November 20, 2016

Why I Don't Donate to the Salvation Army

Salvation Army
An earlier version of this post appeared on the Mississippi Atheists blog in 2009. It has been revised to better fit an audience not limited to Mississippi and updated to improve clarity and provide links to more recent information.

There are many worthwhile charities that do good work in every community. Of course, nobody has enough money to support all of them. In selecting which organizations to support, it seems like there are some fairly obvious decision points. For example, I do not support organizations that engage in bigotry, religious proselytizing, or efforts aimed at undermining the separation of church and state. And while I would probably not claim that I would never support an organization that mentions Jesus or other mythological figures in its mission statement, I can say that I would be quite reluctant to do so.

Here is the current mission statement of the Salvation Army, quoted from their website:
The Salvation Army, an international movement, 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.
I understand that some atheists would have no issue whatsoever with supporting such an organization, and I am not here to convince them otherwise. For this atheist, though, I have to admit that this does not sound like the sort of group I am interested in supporting. I am not going to give money to a group that makes preaching about Jesus a central part of its mission.

It is also worth noting that the Salvation Army has a history of discriminating against LGBT persons and non-Christians in their hiring practices even though they receive federal funds. Even if I was willing to overlook their explicitly religious mission, this would be more than enough of a reason for me to exclude them as a group I am interested in supporting even if they may have changed some of their policies for the better.

I am not denying that the Salvation Army and similar groups can do good in the many communities in which they operate. Still, I would prefer to support charitable organizations that do not find it necessary to preach or to discriminate.

Here is some additional information on the Salvation Army:
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