Salvation Army responds to discrimination concerns

- Lisa Brown, 03 December 2013 in news

BRIDGEWATER - Questions have been raised and the local captain wants to be clear - the Salvation Army does not discriminate against anyone based on sexual orientation or anything else.

In recent weeks, Salvation Army volunteers have received some inquiries about the church's policy regarding the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) community.

Capt. Felipe Vega says members have also heard chatter around town suggesting discrimination and he says it's simply not true.

"We don't discriminate against anybody as far as service goes," he says. "We certainly never have and I hope we never will discriminate against anybody because of their sexual preference."

Salvation Army offices and social media sites across the country have received inquiries and comments, primarily relating to two issues.

The first is a photo-shopped image of two Salvation Army kettle workers below a kettle sign that reads, "Gays Not Allowed."

According to a statement from the Salvation Army, the photo is "a complete and utter fabrication."

The second issue involves a 2012 radio interview, during which an Australian Salvation Army officer agreed with the comment that "gays should be put to death."

The statement says the Salvation Army "around the world immediately rejected those comments and made public statements against them.

"We stand by the rejection of those comments still. We sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community and to our clients, employees, donors and volunteers for the offence caused by this misrepresentation of the Army's views."

The Salvation Army responds to people's needs. It has been serving vulnerable people for more than 130 years and helped over 1.8 million Canadians last year.

"We just want to be clear about what we stand for and what we always have stood for and that's equality and treating people fairly. We want to treat everybody equal and so they should be," Capt. Vega says.

The captain is concerned that the misconception could hurt the annual kettle campaign which is currently under way. That money supports the Salvation Army's work in the community throughout the year.

So far in 2013, money raised from last year's kettles has provided food to more than 220 households, which equates to more than 535 people including more than 134 children and 50 teens. The Salvation Army also provided clothing to nearly 70 people and assisted with other emergencies, things such as supplying needed medication, eyeglasses and transportation.

The success of the campaign is essential for the Salvation Army to continue providing aid to those in need. Many community groups and individuals participate in the effort.

"It saddens me to hear that whoever put this together is targeting the Salvation Army. It saddens me because it will not only have an impact on the Salvation Army, but it will have an impact on how we assist this community," Capt. Vega says.

"That's something we don't want to see."

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