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|ASK FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS (The Salvation Army is a Church)
We believe that The Salvation Army was called into being by the will of God, is sustained in being by God’
s grace, and is empowered for obedience by the Holy Spirit. Its overriding purpose as encapsulated in
the name God has given us--The Salvation Army--is therefore to strive to lead men and women and boys
and girls into saving faith in Jesus Christ, working tirelessly and for Christ’s sake, to develop them in holy
living, that they might better serve suffering humanity while remaining unpolluted by the world. Statement
of the Salvation Army
It is easy to toss a pocketful of coins into a Salvation Army kettle, but most atheists do not realize that the
Salvation Army likely violates their values, including blatantly discriminating against atheists and gays.
America’s second largest charity is not a secular organization subject to human rights laws, but rather a
church. As such, it is exempt from most employment laws and can prohibit the employment of gays and
lesbians as well as atheists and non-Christians such as Jews, Buddhists and Hindus. Further, the Salvation
Army makes Christian doctrine central to its service delivery and requires religious indoctrination of its clients,
including vulnerable children.
Founded in England in 1865, the Salvation Army sprang from the Methodist Church. In the U.S. in 2009, it had
an annual budget of $3.13 billion, including $1.6 billion in donations and $392 million of government grants,
and $12 billion in assets. The most common face of the Salvation Army is the bell-ringers in front of retail
stores during the solstice season and thrift stores where many donate or purchase goods.
Besides discriminating against atheists, gays and non-Christians, the Salvation Army prohibits its professional
staff from smoking, drinking alcohol, using drugs, gambling, viewing pornography, or exploring “the occult.”
The Salvation Army also condemns contraception outside of marriage, abortion and homosexuality. Its
professional staff, known as “officers,” can only marry other officers of the opposite sex, and if they marry
outside of the organization, they are fired.
Born Atheist author Tim Covell acknowledges that in years past, he dropped coins in the Salvation Army
bucket. “If I had known that the money was going to a church that discriminates against atheists and gays and
preaches the Jesus myth,” Covell says, “I never would have given. I feel cheated, but I also feel obligated to
educate other atheists about the Salvation Army’s structure and values.”
Understanding that the Salvation Army’s bell tolls for a fundamentalist Christian church should lead most
atheists to make charitable donations elsewhere. Numerous secular charities supply services without
discrimination and some, like Humanist Charities and The Atheists for Human Rights Moral High Ground
Project do charitable work from an atheistic viewpoint. Finally, atheists interested in activism may want to
demand that retailers explain why they have made a special spot in front of their store for a Christian church’s
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