Will the Real Salvation Army Please Stand Up?

Neas Calls New ‘Equality’ Fundraising Message Deceptive, Cites Conflicts With Group’s Recent Efforts to Avoid Anti-Discrimination Laws

Residents of Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia may have done a double-take when they opened a recent fundraising letter from the Salvation Army to find a separate card carrying a bold headline: “Equality.” While the card states that “we are all about equality in the workplace,” and specifically asserts that sexual orientation is not a factor, this message contrasts sharply with the Salvation Army’s publicly expressed desire to avoid complying with laws prohibiting job discrimination against gay men and lesbians.

People For the American Way Foundation (PFAWF) President Ralph G. Neas said the new fundraising campaign sends a false message to the public.

“Either the Salvation Army is confused or it’s trying to confuse the public,” said Neas. “There’s a huge gap between the claims of this direct-mail piece and the words and deeds of Salvation Army officials.”

Neas also noted that the late November mailing by the Salvation Army’s National Capital and Virginia Division began arriving at the homes of potential donors only days after the organization’s Nov. 12 decision to rescind a policy granting health-care benefits to the domestic partners of gay employees. The policy had been established earlier this fall by the Western Territory of the Salvation Army, which covers 13 states. The new “Equality” message also comes only four months after the Salvation Army sought to receive federal tax dollars without having to comply with state or local anti-discrimination laws.

An internal Salvation Army document—cited this July by the Washington Post—stated that the Bush administration supported granting the organization an exemption from state and local anti-discrimination laws. At the center of the issue was the White House’s faith-based proposal directing public tax dollars to religious groups. According to the Washington Post report, the Salvation Army document stated that the organization’s support for the faith-based proposal should “occur simultaneously with efforts to achieve The (Salvation) Army’s objectives” of securing an exemption from anti-discrimination laws.

In July, Salvation Army spokesman George Hood told the Post that hiring gay employees “really begins to chew away at the theological fabric of who we are.” And, according to an article on the Web site of Concerned Women for America—a Religious Right group—Salvation Army Commissioner Lawrence Moretz stressed last month that the organization “has not changed” its position on “homosexuality” or other “basic doctrines or moral positions.”

It isn’t known if other divisions of the Salvation Army are distributing the “Equality” card with their fundraising appeals. A copy of the “Equality” card can be viewed below.

Religious Right leaders had forcefully criticized the decision by the organization’s Western Territory to grant domestic partner benefits. In a letter signed by American Family Association leader Don Wildmon and many others, the domestic partner benefits were criticized as an attempt to award benefits “to a sinful relationship.”

On Nov. 12, the Salvation Army’s commissioners conference rescinded the domestic partner benefits and firmly established a national policy “to extend health benefit access to an employee’s spouse and dependent children only.” Nationwide, the Salvation Army has a workforce of about 55,000.

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