The Truth Behind The Red Shield

Christmas time is upon us once more, and with it comes carolers, snow, and the Salvation Army donation kettles. Since 1982, these kettles and the bell ringing volunteers who accompanied them have lined our snow covered streets, collecting donations from passers-by. However, few know who their dollars are actually going to, and the truth behind the red shield.

Founded in London in 1865 by William Booth, this charity has a long history of exclusion and religious bigotry. As a religious organization, the Salvation Army was originally founded after it was realized that defeating the “three A’s of Alcohol, Atheism, and Anarchy” would be impossible if the English lower class that they were attempting to convert starved to death. As of the present day, the Salvation Army is the second largest charity in the United States, operates in 126 countries, and is considered the fourth most popular non-profit in America. However recently, its true colours have begun to be exposed, prompting some to boycott dropping a couple dollars into the kettles.

The Salvation Army, as a religious organization, uses the Bible to justify its position, specifically against the LGBTQ+ community. A quote from their position statement for the UK and Ireland states, “The Salvation Army teaches that sexual acts should take place only in a monogamous heterosexual marriage, believing that this reflects God’s intentions for sexual behaviour and provides the best environment for raising children”. This text was of course quickly removed, and was apparently intended only for Army members. However, other websites have accidentally released similar statements. The Salvation Army Australian website once proudly displayed the quote “[Homosexual activity is] as rebellion against God’s plan for the created order… Homosexual practice, however, is, in the light of Scripture, clearly unacceptable. Such activity is chosen behaviour and is thus a matter of the will. It is therefore able to be directed or restrained in the same way heterosexual urges are controlled. Homosexual practice would render any person ineligible for full membership (soldiership) in the [Salvation] Army.” A half-hearted apology has been offered, likely to discourage a potential boycott of donations.

The Salvation Army has caused physical harm with its bigotry as well. In 2008, an Austin shelter left trans women Jennifer Gale on the streets to die. After the Army refused to shelter her with the other (cis) women, Gale was left outside in the in the frigid temperatures where she eventually died of a heart attack triggered by the cold. In 1986, the Salvation Army attempted to strike down a New Zealand bill decriminalizing homosexuality, and in 2001 they lobbied against the Bush administration’s funding of any laws against LGBT discrimination. More recently, they have been covering up their tracks so-to-speak, deleting evidence of their bigotry, so as to not discourage politically engaged people from donating. However, simply erasing evidence of prejudice is not the same as apologizing for it.

I strongly encourage you to boycott the red kettles, and consider donating to organizations such as Toys For Tots, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Kelowna Food Bank, Canadian Women For Women In Afghanistan, Doctors Without Borders, the Kelowna Women’s Shelter, Inn From The Cold, or any other charity that –while it may be less convenient–is guaranteed to be a better place for your hard earned money.


For the Salvation Army’s official statement about non-discrimination see