When purchasing compassion, it's still a case of caveat emptor.
Red kettles and bell-ringers in military uniforms have been ubiquitous holiday figures on the American landscape for over 80 years. Perhaps it's because thoughtlessly dropping change into the kettles makes us feel part of the Christmas spirit. It is, of course, the "Season of Sharing". In its own way, it is a very slight, but very palpable redistribution of wealth, providing a small band-aid to poverty and our own guilty consciences. Yes, the Salvation Army provides succor to both people with and without means of survival.
The Salvation Army is not free from sin: it practices judgment on those it gives to and lobbies for its own purposes.
At this point, it's appropriate to remember that the Salvation Army is more than a "faith-based" organization since it is a church in itself, and while it's theology is basically considered "mainstream Protestant" it considers itself to be more of a denomination, a Christian mission set up for the purpose of evangelizing while doing good works and helping the poor. As such, it has fought to keep the right to discriminate on the grounds of religious beliefs. In 2001, it lobbied for funds available from the Bush administration and created a controversy over the hiring of gays and lesbians along with discriminatory partnership benefits. It flip-flopped on its own regulations and finally wound up caving in to pressures from other Christian Right organizations like Focus on the Family and the American Family Association.* And although the Salvation Army trumpets its inclusion of gays and lesbians in it goodwill agenda, stories abound in which the SA denied aid to same sex couples because of their "sinful lifestyle."
The Salvation Army still maintains the right to discriminate on religious grounds.
In January 2011, it came to light that in a partnership deal with the Salvation Army, Nigel Hanger, a 56-year old textiles trader from Kettering, along with three fellow-directors of Kettering Textiles Limited (KTL) earned nearly 10 million pounds sterling over the course 3 of years, 1.6m of which was earned during the previous year. During this time, the Salvation Army received 16.3 million from the deal to run the charity's 4,500 textile recycling banks throughout the United Kingdom.
And in Australia, the Salvation Army was forced to admit that some sexual abuse occurred while it sheltered some 30,000 children from 1940 to 1970.
So, sexual orientation discrimination, child abuse and financial irregularities have been part of the Salvation Army landscape for a while.
JOINING THE CLUB:
American charities have all seen their share of controversy: United Way, Operation Blessing and The Red Cross have battled public scrutiny and criticism regarding placement of funds and discriminatory policies. In the past year:
- The charity founded by former Penn State coach, Jerry Sandusky, The Second Mile, is now currently involved in a lawsuit by one of Sandusky's victims.
- Hershey Charitable Trust revealed that board members have skimmed off money to "pad their bank accounts"