Won’t get fooled again

Last night, the Hallmark Channel decided not to drop wedding adverts that featured two women getting married. It’s just the latest example of a business discovering that while evangelical and/or intolerant pressure groups can be very vocal, so can the people they hate.

Being intolerant is rarely a good look, PR wise, and LGBT+ people, their friends and their families have purchasing power. How many businesses can afford to alienate a huge proportion of the population to mollify a small number of idiots?

That’s something The Salvation Army is realising too. As CNN reports, it’s trying to detoxify its brand after years of anti-LGBT+ activity.

Salvation Army bell ringers, the folks you see jingling bells by red kettles at Christmastime, will be carrying a new prop this year: A card explaining the Christian church and charity’s approach to LGBTQ people.

Designed to help bell ringers answer questions from passersby, the cards include a link to online testimonials from LGBTQ people helped by the Salvation Army’s array of social services, from homeless shelters to rehab clinics and food pantries.

“For years, Facebook posts, forwarded emails and rumors have been leading some people to believe the Salvation Army does not serve members of the LGBTQ community,” the cards read. “These accusations are simply not true.”

As tends to be the case with these kinds of statements, the Salvation Army is responding to a straw man: people aren’t saying that the SA doesn’t serve members of the LGBT+ community. They’re saying that it has a record of discriminating against LGBT+ people and lobbying against their human rights.

As CNN notes:

Criticism of the army among LGBTQ supporters peaked in 2012 when a church leader told an Australia radio program that gay people should be put to death.

…Salvation Army leaders say the group no longer lobbies or signs public letters pushing for specific policies, with the exception of tax laws. Some are frustrated their anti-gay reputation still sticks.

Which reminds me of a joke.

Two men are in the countryside, talking. One of them points to the fences that surround the fields and says, “See those fences? I made every single one of them. But do people call me Sammy the Fence Maker?”

He shifts his aim. “See those dry stone walls? I made them with my own hands. But do people call me Sammy the Dry Stone Wall Maker?”

He sighs.

“You fuck ONE sheep…”

The Salvation Army is very much in that situation. We’re not saying that all their refuges discriminate against LGBT+ people or that any of them are doing it now; we’re saying that there’s evidence of some of them doing it as recently as 2017. We’re not saying that their officials are going on the radio to say gay people should be put to death today; we’re saying that one of their officials did it a couple of years ago.

Trust takes time to rebuild, and in the meantime there are plenty of charities who don’t have a record of anti-LGBT+ discrimination and activism that we can support.

One of the reasons trust takes time is because organisations lie. Take Chick-Fil-A, the US fast food chain. After high-profile protests in 2012, it promised to stop donating to anti-LGBT+ organisations; its tax records for 2018 show that it didn’t keep its promise. After yet another PR storm this year, the organisation has promised once again to change things – but it hasn’t explicitly promised to stop funding anti-LGBT+ organisations, just to review its funding approach.

You can understand why we’re cynical. Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice, shame on us.