Look, this is a question we need to ask ourselves

The “why is Servetus so negative about the Salvation Army” question has come up again, as in the past, and probably again in the future. I know it’s a tremendously popular organization and it’s on the list of top ten organizations Americans like to give money to and so on. I won’t hate you if you give money to it, but if you tell me how wonderful it is, I will tell you about the many ways in which I don’t think they are wonderful, and I will refuse to be moved on the issue. I think there are better choices. I don’t need to go into it all now, but you can google ‘criticisms of the Salvation Army’ and find them; representatives and local institutions have done and said horrid things not just in the distant past (cf. Richard Armitage’s visit to and support for the Berliner Stadtmission, whose founder was a notorious nineteeth-century anti-Semite; the organization redressed this somewhat through its relationship to the Nazi-resistant Bekennende Kirche in the 1940s), but in the last decade.

Me? I won’t give money to the Salvation Army for two reasons: in particular, because of a particularly horrible situation I observed in 1996 in Göttingen — essentially people excluded from a Salvation Army shelter during extreme weather because they were alcoholics, and what I observed in the wake of that — and in general, because the organization espouses a theology that is hostile to non-straight humans. They seem to be cleaning up their act, insofar as it is now hard to find anything about sexuality on their website, and they claim to following US federal non-discrimination rules in hiring. As far as I understand, however, even now, if you want to join the Salvation Army and are something other than a cisgendered (I hate that word, but whatever) heterosexual, you must be celibate. Based on statements by members of their leadership as recently as 2012, though, I doubt attitudes in the organization have changed much.

But, you say: surely we’re talking about something everyone can get behind here: homeless shelters? That was where Armitage’s support for this organization started. Surely, you’re not opposed to funding homeless shelters? You’re the one who believes that there are some acts of charity that are virtuous in themselves, no matter the motivation behind doing them.

It’s true, I believe that. And no, I’m not against homeless shelters. Homeless shelters fall for me into the category of “do it no matter how you feel about it.”

But there are questions I think we need to ask ourselves, perhaps particularly in a fandom where we give such intensive lip service to the problem of bullying.

Because this is what I see. And I think that these things are common knowledge. Most people just don’t look at them in concert with each other.

Point of common knowledge one: A major vector of bullying and not just among young people is what I’ll call in shorthand “gender difference,” i.e., victimization of gay, lesbian, gender ambiguous, transgender people — those who fall into the categories grouped around LGBTTQQIAAP. I overhear conversations all the time in public places that suggest that very little has changed since I was a teen, at least around here, in terms of how young people in one or more of those categories are regarded.

Point of common knowledge two: Foster children and homeless youth have a disproportionately high likelihood to identify in one of these “gender difference” categories. Common estimates suggest that 7 percent of  youth as a whole in the U.S. identify in one of them; estimates about the rate of gender difference identification in the homeless youth population vary from 20 to 40 percent — a rate of three to five times the youth population at a whole. Some people volunteer to be foster parents specifically in order to try to keep such youth off the street. Evidence exists to show the relationship between youth homelessness and gender difference is causal (teens who come out in the U.S. cannot reckon with easy acceptance from their parents, schools, and peer groups and are more likely to run away from home as minors), but even if it’s not, the correlation is disturbing. While the picture is not as depressing in the U.S. overall as it was when I was a kid, with many more supportive teachers and gay-straight alliance groups and so on, still “gender different” youth in most settings in the U.S. may normally expect resistance, criticism, bullying, ostracization and physical abuse from people in their environment.

So where does that come from? You’ll say, “The Salvation Army isn’t telling its members to beat up gays.” Yeah, I agree, you never hear a bell-ringer shouting “schmear the queer” at Christmas time. But the problem is still there.

I agree that it’s not just the Salvation Army. Negative sentiment about those who are not gender conforming has a long history of being fostered not only by religious organizations but also governments and social groups. Homophobia (by which I mean contempt or aversion toward or unequal regard for or treatment of non-gender-conforming humans) is encoded in huge swathes of our society — to the extent that twenty years ago many people were completely unaware that it wasn’t totally normal to treat such people differently or negatively.

But we have to start somewhere. Organizations that explicitly and implicitly insist through teaching or social practices that certain gender differences deserve non-equal status within them contribute to a general social belief that people with gender differences are “less equal” and thus less worthy of humane treatment in general than people in the straight, heterosexual majority. Why DO my nieces still play “schmear the queer” at school picnics? Why do six-year-olds use the word “gay” pejoratively before they even know what the word means? Because all of us are responsible for creating an atmosphere in which we at least tacitly accept the idea that gender difference is a legitimate ground of persecution and it begins so early that before we even think about it, it’s ingrained in our speech and our thoughts.

So you tell me: how is it okay that if I agree in principle with Armitage’s campaign about bullying, and I’m aware that a lot of bullying exploits gender difference, that I then turn around and financially support an organization that in its structure and teachings fosters and creates the notion of gender difference that legitimates bullying in the minds of many of its perpetrators?

How is it okay if I support a Salvation Army shelter in full awareness that it’s the Salvation Army that preaches the very notion of difference that eventually pushes a large proportion of homeless LGBTTQQIAAP youth out of their homes? When I know that the group (and no, it’s not the only group that does this, just one of legions) teaches an attitude — that these kids are not equal to or as worthy as other kids — that makes it okay for parents to ostracize and condemn their own children?

What should we do?

Your religious convictions are naturally your own business.

In my case, I decided a while back that it’s a racket to set up homeless shelters to help people who are made homeless in part because your own teachings urge other people to persecute people on the basis of their gender differences so that they become homeless. A homeless child is much more likely to become a homeless adult, and the housing problems of transgender people are well known — none of this is news. Creating the audience for your own social services is especially problematic if you ask outsiders who don’t know the whole story to donate for this project.

The climate here makes it imperative to have operating shelters for homeless people and backup systems that make sure that alcohol addicted homeless who need an alternative can find support when prolonged exposure to cold, wind and snow means not only frostbite but possibly death. We have a secular alternative to the Salvation Army in town. As a “wet” shelter, it accepts people who are intoxicated or high at least over night. If you’ve read this blog for a while you know why the issue of sheltering intoxicated alcoholics might be an important one for me.

We donate to it.

~ by Servetus on August 27, 2016.

80 Responses to “Look, this is a question we need to ask ourselves”

  1. I think you’re right. I wrote my Magisterarbeit on “Evangelische Hilfsvereine im 19. Jahrhundert” which had a chapter on the Salvation Army. Their approach to this day can be considered questionable to say the least. Funny thing is, they have a huge training college complex in East Dulwich (Denmark Hill) close to where I used to live. It has this almost sect-like feel (the building complex i.e.) to it with statues of William and Catherine Booth on the front lawn to welcome the recruits.

    • They come out of that 19th c. temperance tradition, which is a problem for me, too. I really hope we’ve moved on from there socially (and in terms of what’s considered appropriate rehabiliation).

      re: sect — there are criticisms of the group that call it a cult. I don’t know if I’d go that far; I’ve met enough SA members who don’t live that kind of life to doubt it. But it is a very insular group. But Judaism is pretty insular, too, so I can’t throw stones on that basis.

  2. For me it’s the ‘saving souls from the devil’ thing, wanting to convert everyone to Christianity and in my eyes a fundamentalist kind of Christianity. Evangelism/missionaries and I don’t go together well…

    • I’ve been told a few times that explicit evangelism is not a component of what happens in their shelters; however, I do think that those who donate are implicitly or explicitly supporting mission in general. They violate a lot of rules that apply to secular charity, but the US government has agreed to turn a blind eye in a lot of cases (NYC is one of the most notorious ones where the city agreed not to enforce their non-discrimination ordinance when the Salvation Army refused to comply).

      This potential quid pro quo aspect is one of the main things that still troubles me about the charitable activities with which I grew up, many of which were heavily church oriented. My mother and I had a lot of arguments over the years about the “price” of accepting various kinds of assistance from a church group. We’re negative about the phenomenon of creating so-called “rice Christians” in other countries but we never look at what we’re doing in our own communities.

      • This ‘covert evangelism’ is what annoys me maybe even more than organizations that are open about it. I’m with you on this aversion to that ‘quid quo pro’ feel. It’s a difficult thing, because the work done is often good. Even doing it from a charitable Christian feeling is fine, but this sense that then those people who were helped owe the helpers a religion… that troubles me to no end.

        • It’s one thing if the SA is one alternative among many, but I’m irked when I see a situation where the SA has leverage over local government because of their charity provision so that they practically “have” to be there if the community’ social services are going to function. If people who need help can be given the choice of non-religious sources, it’s less of a problem for me. Ever since the Bush administration decided to embrace faith-based charity provision, we’ve been seeing cases in communities where religious institutions have been pushing their viewpoint through their service provision and this is revolting to me. It’s not usually the SA that gets it for this — it’s often much smaller church bodies.

          I think from the perspective of the giver, though, it’s a huge problem. How do you provide something that isn’t coercive on some level? Even if you’re just saying “come to our church” or “try out a worship service while you’re here if you want.” It’s a Gordian knot because the very thing that presumably motivates the giver (Christian sentiment) is the thing that I would prefer they did not share with people who are in a sense trapped. Many Christians feel like “if you know what’s good, why wouldn’t you tell people about it” and don’t understand why people would find that offensive. (I have conversations like this about Xian mission to Jews all the time. It’s offensive to Jews, but many Xians don’t understand exactly why.)

          I like community models where there are shelters or food distribution points operated by a multitude of groups, but no one group takes them over or forces an ideological viewpoint on the provision of services.

          • Amen!!

          • Maybe Christians would understand how offensive it is when it happens the other way arround? Have Jews or Muslims try to convert them? But that isn’t how Judaism works and I don’t think that’s how Islam works either.

            • Yeah, 98% of Jews are anti-mission. (a position that has its own issues, as some of it is related to ethnocentrism, but that’s a bigger topic than I want to bite off at the moment. In any case, there’s an extensive religious edifice that discourages conversion to Judaism, oh well I know it.)

              I don’t know anything about Muslim mission. Zero. Maybe someone will enlighten us.

              • My impression is that mission is there in extremist islam but is less mainstream in Islam than it is in Christianity. But then, like you, I don’t know enough to substantiate this.

      • I dislike and never give to the Salvation Army for the reasons you set forth, and for a few other reasons having to do specifically with their policies in NY and it continually frustrates me that Richard Armitage sponsors this charity. – and it may have been, probably was, that the reasons the Bloomberg administration refused to enforce the City Council’s ordinance was because of pressure and threats from the SA. Nevertheless – the City Council’s ordinance requiring that city contractors provide the same benefits to legally married as well as civilly registered partners, (equality in benefits) was plainly in conflict with other existing laws, including federal law, and the Mayor/administration was on solid ground in refusing to enforce it. Had he enforced it, the SA would have had a winning suit against the city to invalidate the ordinance on the same grounds as the mayor raised. I imagine this has all been mooted by the Marriage Equality Act. I think the SA would have challenged rather than just pulled out because these institutions are a business, not for profit or not, and a pull out would have disrupted, not only NYC Social Services ( foster care alone would have been a nightmare), but SA as well. And it would have been a PR nightmare. Anyway, the way the city works, the SA would have operated for years without a contract.

        As it is, there are are not enough social service providers in NYC in all areas -child welfare, homelessness, and emergency, disaster relief.
        (BTW, I hate The Red Cross also) and, the city has shown time again that it cannot provide acceptable direct services.

        Where the city may have acted in a more expeditious and anti-discriminatory manner, was to litigate more vigorously, the federal case brought by the NYCLU alleging constitutionally improper religious requirements on clients and secular employees. It took far too long to settle that case, and I was surprised that NYCLU never pursued appeal on the employment discrimination portion of the case, which was dismissed early on.

        • I’ve gotten a couple messages now to say, essentially, “well, then, it’s just the US branch that is evil, but everything’s fine in the UK.” Theology is decided at the center, though, and it’s a hierarchical organization quartered in London, where the rules about membership exclusion for gays are exactly the same — confirmed again this spring on by Clive Adams, the UK/ Ireland commissioner.

          Thanks for the clarification re: the Bloomberg decision. This is the article that references the pressure coming from the SA http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/24/us/beliefs-salvation-army-hears-dissent-over-gay-views.html?_r=0&mtrref=en.wikipedia.org&gwh=290A5B42D35E335C14A125A6515D7EFF&gwt=pay but I understand your explanation about the potential conflict between federal vs municipal law, and I appreciate the point about the ongoing operation without contract. There are a lot of communities now that couldn’t support their entire social services burden without the assistance of faith-based organizations. I was just aware of the NYC example.

          I did not know about the NYCLU case — thanks for the reference.

          • Yes, just to make clear, and I think you saw that, what I was saying was that the SA would still have been funded by the City, with the approval of the City Council, which enacted the ordinance, without a contract. It’s done all the time and for long periods of time.

        • Red Cross? Since we’re doing this, this you should probably tell me what I should know about them as well, please.

          • It’s a series of management issues, some revolving around 9/11 -nothing to do with any civil rights policies. I probably should have left that out of my comment.

            • No, that’s fine. Yes, I am aware of management issues, during Katrina as well. I was wondering if they were discriminatory as well. Thanks for clarifying.

              • As far as I know, Red Cross are not discriminatory — just have been charged repeatedly with inefficiency. Their funding situation is also intentionally flexible, i.e., if a lot of people donate money to a particular problem, then they will divert their regular donations partially away from that problem toward a less visible one. I feel like this isn’t a problem with something like disaster relief (I mean, if I am supporting flood relief in LA, does it really matter if my particular dollars end up supporting fire relief in CA, as long as the same amount of money ends up in the same places?), but there are other organizations that do this kind of thing that bug me — United Way is one. We used to have these United Way giving campaigns at work. For a long time, I specified my United Way contribution should go to Girl Scouts because United Way supported Boy Scouts, which was discriminatory — until I found out that their funding percentages were set, so if a lot of people donated to Girl Scouts, they just gave more of their unspecified contributions to Boy Scouts to meet their preagreed commitment.

                It can be hard to “avoid” Red Cross if you’re in a hurry. As a donor, I do like to do some small donations just to say “hey, somebody cares,” but in a crisis situation, it can be hard to figure out who to donate to — and lot of the local places on the ground in the US are in fact church organizations and then I kind of get into this maze about which churches I really want to be supporting.

                • Certaines grandes catastrophes attirent beaucoup l’attention et elles conduisent naturellement à plus de dons. Que les associations caritatives déploient ensuite l’argent ailleurs, ne me choque pas, si à côté elles préviennent les donateurs en toute transparence. Cela me rappelle les problèmes de “Médecins sans Frontière” et “La Croix Rouge”… à propos des dons après le tsunami de 2004 dans l’Océan Indien. Les victimes étant pour la plupart décédés, l’argent fut distribué ailleurs, provoquant des polémiques …A la fin les donateurs suspicieux ont moins donné pour Haiti…

                • It’s almost impossible in the case of disaster relief. I don’t care in the end if my donation goes to a different disaster because the one in the news today is getting more donations. I do want it to help as quickly as possible.

  3. All of this.

  4. I don’t think the issue is nearly as widely known as you hope. I didn’t realize it until I read your tweets. Although you are particularly well read, and informed about a wide variety of subjects, I don’t consider myself to be unaware generally. I know that theoretically people should research charities that they support. I think most people who would bother to do so, think more in terms of whether or not it’s legitimate, rather than if it aligns with their individual conscience. Even less so when it involves one of the most widely known charities out there. I haven’t been on Twitter in several hours, so until I check that, I don’t know how disagreeable things became. I would hope that once you had explained your point of view, with your personal account of what you saw, that some would come to understand.

    • I think you have something happen in your immediate view that makes you trip over something that bugs you and think. In my case it was my grad school boyfriend’s involvement in support for men with HIV / AIDS — that was where I got up close and person with stories about how anti-gay theology contributes to homelessness. The first person I knew well to die of AIDS (he died about six months before the initial “cocktail” became available) gave me an earful about that problem. In his case it was the Methodists, not the SA, but the theology of the SA is an offshoot of 19th c. Methodism.

      I also think that generally in the US “we” don’t like to think that “we” cause homelessness, in the sense that economic and social and technological changes create it and we often don’t stand in the way of those developments or we even embrace ideologies that interfere concretely with it. (The decline and disappearance of SRO institutions is a good example of this — they were supposed to go for a good reason, but no one addressed the problem they had arisen to solve. Or the unwillingness of so many employers to employ veterans would be another example.) Homelessness at times is a particularly knotty problem precisely because of the social attitude toward addictions. Until very recently, the vast, vast majority of institutions that existed to help the homeless insisted on “sober first.” (This insistence was a primary obstacle to addressing the veteran homeless problem — once that began to change, it became much easier to get vets into housing and there are some states that are beginning to report their veteran homeless population at zero.)

      The SA is a great resource for a particular kind of homeless population — the kind of homeless people who we tend to see as unfairly victimized, people who get displaced by the housing market, or severe illness not covered by insurance, or even working people dealing with economic shocks. it’s very gratifying for most of us to help these people. The problem is just that within the aggregate homeless population there is a disproportionate number of people who are dealing with just the problems (substance addiction is one) that the SA has a rigid ideological stance on. And really almost no one wants to help the “difficult” homeless precisely because they are hard to help. If the SA monopolizes donations in this regard, it starts to be a problem for the more difficult, less gratifying to help piece of that population.

    • This, for example, is potentially the future of reducing a segment of difficult-to-address homelessness:


      “Housing first” as a strategy has been gaining ground, especially in the last five-ten years, but it doesn’t fit with the moral sensibilities of a lot of Americans, who need recipients of assistance to conform to their own notions of virtue.

      • Well, those taking that high ground are never going to be convinced. Hopefully they are at least aware of the huge problem concerning homeless vets, but do they understand just how many mentally ill people were made homeless due to state hospitals being closed down from lack of funding? Neither of these two are to “blame” in anyway for their circumstances. Runaway teens are desperate enough to leave everything behind because staying in their home is a worse choice than living on the street. How did “undesirable” human beings become so disposable? How did people who judge them develop such a hardness of heart?

        • That’s another good example. Anyone who’s spent 20 minutes with an unmedicated schizophrenic in the throes of hallucinations knows that keeping them under cover is a huge struggle. I don’t know what the SA’s position is on the mentally ill, though; I assume they would take them into their shelters “as long as they are not a danger to self or others” — although that’s hard to determine with a schizophrenic.

  5. You have my complete sympathy and respect in this regard. I think most people (including Richard Armitage) mean well by donating to organisations that help the homeless and don’t look enough at the details / background / ideology / organisational structures etc. Not being fond of religious charities at all (I believe you shouldn’t be forced into something religious because you’re unlucky enough to be in need of help) I wouldn’t support the Salvation Army in any case. But having read what you and others here write about their treatment of people with a sexuality that doesn’t conform with their norms would make them not an option for me in any case. I do think it’s important to research who you’re donating to, and that shouldn’t just involve whether or not an organisation is honest and actually does use your money for the stated purpose. You take responsibility when you give money like that, and you should exercise that wisely.

    • If it’s something you care about, you really have to look every time. And there are also surprises — e.g., nuns who engage in family planning charity, where they are actively flouting the gender ideology of the Roman Catholic Church.

      • That kind of thing really doesn’t surprise me at all and that’s one of the reasons why I don’t support any religious charities. The kind of people who are so convinced of their religion that they choose to practice is very actively and publicly, if that’s the right term, for example by being nuns, teachers of their religion, or part of said religiously-motivated charities, rarely are tolerant and open-minded enough to live and let live, to stay tolerant and neutral when it would be appropriate. (I’m not talking about being in their congregation, in their church etc.) They all too often try to convince others of what they believe is right. I’m generally not fond of that at all since it’s just that – belief. And that too often comes with intolerance. And then there are people in need and they have to put of with – more or less self-righteous – believers or do without help. That’s not alright in my book. Mix these medieval sexual role models and convictions into it and things can get really ugly. Ideally, there is at the very least a choice between religious and non-religious charities, shelters etc. I’m sure that there are people wo find comfort in religious surroundings, but for others there needs to be an alternative. And no matter what your religion, to me there’s no excuse for intolerance and making others feel ashamed or inferior for what they are. There are laws against that and everyone should adhere to those – nuns and the Salvation Army included.

        • I tend to be pro-nun in certain cases and this is one; I’m impressed by nuns who band together to maintain their communities and standards against some of the repressive aspects of the gender ideology of the Roman Catholic Church — my point was solely that one has to look pretty closely to see exactly what is happening. I wouldn’t give to just any Catholic charity, but I have given to “dissident” nuns who were using the money to provide birth control to poor women.

          • I’m surprised that there are such nuns. Interesting and positive. What we have here (southern Germany, we have a Catholic majority) with regard to nun-activities is definitely along the lines of Roman Catholic code and can be really unpleasant.

  6. Il est indéniable, qu’un article comme celui-ci est nécessaire. Je le place parmi mon top 10 des meilleurs articles de votre blog. Ces articles de qualité, qui sont là pour éveiller notre conscience endormie, n’ont pas de prix pour moi. C’est sans doute à cause d’eux, que je suis (verbe suivre) toujours votre blog et donc indirectement la carrière de Richard Armitage. Je suis ( verbe être) devenue avec le temps une de vos fans Servetus.
    Merci pour votre clairvoyance, merci d’ être cette SENTINELLE parmi les fans, merci d’ oser aborder ce sujet avec autant de tact, merci d’expliquer de manière didactique vos idées sur ce sujet et ainsi merci de viser à instruire, merci de votre désir d’explication méthodique, merci pour votre volonté de rester toujours dans l’honnêteté intellectuelle …
    Si votre posture vous amène à être la cible d’attaques perfides, qui peut s’en étonner? Mais j’ en suis désolée et outrée. Votre posture est nécessaire car en fin de compte elle est “salvatrice” pour la bonne santé mentale des fans. Je pourrai continuer ces éloges, mais … A vous de continuer dans cette voie.
    (Remarque: même si en temps que chrétienne ma sensibilité a été un peu émoussée, j’oublie, car le but de vos propos était ailleurs).
    Pour fêter son anniversaire, je continue à donner à des associations locales françaises d’obédience publique, généraliste, sans confession religieuse.

    • sorry ” tant que chrétienne”

    • Thanks for the kind words — I definitely think public charities can be a good alternative (once researched, of course). One issue for Americans is that we do have numerous situations in which private providers have taken over a lot of the social services burden — so researching is really absolutely necessary.

      • Cet aspect particulier de la vie en France sera ,semble t-il, préservé pour encore un peu de temps. Car aujourd’hui j’ai entendu à la radio que selon le ministre allemand de l’Économie, Sigmar Gabriel, je cite; “les négociations sur le traité transatlantique ont de facto échoué”. Puisse le libéralisme ne pas trop empiéter sur la solidarité, principalement dans les domaines des services publics: au service de la santé, des droits humains et du social! Notre modèle social souvent décrié et traité de ringard, fait encore souvent office de dernière barrière, de rempart contre la chute définitive de nombreuses personnes fragiles.
        Ce sera ma sortie du bois en politique.

  7. The Salvation Army on RA’s list of supported charities has always troubled me – and that was before I knew that they drive an anti-gay strategy. In the world we live in, equality has to be applied to every aspect. Excluding people on the basis of their sexual orientation is anachronistic and wrong. As is misappropriating the giving of help as a transaction along the lines of “I give you shelter, you listen to me proselitising”. That looks like blackmail to me, and I dislike that intensely. I’m glad that RA is supporting a range of charities, so there is a choice who I donate to, should I want to do so in his name.

    • Practically speaking, I don’t see how he could scratch them off the list at this point. One can see from the opposing view how well thought of the SA seems to be to many fans. He could, however, forget about a Christmas tweet urging fans to toss a few coins in the kettle.

      • I agree. If he took them off his list there’d be an uproar because the group has such a good reputation. I hope that exposing the issues (as opposed to just gritting my teeth when I see it) helps people be aware that not everyone loves the SA.

        It would be nice if he made a better choice of a US charity. CyberSmile now has offices in Palo Alto, of course …

        • Yes, I, too wish that he would add a U.S. based charity. There are plenty to choose from, nation-wide or New York based since he lives here ( er, there) that target the kinds if clients he seems most concerned about – children and the homeless. Having said that, I think his next name is going to be something to do with Brain on Fire.

        • Palo Alto? Next door neighbours to Facebook? Wonder whether that is a coincidence…
          Is that the only charity with US links on his list?
          Tbh, I think it is too much to ask him (or any celebrity) to cover all tracks by supporting charities in a range of countries. Where to start? And how to choose? It’s never-ending.
          And going back to what you once said, Serv – the diversification is already quite strong. Is it six or seven charities at this point?

          • I looked up Cybersmile on a charity evaluation website when he first announced his involvement and their address was listed in downtown Palo Alto. PA is home of Stanford University and is extremely expensive to live in, and I imagine to rent office space as well. It is part of the silicon valley golden area. Median price for a home there is $2,486,600. I was busy criticizing CS for other reasons at the time, but it struck me as an unusual choice for a charity to choose as base of operations if they are mindful of their spending. But maybe they have to go where the money is, and it is certainly there.

            • That’s how I feel about Palo Alto. Even the lower tier of the tech people can’t afford to live there anymore, it’s so out of hand. To me it makes sense if they plan to lobby people in Palo Alto. (shrugs, don’t know what their plan is, don’t know if money donated to CyberSmile in the UK ends up in the US or not).

              • Maybe because there are no borders in cyberspace it doesn’t matter where Cybersmile is based or where their money ends up? I have no idea what their fund-raising plan is either. They might concentrate on getting donations from the big bucks/deep pockets of cyber-corporations. But if they are doing that, why would they need an actor/ambassador? Isn’t the point of having a celebrity involved getting publicity and increasing awareness of your charity, thereby generating more donations from the general public? No idea, just thinking.

                • I could imagine them trying to work from the software side, i.e., trying to get the social media corps to build features that hamper bullying on the technical end. The problem is that these companies have not seemed especially eager to do this. So I suppose they could be trying to impact that problem. (don’t know)

            • Interesting. Mind you, some of the bigger charities are based in expensive places like London etc, so I guess it is hard to hold this against them… And I think you could be right about “going where the money is”…

              • Go big or go home, so to speak. But this was an issue with Shelter about a decade or so ago — they weren’t paying their London staff enough to live in London, as I recall. I totally get the presence in Palo Alto if the point is talking to / lobbying people at the summit of the tech industry F2F. However, if not, there are plenty of other affordable tech hubs in the US that are much cheaper — the Research Triangle in NC, for instance, or Austin, and people are starting to talk about some places in CO now, too.

          • It’s been an issue as long as I’ve been a fan — fans who mention they don’t see why they should give to a charity in the UK in his honor when there are needy at home. Charity begins at home, as the saying goes — and he lives in the US now.

            • I don’t really want to argue against that because I know where you are coming from. Essentially, I feel the same – I like to support a charity that is based where I am. Doesn’t quite fit with Armitage’s British charities but that is the closest I will ever get to a “charity at home”. My suggestion would have been to pick a truly international charity, I suppose, (Unicef? Save the Children?) but I completely see how it can be beneficial to support a smaller charity that is operating in a specific country only.
              BTW, “home” is a rather arbitrary expression…

              • Sure, home is arbitrary. However, he lives here and he owns an apartment here. Those are two pretty conventional components of a definition of “home” and surely no one would argue that he is at home in a place like China, although he has visited there and has fans there.

                I’m not arguing that he needs to have a charity in every single country. However, it would make sense for him to have them in the major countries of the English-speaking world (Australia as well, for instance), or to pick a truly international charity that isn’t such a problem for the very population it seeks to serve. It’s not that I think he’s being a jerk per se — the first four charities were certainly picked with his personal preferences and his fandom at the time in mind. There were also charities he did things for or suggested donations to that are not on the JustGiving list (there was a Bangladesh Flood Action, and a charity that funded water sources / wells in Africa, among those i remember), and people have made donations to other charities that he didn’t endorse in his name. And these other things on JustGiving have agglomerated over time — stuff related to people he knew and productions he was in. In other words, I’m sure that a lot of this is inertia and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, the fact remains that he lives in this country and doesn’t have an endorsed charity here and it would be an easy thing to do that would please many fans.

                • I suppose I lack your POV, quite literally, because I have never been in the position to say that my favourite actor has been living in my place of residence – hence my difficulty to feel strongly about the need for a US charity. As I said, I see where you are coming from. If he felt strongly about raising funds for charity, this would be the sensible thing to do…

                  • As you know, I personally donate to JustGiving, so it’s not a dealbreaker for me (in fact, that was one of about three initial motivations for my “comment for a donation” strategy — that I knew so many people who wanted to do something nice on behalf of Armitage but could not bring themselves to donate to a foreign charity). I also don’t think it’s his obligation to do something just because a segment of fans want him to. I just think this is really a no-brainer and even if I don’t think he is obligated to do what fan wants, I also don’t think this is an unreasonable desire on the part of US fans to want it (or any other fans, for that matter — I would feel the same way if someone in India or the Gambia said, I want to donate to a charity that works in my country and benefits people here. Of the charities he supports, the SA is the most international but it’s not everywhere, either.)

                    • Perhaps if he added Habitat for Humanity, for instance. I think it’s looked on pretty favorably in this country, and it fits with the theme of getting people in a home.

    • In the UK, a lot of people like Shelter as an alternative to the SA, which Armitage also lists. I’ve never donated to them because they got involved in a labor dispute (over whether the salaries they were paying allowed people rent flats in London, if I recall correctly — this was probably 8 yars ago now), but I had a friend who worked for Shelter e.V. in Göttingen as a social worker and I occasionally donated to them.

  8. I have not donated to the SA for many years. Forcing religion on someone is something I am never OK with.

    I have been donating to the Vietnam Veterans of America. From everything I’ve seen and heard they are a valuable resource for veterans. Does anyone know differently?

    • I’d only heard of them, never looked at them in detail. A quick Google search suggests that they fall into that are of charities that are using more for program costs than is immediately apparent from their financial statement. Apparently, when they bookkeep the costs of their recycling program, they subtract the costs of advertising the program from the program revenue, as opposed to against total revenue — so it looks like they spend less on fundraising / advertising than they actually do and also like they have less gross income from that activity than they actually do.

      This data is a bit old, though (this isn’t the only place I found it), so maybe they have changed. http://www.military-money-matters.com/vietnam-veterans-of-america.html

      I think this is an issue for a lot of charities. They aren’t dishonest but their operating costs appear high for what they are actually accomplishing, so they don’t distribute as much money as some people might think they should.

      In general, though, clothes recycling charities are a real maze. It’s hard to know what to do — where your clothes actually end up and who profits from this. In the UK, the Salvation Army is engaged in this activity as well and they actually contract with a descendant of one of the SA’s founders, who profits from it.

  9. I alway check into a group before I donate and one of the things that really bother me is the amazing amount of money that really go to the poor and the hugh amount that goes into the “administrative pockets” I have stopped donating to so many because of this. Amazingly so many are very well known. Regarding the SA, anyone who needs to preach to you in order to be fed or have a place to be sheltered or be of a specific orientation is not doing the work of “God”. God is nothing but love. This is not love. I always said if I made it rich I would open a homeless shelter for anyone who needed it, and that is anyone. Also one for my animals🙂 There are those who just need a helping hand and one never knows what circumstance may make it you one day.

    • One advantage to donating to a really large, well known charity can be the economy of scale effect, e.g., despite issues around the Red Cross, they are consistently reporting spending more than 90% of their donations on recipients. Smaller charities can have proportionally higher administrative costs. On the other hand, yes, some very well known charities with great reputations don’t achieve that standard or anything close to it.

  10. re: homeless LGBT youth in NYC — here’s some interesting stuff: https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160823/east-village/bea-arthur-lgbt-homeless-shelter-slated-for-completion-feb-2017


    I have not looked at their financials, though.

  11. I whole-heartedly agree with you. I understand that Richard’s heart is in a good place in support of the charities that he does support. As one who has personally fed the homeless and seen to it that people were not on the streets during dangerously low temperatures in the Wisconsin winter, I appreciate others who do the same. But I feel that my money and time are best invested in support of other organizations that are not anti-choice and aren’t inclined conditionally give aid.

  12. Paul O’Grady did a series of programmes with the Salvation Army here in the UK he tackled them over their policy over who could join; and they said that although they had no problems with Paul himself he couldn’t become part of the army because he was gay those were their rules, take it or leave it.

    • I watched a piece of one yesterday when I was trying to find proof that the situation is no different in the UK. I’m always astounded by that attitude. My own opinions about intractable problems have often been changed by talking to people implicated in them. It seems really unmercitful, I have to say, even if that is not the impulse behind it.

  13. Exactly. Thank you for writing about this.
    I think Richard means well of course, but yes.
    I don’t like charity when it comes with the condition of religion.
    And everything you wrote about SA.

    (I wish I was better at expressing myself in English… -.- What I mean is; any time a person helps someone else in need that is a good thing, and I’d rather SA and the likes exists and helps someone than that person not getting any help at all. But these organisations, and their moral high ground, and the motivation why people are active in them. I don’t want to judge because things are seldom black and white, and people in a gruop are not the same, but a second motivation beyond helping someone in an exposed position, is icky. Of course a lot of good is done in the name of religion, but for me it’s not without problems either, especially for LGBTQ+.)

    • Thanks for this nuanced remark. A friend told me she feels awkward commenting here because she is a Christian — and I count myself as religious, so I’m definitely not anti-religion or even anti-religious charity and certainly not anti-religious people trying to improve the world. My specific issues with SA is that their approach to the problem they say they are addressing is counterproductive.

  14. I think in most communities, many of the charities are run by a church, or at least affiliated with one. Without adequate government funding for secular or social services alternatives, people in need would be in a much worse situation without faith based services. I certainly don’t approve of what comes with many of them. So, what is the answer?

    • I don’t know. I just know I don’t want to give to homophobic charities and I feel trapped as a donor when I see situations in which faith-based groups are the only option (this was probably true in some places even before the Bush government initiative but I imagine it’s more true now). I don’t know if I feel trapped enough not to donate, but luckily, every place I have lived recently has had alternatives.

  15. I can only speak about the SA from personal experience. First, there is a very positive attitude towards them here in the UK after generations of their work amongst the poor. When friends and relatives speak so well about them and talk about ways in which people have been helped by them then one cannot help but be influenced by their positive comments and I expect that RA has been influenced in a similar way. My father, born into a very poor family in 1915, was not a religious man but always talked about them in glowing terms, telling how the SA women would walk into pubs full of drunken men knowing that they would be treated as helpers and friends. My family had little to give but would be willing to donate to the SA, saying that it all went to help people and would not be wasted. Even my middle-class husband, an outspoken atheist who usually has no time for religious organisations, will donate to them for the same reason. Secondly, one of my close friends at university was a Sally Army girl, wore the bonnet and everything apparently, although I never saw her in it. She never discussed religion with me and was one of the best sort of women I have ever known. She married a Jew.
    When I read discussions accusing the organisation of being homophobic last year, it didn’t surprise me. Every religion has trouble with people who aren’t straight because of what it says in religious texts and most of them, it seems to me, including the SA, are struggling to come to terms with things and be inclusive one way or another. All I can say is that I support them in this struggle and hope they can find a positive way forward which involves all of society in the end.
    In the meantime, I shall carry on donating to the SA whilst supporting the rights of the LGBT community. I don’t have a problem with that and, presumably, neither does RA.

    • So what you’re saying is that the fact that they have done nice things in the past and people have great memories of them (in a time when gay people were underground and persecuted if they were not, so essentially treated even worse by the SA and everyone else than they are now) means it’s okay for them to discriminate now? That argument is pretty flimsy. I also donated to causes in the past that I now understand are problematic. I bought Driscoll raspberries two years ago but this spring I learned about their laboring conditions via a campaign by their workers. I stopped buying them now because I’ve been enlightened.

      I see zero publicly visible evidence that the UK SA is trying to come to terms with its homophobia. Witness Paul Grady’s interview from earlier this year in which the UK / Ireland commissioner said in no uncertain terms that gay people cannot be members. I’m sure you’re familiar with the program, as it was broadcast by the BBC “The Sally Army and Me.” The operative moment I’m discussing is reported here: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2016/05/02/uk-salvation-army-chief-defends-ban-on-gay-members/

      I know a lot of groups are working on this issue (a bestie from college is on the board of Covenant Network in the PCUSA, so I hear a lot about it tangentially), but the SA in general and the UK SA in particular are not in that group. in 2014, a territorial commander in the US SA issued a memo that restated the organization’s position on homosexuality but essentially said “don’t talk about it.” That is not “struggling to come to terms.” That is “we’re sticking with it but we know it’s politically distasteful so we’ll hide it from view if we can.” If you’d like to read that memo, it’s here — I suggest that you skip the polemical reporting at the beginning and just go down to the original memo from the SA at the bottom of the article: https://www.queerty.com/heres-the-internal-document-the-salvation-army-doesnt-want-you-to-see-20141218

      You’re free to donate to whoever you want to donate to. So is Richard Armitage. For me: no penny for hate in the present. That’s pretty much how simple it gets in the end. And when this comes up, I will tell people what I know to be true and I will give evidence.

      • This has all been very informative, thank you all for the information. I guess for disaster relief,The Red Cross is probably the way to go, along with Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF, and Save the Children depending upon the situation at hand. Hopefully nothing will come to light about them as well.

        • Those groups all have solid mainstream appeal and good ratings from charity examiners. UNICEF has come under fire from conservatives in the US, but to some people that might be a selling point. And the scandals that have hit the UN in general (peacekeepers soliciting prostitution from the people they were protecting) have not seemed to touch UNICEF as far as I know. I like Save the Children a lot, but it’s mostly a personal preference; I’m more like to donate on a regular basis to warm clothing drives in the winter and so on although they got the March and April pieces of my charity budget this year.

          • Yes, I do what I can for that type of drive through the schools, towns, fire department, and so forth. Those are easy to feel confident in, and know that the needy in the community will be helped quickly.

      • I am just explaining, Servetus, why I and most other Brits feel the way we do about the SA – how our attitudes have been moulded by our experiences and what we’ve seen going on around us rather than by what we’ve read . They did good things in the past and they still do good things now. If I give them money, then it is because I feel that it will go directly into helping people – which is not the case with so many charities who siphon off expenses for this, that and the other. They happen to have their knickers in a twist over religious texts, as does just about every other religious institution. As an atheist, I find such things eye-rolling, but I live in hope that, in the end, such attitudes will become a thing of the past as these religious bodies edge towards more sensible attitudes.
        In the past, the law may have worked against gay people but ordinary Brits were a lot more relaxed. My father’s older brother (born 1908) was gay; several other members of our clan are also gay and my cousin’s child is transgender – all born over several generations. None of this is a problem for our extended family and I wish that I had time to tell you all the interesting stories of acceptance experienced by our LGBT relatives over the past century. But, I would lay bets that they have all given to the SA and would still give, like me, even if they read your accounts.
        I’m sorry if you don’t understand my attitude in the same way as I find it difficult to understand yours (as usual). I try not to be too hard-line in all my approaches to life.

        • I think you don’t know all that much about me, jaydee, so I’ll skip responding to your implications about how Americans don’t understand Brits and it all has to be explained to us because you’re so special and we’re so clueless. You basically come here only to say that anymore and I’ve got no response. You don’t believe that we might understand something about the world outside of our boundaries and you never will.

          re: how hard-line anyone is, this is another topic you’re totally ignorant on. I will say that the implication of the Salvation Army in the death of a transgender woman in a city I lived in pretty much pushed me over a line. If objecting to the unnecessary death of a transgender person makes me hardline — well: buy me the t-shirt.

          • No, I’m not saying that, as an American, you know zilch, Servetus, because that is patently wrong. What I am saying is that I am speaking from my experiences – and my experiences are all I can talk about because that is what has largely shaped me and formed my opinions when it comes to the SA. And so I’ve talked about my past and my family and our LGBT members. Perhaps, like all experiences, they have led me to make narrow and biased conclusions but all I was doing was trying to explain how I, my family and many people I know in the UK have come to form an opinion about this group and perhaps, just perhaps, RA has formed similar opinions because he has come under similar influences. You dismiss everything I say, as usual, as a personal attack on you and Americans rather than an attempt to tell people on here a bit about my private life because that explains where I am coming from. Perhaps, sadly, I should accept that this will always be your response to me on this blog but I find it very upsetting when you accuse me of being something that I am not and saying things that only take on meaning after passing through your translation/interpretation of them. I keep coming back, trying and trying to put the record straight but I’m obviously an utter failure.

            • I’m not dismissing your experiences in terms of what they mean to you (something I have no way of knowing), I’m questioning their relevance to the population of people the SA claims to want to help. That you and others feel good about what the SA does does not mitigate their very real exclusion of certain people from their ranks. I’ve been listening to days of reminiscences about SA workers giving somebody coffee during the Blitz or whatever. Great. I bet that meant a lot to those people in 1940 and I am not saying that was horrible in any way. Good for them. But the fact that that happened in 1940 is entirely irrelevant to a person who freezes to death outside an SA shelter in the present — someone who wasn’t even born in 1940 — because they don’t meet the criteria for admission. Will you warm that person with your story? Will you give them their life back? Will you tell them how great the SA is? Really?

              When I was a kid my parents loved historical tourism and we visited plantation museums from time to time. I have good memories of those visits. That doesn’t mean that African Americans have to love them. Or that they or their allies shouldn’t raise questions about why they are there and the messages that they exist to perpetuate. Or try to get people to stop paying to keep them going. Lots of people have great memories of going to Sea World to watch the killer whales, too, even though the aquarium’s treatment of killer whales is now widely seen to be inhumane and they have made the decision not to replace their population anymore. I could cite dozens of examples: my positive memory (or yours, or anyone else’s on its own) is not the arbiter of all that is good or worthy of preservation. In fact, positive memories often hide oppression in my experience. People remember wonderful meals at grandmother’s table but they didn’t help her plant, harvest and put up the peas, they weren’t there to watch her knocking herself out to make the pies, and they didn’t help wash the dishes.

              I don’t need Richard Armitage explained to me, although it’s certainly kind of you to offer. Moreover, I’m not Richard Armitage’s spokesperson and neither are you; I wouldn’t venture to say what he thinks or doesn’t think about the SA in detail or what he’s aware of with regard to their actions, and frankly, I could not care less about whether he donates to them or not. I have plenty of real-life friends who do. My point in the post was that people who give lip service to anti-bullying campaigns should be careful about supporting the SA because the SA is one of many organizations in our society that creates the very conditions that justify bullying in the minds of its perpetrators. And that’s not an accidental byproduct of what they do: it’s a central point of their theology. My point is solely to point out — when the topic comes up, as it did because of Armitage’s birthday — that the SA is homophobic, that its representatives lie about or hide what they really think when they talk about this issue, and they have deceived millions of people — you among them — on the basis of “good memories.”

              This is really all I have to say about this topic, and since I’m just feeding your energy by responding to you, this will be my last rejoinder on this topic.

  16. I was about to say one more thing, Servetus, and I would like it very much if you would answer this one because I’m curious. I promise that I will not say any more on the matter whatever your response. May I ask if you never donate to any other religious charity or is it only the SA? All major religions are homophobic, imo, although perhaps I am being unfair/sweeping and there are some out there whose attitude I know nothing about. Catholics condemn just about everything. The Church of England will probably split on the matter of gay people: the first openly gay bishop was appointed in the UK not so long ago – and then was chased out from his job; whilst the African branch of the CofE is very anti-gay. The followers of Islam in many parts of the world will kill gay people and Judaism seems to say that they will tolerate but not accept gay people – one step up, I suppose, from the Torah which says that homosexuality is abhorrent and subject to capital punishment. The SA seems to be in the same boat as Judaism – tolerating but not accepting; but, I believe they will get there in the end. Just look at that referendum on gay marriage in Ireland: the people have their say in the end.
    And you know I don’t speak for RA but have just pointed out the similarities in our backgrounds and cultures which might just possibly shine a light on his beliefs. Possibly. Just like, after working and living with Americans for 5 years, I still would ask Americans to explain to me why other Americans MAY have acted in a certain way and then treated their responses with respect. You can explain Trump to me any day.
    Right. That’s my lot.

    • Just poking in here to say that thousands of Jewish congregations not only tolerate, but welcome LGTBs, even some of the most extreme sects and many rabbis will perform same sex marriages. Jewish charities don’t turn anyone way on account of their sexual preference nor do Jewish charities, or other organizations demand any sort of religious practice, vows, etc to service clients.

      • Yes. If we limit the question to “will an institution provide charitable services without prejudice to non gender conforming people” the record of most religious institutions is better than that of the SA.

    • It’s not at all difficult to find mainstream religious traditions that have rejected or are rejecting the homophobic moments of their foundational texts. (I looked and there are even some in the UK.)

      For the last five years, if a church is involved, I’ve been asking to confirm that the group has explicit non-discrimination statements or has ended formal LGBT discrimination in its institutions, which includes theology, membership, ordination and sanctification of marriage. There are plenty of these in the US, you don’t have to look far. The ones I’m aware of and have supported on occasion: ELCA (biggest Lutheran denomination in the US); UCC (one of the biggest Reformed denominations in the US); Quakers (I assume you’ve heard of them). Quakers have been officially non-discriminatory for years and years, going back to when I was in college. (Of course, there are people who don’t consider Quakers Christian but then there are people who don’t think Mormons are Christian either). Some of these denominations (UCC comes to mind) have official additional designations that can be added so that a congregation is designated as “welcoming” or “affirming.” There are others — UUs come to mind and although I don’t know a lot about their current positions I would guess that non-discrimination in their congregations is hardly a new thing. They have almost no theology, anyway.

      Judaism is harder. The reason I say it’s harder is that Judaism doesn’t have a very sophiticated theology, but it has a hugely complex legal tradition and so you have to ask not only about Talmudic precedent and responsa literature, but also what’s going on in a particular place. Many Jewish congregations are entirely independent of denominations. The burden of the Jewish legal tradition is absolutely anti-gay (although since Jews haven’t believed in hell in centuries, the consequences of that are slightly different than they would be in Xty). However, gays are not excluded from ritual life on that basis (since whether someone is a Jew is not contingent on conviction or action), and there are at least two fully non-discriminatory Jewish denominations in the US — Reform and Reconstructionist. Probably the vast majority of US Jews belong to Reform congregations. The interpretation of Torah is not centralized and so an individual congregation can have a very different spin on any legal issue depending on what their rabbi decides, so you could end up in a Reform congregation that was not LGBT friendly and this has to be queried every single time. I don’t donate to any Jewish religious charities at all, but for a different reason (Israel / Palestine), which would make me a pariah in some settings (donations to United Jewish Appeal are pretty universal in some settings and I won’t touch them). I do donate to some Jewish cultural charities that are non-discriminatory and don’t have any religious position (Workmen’s Circle). In the last four years, the congregation I belonged to organized tzedakah on an ad hoc basis anyway. If the rabbi needed money for something, he called around his list of potential donors till he got it organized. I was always free to refuse and in fact he always called me with last minute requests (can you give $50 to help this family with their rent; can you buy some kosher groceries and give them to that family). I really liked this because it was direct, involved no middleman, and there was no overhead. I’ll be joining a new congregation again shortly, though, so the research will have to continue.

      I do not support Muslim charities in the U.S. Frankly, I’ve never been asked. I have donated to Turkish Red Crescent, but it’s about as religious as American Red Cross. I’d have to do a lot of research, however, because there are political as well as ethical issues involved that I, frankly, am not familiar with. The wrong donation could put me at risk of violating the tax code due to the connection of some Muslim groups in the U.S. with other sanctioned groups abroad.

      re: Britishness — instead of sailing in here to explain it me all the time, why don’t you wait until I or someone else actually asks a question? No one here needed a lesson about why Armitage might or might support a particular charity — the post wasn’t even about that topic.

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