Yes, it is that time of year again. Black Friday ushers in not only conspicuous consumption at the cost of abusing employees not earning a living wage, but it also ushers in the Salvation Army Bell Ringers. As these “soldiers of god” take over the entrances to malls, shops, and grocery stores across the country, let us remember the facts. The Salvation Army is rabidly homophobic and misogynistic.
Not only are they homophobic, but they refuse to help or serve the LGBT community. Before offering any services to LGBT people in need, the Army subjects them to sermons and lectures. They insist that established couples renounce each other before they can receive care. This nasty group is also very anti-choice, insisting that pregnant women not seek abortions if they want services, regardless of what is best for the woman. I guess their Jesus was only charitable to those he deemed qualified for help — who does Jesus hate?
Beyond this hostility to individuals, the Salvation Army is also an aggressive lobbying organization: they have tried (unsuccessfully, fortunately) to overturn or get exemptions from equal access and non-discrimination laws in multiple jurisdictions around the world. In a fit of petulance unbecoming a charitable organization, they have even threatened to close soup kitchens in New York City rather than abide by local non-discrimination laws.
Call to action: I encourage people to help educate bell ringers about the hate being spread by the Salvation Army, while realizing you may not get the empathic response desired. Also, it seems that while some of the bell ringers are volunteers, many of them are earning minimum wage. While I don’t want to bash people whose intent is good, we must also unpack the impact aside from the intent. There are so many organizations competing for money that can do so much good. I encourage everyone to GIVE, but give to organizations that are inclusive and not exclusive.
This is a season when many people think more actively of giving and want to be charitable. Please honor those instincts, but don’t contribute to organizations that practice hate and bigotry. If you want to find the best place to make your contributions, try the Charity Navigator; if you want to get more actively involved, there are dozens of ways you can give to all of your community. When it comes to those shrill bells, red pots, and artificial smiles? Take some advice from Burt Bacharach and walk on by.