Hard facts about the Salvos

CREATED ON // Thursday, 23 August 2012 Written by // Anna Brown

Let me take you back to the scandal that enveloped the Salvation Army a few weeks ago, when their public position on homosexuality and same sex marriage was thrust into the media spotlight after a tweet by Darren Hayes.

The statement on the Salvation Army website described homosexuality as “unacceptable” to God and that it should be “restrained” with willpower. The Salvo’s public relations disaster quickly went from bad to worse when a media spokesperson for the Salvos was interviewed by JOY FM and defended the organisation’s handbook of doctrine which said gay people should be put to death.

For many people this came as a surprise, given the high regard held for the Salvation Army and their work – the Salvation Army receives millions of dollars of Government funding and public donations to assist the most disadvantaged and marginalised in our community. Most of us associate the Salvos with compassion and humanity, not discrimination. As a friend of mine said, “what has God got to do with me giving away my early 90’s baggy jeans or my Sportsgirl t-shirts to those less fortunate than myself...?” Indeed, it is difficult to reconcile how an organisation seeking to alleviate social disadvantage can play a role in perpetuating views that cause significant harm to the health and wellbeing of LGBTIQ Australians and their families.

The Salvation Army response was swift. The charity quickly apologised for the “unfortunate” comments aired on JOY FM. The statement on homosexuality is no longer available on the Salvation Army website. Instead, it has been replaced by carefully crafted paragraphs which highlight the non-discriminatory basis on which the Salvation Army offers their services to the public and recruits staff and volunteers.

However, these comments need to be approached with caution. The Salvation Army’s army stance on homosexuality does not begin and end with seemingly dated statements buried on its website.

The community needs to be aware that the charity has chosen to proactively campaign against marriage equality as recently as a few short months ago. The Salvation Army made a submission and provided evidence to the House of Representatives inquiry into marriage equality.

Major Rigley gave evidence that “… the Salvation Army believes that historically the cornerstone of society has been based on the marriage definition as one man to one woman for a lifelong, indissoluble union. That is the Salvation Army’s view, which we believe part of our biblical tradition.”

Perhaps it is not surprising that this contribution did not feature in the Salvation Army’s media response to Darren Hayes’ tweet. The community also needs to be aware that the Salvation Army and other faith based organisations are currently exempt from equal opportunity laws.

Victorian law allows religious organisation to discriminate in providing goods and services (yes, even taxpayer funded ones) and employing and promoting staff. These ‘’permanent exceptions’’ set religious groups apart from others who are subject to legal checks and balances that require them to show that any differential treatment is fair and reasonable. The federal government is considering similar exemptions for its federal antidiscrimination laws, something the Victorian Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby hopes to prevent.

Faith based organisations provide many critical services funded by taxpayer dollars - services for the vulnerable and marginalised but also hospitals, aged care and schooling. We value the caring spirit in which these services are provided and recognise their importance. However, this does not justify, on any measure, a license to discriminate against people simply on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

We live in an age where discrimination is no longer tolerated. We recognise its harmful and insidious effects. It’s time ensure our charity and taxpayer dollars are not perpetrating hatred and harm towards the LGBTIQ community.


Anna Brown

Anna Brown

Anna Brown is the co-convenor for the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby and a senior lawyer at the HRLC (Human Rights Law Centre)

Comments (5)

  • Kezi

    07 April 2013 at 10:15 |
    Please take this in the spirit that it was intended & that is to kindly point out some overlooked points. I think you are beautiful & I can identify with how you may feel discriminated against. Especially firstly by God, because of what the bible says about homosexuality. Secondly, by anyone who claims to represent God’s view ie Christians. But please investigate what the bible does actually say if you are honestly seeking to have an informed position on this. God - above everyone, is on the human races side. He is for us (by us - I mean the human race), not against us. He created the human race to be a part of his family!

    Ephesians 1:4-8 Long ago, even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure. 6 So we praise God for the wonderful kindness he has poured out on us because we belong to his dearly loved Son. 7 He is so rich in kindness that he purchased our freedom through the blood of his Son, and our sins are forgiven.

    “Salvation Army spokesman Maj Bruce Harmer said most of Australia’s faith-based charities would be excluded from donations if judged on Hayes’ criteria. ‘TSA (the Salvos) would suggest a more appropriate measure for people to use is to look at how an organisation treats and deals with members of the community who are marginalised, vulnerable, experiencing disadvantage or oppression,’ he said. ‘On that measure, TSA is one of the most compassionate and non-discriminatory in the way it works with people who are marginalised in our community, including many who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender.’

    Yep, because the Salvation Army dared to say that marriage is about a man and a woman only, now they face the blast furnace from some, of homosexual intolerance and bigotry.

    Bigot Definition- One who is strongly partial to one's own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ.

    Sound a bit hypocritical?

    The Salvation Army’s humble method of raising funds during the Christmas season has brought in millions to provide food, shelter and clothing for the poor. But if the author of a recent blog post on, one of the internet’s most prominent homosexual blogs, has his way, that would be brought to an end. ‘As the holidays approach, the Salvation Army bell ringers are out in front of stores dunning shoppers for donations. If you care about gay rights, you’ll skip their bucket in favor of a charity that doesn’t actively discriminate against the LGBT community,’ wrote Bil Browning, in a post that appeared last week.

    Browning authored a shorter post last year on the same theme that he says garnered 14,000 Facebook shares. His longer post this year quotes from the Salvation Army’s website as evidence of its offensive stance on gay rights, such as the statement that ‘sexual intimacy is understood as a gift of God to be enjoyed within the context of heterosexual marriage.’ That statement goes on to say that ‘there is no scriptural support for demeaning or mistreating anyone for reason of his or her sexual orientation,’ although Browning does not quote this portion.

    Major George Hood, the Salvation Army’s National Community Relations Secretary, told LifeSiteNews that both claims were untrue. ‘The position of the Salvation Army is very clear that we preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and we meet human needs without discrimination,’ he said in an interview. ‘We know that there are people who come to us from the gay community and they are served the same as anyone else because sexual orientation is not a question we would ever ask’.”

    So do you want to boycott a charity just because they have a different opinion to you in regards to marriage & sex? Or can you show your support & partner with them to help your friends who are being helped by the Salvos, who engage in practical acts in response to people who are needy, and we can all fall into that bracket.


    • Michael Barnett

      10 December 2014 at 23:44 |
      And what if you don't subscribe to the whole 'god' thing?


  • Dave

    11 September 2012 at 06:58 |
    A great well written article. Thanks Anna!


  • JackAlison

    10 September 2012 at 22:18 |
    When I returned to Oz from the US(where their name is shit and the Gay community has successfully exposed them) in 2007, I l found the drop down menu on the OZ salvo website that espoused REPARATIVE THERAPY! This has since been removed along with the" XTRA prayer and guidance"(whoteva that means 4 troubled gay street youth?!!). One can only imagine wot these freaks have put homeless desparate gay youth through.
    In many ways they are worse than the out and out bigots b/c they try and hide their poison.
    And I mean wouldn't if you, if your org.was tax exempt, received millions in govt. handouts and was the darling of the charity circuit?


  • Ted

    25 August 2012 at 21:18 |
    Some years back when I heard about the Salvo's attitude to homosexuality, I ended a very long history of donations to that organisation (to the Smith Family's advantage). It worries me how many religious groups now get government handouts in our so-called, secular nation.


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