  The whole idea that the Salvation Army is anti-gay and discriminates against people that are gay is just not true.  It is not happening today.  We have an employee in Communications that is gay and he lives in Maryland and is married.  I have a dear friend and he is an officer in the Salvation Army and he is gay.  We don’t ask people if they are gay.

Does the gay employee in your Communications Department receive full benefits and domestic partnership benefits?

Yes, he does.

How would the Salvation Army deal with an employee or volunteer who was proved to be discriminating against an LGBT person?

We will investigate any claims of discrimination.  If it is an employee the employee would be reprimanded.  The officer would be dealt with — they would not be fired but they would be told that is not policy of the SA.  Disagreement does not constitute discrimination.  We have lost the ability to disagree agreeably.  We do not believe homosexual orientation is a sin.

But there are numerous examples of people in authority in the Salvation Army who say that it is a sin. George Hood said that hiring LGBT employees would destroy the fabric of the Army; Maj. Andrew Caribe went so far as to say that gay people deserve to die.

The person in New York was not authorized to say that on behalf of the SA so it should not be counted.

Ron, might I ask you to look at the impact against the LGBT community when top officials that represent the Salvation Army make homophobic comments? Their being authorized to speak on behalf of the SA becomes immaterial — the damage is done. I hope you can appreciate why the LGBT community would be distrustful at best.

One last question, Ron.  How did you get my private email address?

[Silence.]  I’m not sure.  I asked if there was a telephone number.  We have a firm that works for us that monitors  all the information that comes in out about us.  I told them I wanted to reach out to that person.  I don’t know how that happened.  The name of the firm is Richard’s Group out of Dallas, Texas.

Ron can you understand how that feels rather creepy to me that you were able to gain access to my private email address? You could have simply left a comment on the blog, or emailed me through the blog.

I have the feeling we are going to have another bad article here aren’t we?

No, I don’t want to be unkind.  I want to share what you have shared with me today.  I think my responses to the thread of comments are evidence that I am not out trying to bash anyone.

I have not read the comments. I just read the story.

That is too bad. I wish you would have read the comments, for they speak volumes about people’s character.  I would specifically point to Xena who was kind enough to share the experience of her friend and the amazing comment from Steve, who has worked for the Salvation Army for 29 years.  His comment should humble us all.  If only he were running the organization. I also have to include Philip here for offering a sincere apology and helping me appreciate the power of dialogue within threads such as these.

Finally, I want to thank Major Ron Brusroe.  I am still uncertain what to think of the general philosophy under which the SA operates.  I will say that they seem to be working very hard to repair the history and damage to the LGBT community. I would also say that I would donate money to the chapter Steve works with.  While I am grateful that Ron took time to contact me and visit with me on the phone, it would have been nice if I received some recognition and repair around how creepy it felt that he was able to gain access to my private email address.

It would have been nice if Ron had offered or acknowledged the history and damage and followed up with some repair, such as I am very sorry people have been hurt by this organization, please know we are working very hard to ensure that ALL people are being served.  Perhaps I am expecting too much.

For all those within the SA that are dedicated to social justice, I offer my most sincere apology if I have committed any trespass. I know there are many of you working very hard to make the world a better place.

Update as of December 14, 2013:

I received an apology from The Richard’s Group and an acknowledgement that it “did feel creepy to me” that they were able to gain access to private information and then shared with the Salvation Army, albeit there was no malintent on their part.

I also have to include this link provided by my friend, Nel Ward. This link shows the most recent activity of the SA. Nel and I were both bemoaning the right to privacy seems to be completely gone in our current Orwellian culture.

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20 Responses to “Salvation Army Responds…”

  1. Christopher Wilson December 9, 2013 at 9:04 am #

    Thank you Michael

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt December 9, 2013 at 9:16 am #

      Thank you, Chris. I hope I am being fair and creating space for an authentic dialogue.

  2. Central Oregon Coast NOW December 9, 2013 at 9:16 am #

    Reblogged this on Central Oregon Coast NOW.

  3. Heather Salek December 9, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

    Hi Michael, I thought this post was great, and a nice follow up to the phone conversation you had with the SA representative. You are absolutely being fair and creating a space for an authentic dialogue, and I feel that you are a champion of social justice and equity for all. I really enjoy your blog and doubly love the feature that allows me to receive the new posts in the form of an email. I hope you are well & are having happy holidays!

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt December 9, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

      Heather, you are, as always, a very kind and compassionate person. You are truly a champion ally for the LGBT community. Thank you for your kind words and for your support. Happy Holidays to you!

  4. julie December 9, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

    I’m cynical enough (unfortunately) to be suspicious of the veracity of the SA spokesperson’s remarks. But assuming they are true, my opinion of the SA has done a complete 180. Thank you for sharing this.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt December 9, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

      Julie, I think many of us have every right to be cynical and at the same time create a space for a transformative experience. Thank you for commenting here.

  5. Steve December 9, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

    Michael – I sent you a private note to thank you for your gracious reply, but I want to “put it out there” how much you’ve helped me as a person and as a lover of people! I can’t stand when people hurt — it breaks my heart! And that’s why I keep pressing on with my dear old Salvation Army! :-) We’re here to help and to serve…as in everyone! I say it again, my promised pledge to you: I want to do anything I can to prove myself worthy of your trust and the trust of those who look our way for help or to offer support. Keep me/us in check as needed! Your friend…Steve

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt December 9, 2013 at 2:21 pm #

      Steve, thank you for the lovely and dear private message! I applause your voice and will do what I can to support your dedication to social justice. Thank you for sharing your authentic heart. As I said before, you humble us all. Your friend, Michael.

  6. Morgan Brand Management December 9, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

    Great blog. As for his comments, some of the biggest homophobes surrounded themselves with gays. Just because some of your employees are gay doesn’t mean you have a safe work environment where everyone is treated fairly. BTW the salvation army only ppractices nondiscrimination policies in cities or states that require it in order to do business.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt December 9, 2013 at 2:23 pm #

      Thank you for your kind comments. Thank you also for the reminder that we must keep vigilant, for the LGBT community is still a target for much hate and discrimination. Thank you for adding the additional information.

  7. Xena December 9, 2013 at 3:00 pm #

    Michael, I so appreciate your fairness. I can’t say that my impression of the Salvation Army has improved. They should know that blog posts open up discussion and express the experiences and/or opinions of others.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt December 9, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

      Xena, I hope I have done a sufficient job of honoring the narrative you shared. Yes, I do hope this will create the needed space for an open discussion with room for us all to grow and cherish each other’s humanity. Thank you so much for being a part of this discussion.

  8. Brian December 9, 2013 at 4:05 pm #

    Thank you for posting this. I am a longtime employee (24 years) of the Salvation Army and while I have not personally seen any discrimination I am sure that it has happened. For this I am truly sorry. I am just a lowly employee, but I know there are many like me within the ranks who want to see the relationship with LGBTQ population mended and are taking active steps to do this. I am so appreciative that you took the time to talk to the Major and had the faith in us to post your conversation. It did my heart good to see this, which I needed. Thank you for keeping us accountable, and we will keep on working towards a better day for all.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt December 9, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

      Brian, what a lovely and very thoughtful comment here. Your engagement here allows for all of us to reflect and to grow. I hope all of us walk away with a transformative experience and allow space to experience each other in a new way as we move forward. Again thank you for your comments here.

  9. Sara, with love December 9, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

    Whew! Dialogue is dizzying, isn’t it?

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt December 9, 2013 at 6:26 pm #

      Sara, it is yes. :) And it is so needed if we are to be engaged and not discard any of brothers and sisters. Thank you for always being an inspiration, Sara. Please come and visit us!

  10. Owen Stephens February 13, 2014 at 8:39 am #

    Michael thanks for acting on my (our) behalf. It takes a great deal of courage. I have to laugh that I was looking at LinkedIn at work and got connected to your site. One thing I find tiresome about Maj. Ron’s remarks. His comment ” Disagreement does not constitute discrimination. We have lost the ability to disagree agreeably.” to me constitutes a defense of the person who wronged (his employee) while he does not know the situation. A rather kneejerk reaction which I find creepy. Anyway….thanks again for acting.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt February 13, 2014 at 2:32 pm #

      Owen, thank you for your kind comments, support, and solidarity. Yes, I fear I was a bit disappointed with Maj. Ron’s comments. You are spot on with your analysis of how some people respond when they have wronged other people. Peace and solidarity, Michael.

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