Is this anti-Salvation Army meme misleading?

This started as a comment, then a personal post, then a post on my political page, but it soon became obvious to me that there was too much information, and I wanted to consider it all.

 

Whether you want to help those who have lost everything due to wildfires or donate to someone struggling financially closer to your home (though I know the fires hit close to home for many of my friends), this is the time of year when you see The Salvation Army everywhere. I’ve seen a meme some of my dear friends posted that has at best inaccurate and at worst deliberately misleading information about the organization, and I’d like to clear some of that up. As I did my due diligence of Google-based research, I found it quite difficult to verify the accuracy of some of the statements since there are contradictory claims. I found two articles from Advocate (from 2015 and 2017) that seemed to be balanced reviews of the pertinent issues and can be summarized in a quotation from the 2017 piece:  “We’ve all made a paradigm shift over the last 30 or 40 years.”

 

In that light, it can be said that much of what people hold against the group is part of the old paradigm, and as a point of reference: as recently as 2008, major politicians such as then-candidate Obama all agreed that gay marriage went against their beliefs and was not on their agenda.

 

Of course, I support your decision to donate or not based on your own beliefs. It is perfectly reasonable to not want to donate to a church/charity if you don’t share their faith. I’m not about guilting people for whom they give to or if they don’t give at all. Absolutely do give according to your own conscience and means. But, please make your decision with up-to-date information.
Salvation army research a meme

 

First of all, the meme asserts that The Salvation Army is not a charity. While it is correct that they do file for the IRS as a church, 82% of what they raise goes to charitable work, and they meet the standards of an accredited charity by give.org.

 

The next statement that I tried to look into was that they spend money actively trying to lobby governments.  While I found a few times when the organization sent letters to governments (mostly in the 1980s and ’90s), there is not a shred of evidence that they spend money on lobbying.  I found one place (but must have closed the tab) that said they spend one quarter of one percent on lobbying for issues that pertain to their mission, and another place that said they hadn’t spent a penny on this issue.  Another interesting summary of campaign donations to political candidates indicated that they actually donate more to Democrats than Republicans.

 

The meme asserts that they oppress gay rights and don’t deal fairly with gay employees. The two Advocate pieces cover some of these anecdotes which seem to show a bit of disparity between national and local enforcement of policy; and the organization’s current statements indicate that services are available to all people regardless. The most recent issue I found were complaints about their handling of transgender people in their shelters. Well, that is a very new and very gray area. When assigning housing, they defer to biological sex, but do try to accommodate people as best as they can or help them find other housing. Certainly that can be problematic for some seeking shelter, but it seems that is clearly another conflict between the old and new paradigm. Again, I know that the issue of helping transgender individuals is very dear to some of your hearts, especially since they are at much greater risk for needing such services, so I do get that it may be a deal-breaker for you.

 

My final thought on the meme is about the soup kitchens. Yes, back in 2010, when the Affordable Care Act was a hot topic and religious organizations were scrambling to maintain their identity in the midst of rapid change, The Salvation Army mentioned the possibility of closing soup kitchens rather than provide benefits to same-sex partners.  However, the fact is that now, the organization does provide those benefits.  Change is often a hard process, but it is one that The Salvation Army seems committed to.  I’ll close with this quote from a short but heartfelt piece from the Columbus Dispatch:

But today the Salvation Army presents evidence of change in the words of Matthew 3:8, these changes are “fruits meet with repentance.”

It’s time for the community to change toward the charity, as well, and we have. Today, I smiled at Santa when I stopped at his red kettle and made a donation the Salvation Army can use for its good work. I hope others do the same.

 

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