Gay activists are calling for a boycott of the Salvation Army's annual holiday fundraising efforts, represented by the bell-ringers standing beside the iconic red kettles.
The Salvation Army has responded to calls for a boycott and accusations that gays and others in the LGBT community are routinely discriminated against. In at least one case, the organization is said to have refused shelter to a gay couple when they wouldn't renounce their lifestyle.
Reported in the Huffington Post last week, the issue has been brought to the fore by Bil Browning, who writes on The Bilerico Project. "The organization also has a record of actively lobbying governments worldwide for anti-gay policies -- including an attempt to make consensual gay sex illegal."
Browning is the editor-in-chief of the national LGBT blog and in a recent article explained that a boycott was warranted. "If you care about gay rights, you'll skip their bucket in favor of a charity that doesn't actively discriminate against the LGBT community."
Wrong, says a spokesman for the Salvation Army, Lt. Col. Ralph Bukiewicz, divisional commander of the Salvation Army Metropolitan Division. He told NBC News on Wednesday that, "Nothing could be further from the truth."
“In our policies, in our practices, in our programs and in our eligibility for any service within the Salvation Army, there is not a request for any details concerning sexual orientation,” says Bukiewicz.
Browning relates one specific story about the refusal to aid him when he was part of a homeless couple. "When a former boyfriend and I were homeless, the Salvation Army insisted we break up before they'd offer assistance. We slept on the street instead and declined to break up as they demanded.”
The national blogger also points to the organization's official stance on the subject of same-sex couples, which in his opinion has led to the discrimination he describes.
An official statement from the Salvation Army is clear about homosexuality. "Scripture forbids sexual intimacy between members of the same sex," one statement reads. "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."
What Browning fails to note, as pointed out by the Huffington Post is a sentence that follows the above quote. "Likewise, there is no scriptural support for demeaning or mistreating anyone for reason of his or her sexual orientation." It is that omission that upsets Lt. Col Bukiewicz.
Calling the view of Browning and others who have attempted to interfere with the annual fund raising efforts an “erroneous understanding," Bukiewicz fears that others will fall in line with LGBT activists without hearing the full story which will keep members of the public from donating this holiday season.
USA Today reported that Maj. George Hood, national community relations secretary for the organization, told Christian Today,"If people refuse to give, it's the poor and people in need that will suffer."
Image credit: Salvation Army, Iowa website