Over the past several years, the Salvation Army has tried to change its image, trumpeting that it doesn’t discriminate against LGBT people through its charity work (though it still does) and claiming that its history of supporting discrimination is a myth (despite being well documented). A new document obtained by Queerty demonstrates that the church’s teachings are still anti-gay.
The document is a memo circulated earlier this year by midwest Commissioner Paul Seiler that details the church’s teaching on homosexuality both internally and externally. The document does jibe with some of the Salvation Army’s public statements, such as that having a “homosexual orientation in and of itself is not a sin” and that sexual orientation is not a factor in hiring or serving.
However, the document proceeds to contradict that very point by outlining ways the church will discriminate in both its hiring and its service. The Salvation Army’s belief on marriage is that it’s still limited to a man and a woman, and anybody who isn’t in a marriage should be celibate. Anyone wishing to serve in a leadership role within the organization must abide by this tenet:
For anyone in a Salvation Army ministry position, the theological belief regarding sexuality is that God has ordained marriage to be between one man and one woman and sexual activity is restricted to one’s spouse. Non-married individuals would therefore be celibate in the expression of their sexuality. This is the long-standing expectation of all individuals in ministry roles in The Salvation Army, including lay people.
Salvation Army officials are also prohibited from officiating the marriage of a same-sex couple and can only attend a same-sex wedding if the ceremony is held at a non-Army facility and they go out of uniform. It’s unlikely such a wedding would take place at an Army facility anyway, because that is prohibited as well.
The Salvation Army told Queerty that the requirement of celibacy for non-married officers “has always been a policy in The Salvation Army.” Director of Communications Jennifer Byrd seemed to contest the incriminating details of the document, explaining, “We realize our message of service to the LGBT community and our non-discriminatory employment practices have been overlooked, misconstrued or misunderstood in recent years, and our focus the past 12–18 months has to be address these failings.”
Bil Browning, an LGBT blogger and activist who has led the campaign to challenge the Salvation Army’s anti-LGBT policies and beliefs, told ThinkProgress that Queerty’s discovery was “incredibly disappointing.” He chastized the church for employing a “’policy of containment” instead of “taking a proactive approach of working with the LGBT community to heal old wounds.”
“Instead of ‘doing the most good,’” Browning explained, “the SA-USA opted to spin the truth and gloss over their extremely anti-LGBT past. I continue to hope that they’ll actually ‘do the most good’ some day, but that obviously isn’t their priority right now.”