COLUMN: Salvation Army’s bias brings death, suffering — not help
This holiday season, you can’t help but see the Salvation Army and their red kettles all over campus, ringing bells and asking for donations.
Most of the people who drop their spare change into the kettles do so thinking that they have done a good deed and helped someone less fortunate by donating to a reputable charity. I challenge that notion and ask in all seriousness that you find another way to help support the less fortunate this winter.
The Salvation Army is not a charity. It is a church, and as churches go, it is about as far out on the fringe as it can be. Basically, if you want help from the Salvation Army, you must submit to being proselytized to. It’s “charity” only goes as far as it is permitted to indoctrinate those they help.
In 1998, rather than comply with a San Francisco city ordinance that would require them to honor the domestic-partnerships of any potential GLBTQ employees (as if they have any), the Salvation Army pulled $3.5 million worth of funding from the area, closing multiple shelters and doing the exact opposite of anything even remotely resembling a “charity.”
The Salvation Army withdrew funding and put vulnerable citizens because they didn’t want to comply with an ordinance that didn’t even really apply to them, as their members are largely members of the church, which is vehemently anti-gay in its teachings and mission statement.
Worse, in 2008, a transwoman named Jennifer Gale died in the cold outside an Austin area Salvation Army shelter, after being denied access because of her gender presentation. This is not a matter of respecting the organization’s opinion; this is a matter of life and death.
And it’s not just the GLBTQ community. Several high-profile complaints have charged the Salvation Army with denying shelter to Muslim families who refused to attend Bible classes and denying services to those who cannot “prove” their citizenship status.
There have been many legal battles over the last 20 years concerning the Salvation Army and its disregard for the separation of church and state. This is an organization taking government funds while picking and choosing who to help and who is expendable.
Most recently, in New York, the court established the Salvation Army could no longer force the children in its state-funded shelters to pray, force Bibles on children or preach its own particular brand of religious instruction.
Imagine being a Jewish or Muslim woman showing up to a state-funded women’s shelter with your kids and having to sit through a Bible lesson for your food. If a Muslim group did the same, half the country would lose their minds.
What does it mean that the OU Greek system is so supportive of this particular church? Every red kettle on campus has a frat or sorority house designator proudly taped to the face of it. Am I to understand, then, that the Greeks who participate are doing so in affirmation of the views of the Salvation Army? If not, perhaps they need to rethink their charity partners.
But if so, I’m terribly disappointed. On a college campus in 2012 these are the views of a huge and powerful portion of the student population? Surely there are GLBTQ or non-Christian people within the ranks of the Greek system, and I would hope that they speak up about this financial support being given — partly on their behalf — to an organization that openly and actively opposes their rights.
And I would hope any Sooner with an ounce of conscience would oppose this callous prejudice that has lead to suffering and death.
There are plenty of local Christian and secular charities that do not behave like the Salvation Army and that desperately need donations. Habitat for Humanity and the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs could both use your help, and you can help them knowing your donation will not pay legal fees from discrimination lawsuits or buy Bibles to force on those who come seeking help.
To all of the Greek houses participating with the Salvation Army this year, I hope you read more about the organization and question if this is really something you want to represent. If it is, I suppose we haven’t come as far as I thought.
Trent Cason is a literature and cultural studies senior.