(Photo: The Christian Post)
Denying claims by the "No Red Kettles" website that it discriminates against homosexuals, The Salvation Army says that it helps thousands in the LGBT community every day.
"Our mission is clear: to provide services to those in need without discrimination. The Salvation Army treats everyone with equal love, dignity and respect regardless of who they are," Parker Vandergriff of Brand Public Relations of The Richards Group, said in an email statement to The Christian Post on Friday. "We are especially proud of our service to thousands of LGBT community members each and every day."
"The Salvation Army complies with all local, state, and federal non-discrimination laws and provides same-sex domestic partner benefits where the law applies. Our hiring practices are open to all and we embrace employees from various walks of life. We simply do not discriminate against the people we serve or the people we hire based on sexual orientation or any other factor," Vandergriff added.
No Red Kettles, the online community calling for a boycott against the charity, lists on its website a "history of discrimination," seeking to expose what it says are The Salvation Army's actions against the gay community.
"There are plenty of things The Salvation Army has done on an organizational level that is directly against gays. For instance, in the U.K., The Salvation Army campaigned against the repeal of an ordinance that discouraged the teaching of tolerance of homosexuality in schools," blogger and podcast host Rebecca Watson says in a video explaining the website's mission.
Watson says that when asked, The Salvation Army, which operates 7,546 centers in communities across the United States, will try to convince people that they don't hate the LGBT community.
"And they don't, sometimes (hate gay people). Most of the times when people are paying attention. Otherwise, it sounds like they are doing everything they can to discriminate against gay people, while still getting us to give them all of our change," the blogger claims.
No Red Kettles says donations should be made to a number of secular organizations instead, links to which it includes on its website.
"Think of something better to do with that spare change this Christmas. Instead of giving it to the nice looking Santa ringing the bell, maybe hand it to the homeless guy 10 feet down the street," Watson says.
The 123rd National Red Kettle campaign kicked off on Nov. 28. Last year, the campaign raised more than $148.7 million to serve America's most vulnerable by providing food, shelter and more than 1 million toys for children during the holidays.
LGBT groups in the past have also boycotted the Christian charity group, claiming that The Salvation Army is "an evangelical church promoting conservative Christianity and anti-gay politics."
"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. The Salvation Army has a history of active discrimination against gays and lesbians," Bil Browning has said on the LGBT blog The Bilerico Project.
Maj. George Hood, national community relations secretary for The Salvation Army, told CP in a November 2011 interview that "The Salvation Army and the gay community are never going to come to an agreement on the topic."
Hood said that such boycotts are not something new and have been happening on an annual basis, but they have not had a significant impact on donations.
Vandergriff shared with CP an official link to The Salvation Army's response to accusations of discrimination, titled "Debunking the Myth of LGBT Discrimination."
The article explains that since its founding nearly 150 years ago, the charity has had one mission: "To meet human needs in His name, without discrimination. People who come to the Army for assistance will be served according to their need and our capacity to help – regardless of race, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation."
It acknowledges that occasionally, one of their millions of employees and volunteers may "say or do something that does not reflect our values," but affirms that no matter what is said, the organization believes that all people are equal, "regardless of sexual orientation or any other factor, including race, gender and ethnicity."
"The Salvation Army does not discriminate. Period. We're here to serve in the name of Jesus Christ in the one way He commanded us to do it – with love and without discrimination. End of story," declares Envoy Bill Miller, director of The Salvation Army Harbor Light Shelter in Minneapolis.
The Salvation Army says in its official mission statement that it is "an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination."