Today I received a follow-up on my request to the Sabres that they look into their affiliation with the Salvation Army who has been known to discriminate against LGBT individuals, refuse to provide benefits for employees in same-sex domestic partnerships or civil unions, and fight against anti-discrimination laws.
Dear Phil and Alexander,
I am writing to inform you that we have met with Major Donald Hostetler and Major Thomas Applin of the Salvation Army to address your concerns regarding their organization’s alleged discrimination. During our discussion they made it clear that the Salvation Army does not discriminate against any class of individuals and they comply with all laws regarding the provision of benefits to Salvation Army employees. They also refuted the accuracy of online claims of discrimination.
The attached letter from Major Hostetler summarizes their position on this matter. He requested that we share the letter with you and encouraged you to speak with him directly should you have any further concerns or questions.
We are satisfied with their response to the allegations and will continue to work with the Salvation Army in the future.
Thank you again for bringing the matter to our attention. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
Director of Community Relations
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My reply to Rich Jureller:
Dear Mr. Jureller,
First of all I would like to thank President Black and yourself for being so receptive to my request that the Buffalo Sabres reevaluate their partnership with the Salvation Army based on their past.
I've had conversations with a few that have volunteered or worked with various Salvation Army posts and my findings are in line with Major Hostetler's claim that instances of discrimination against those seeking aide are sporadic, rare, and not endorsed by the Salvation Army organization. However, I also take some issue with many of the other things Hostetler says and am curious as to why the Sabres don't as well. Hostetler states that "material on the internet contains inaccuracies, misperceptions [and] incidents that took place several years ago [that] are not based on verifiable data." Now, I believe in forgiveness, and that the Salvation Army has come a long way in the past several years, but I'm not so sure the fact that the incidents took place in the past necessarily excuses them.
He goes on to state that the Salvation Army "cannot possibly rebut all of the allegations contained on blogs and websites." I'd just like to clarify that statement a bit. While LGBT bloggers and activists have spearheaded the efforts to hold the Salvation Army accountable and they come with their own lack of credibility, the highlights of the Salvation Army's troubled history can be traced back to institutions such as the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/11/us/charity-is-told-it-must-abide-by-antidiscrimination-laws.html), and CBS (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2001/07/10/politics/main300601.shtml), legitimate news organizations. I want to make sure it is clear that credible journalists have been reporting on the Salvation Army's actions, not just vigilante bloggers.
Hostetler continues in saying that "The Salvation Army complies with all laws regulating the provision of benefits to our employees," but not for lack of trying. In 2001 the Washington Post reported on a request to the White House by the Salvation Army to be exempt from local anti-discrimination laws because of their religious convictions. The Salvation Army has, of course, denied that their intent was to discriminate in their hiring practices and offering of benefits. (And I have been unable to produce said document, perhaps Major Hostetler can provide it.) I'm not sure what sort of research was done on the part of the Sabres, but I would hope that it went beyond trusting the word of the organization that got caught with its hand in the cookie jar eleven years ago.
But allow me to take a step back. I can concede that there are a lot of accusations being thrown at the Salvation Army and that some may be either isolated in nature or questionable in accuracy. The Salvation Army does publicly put forth a policy of non-discrimination saying on their website that "there is no scriptural support for demeaning or mistreating anyone for reason of his or her sexual orientation" and that "The Salvation Army opposes any such abuse." They also state that "there is no scriptural support for same-sex unions as equal to, or as an alternative to, heterosexual marriage."
I have two points that I want to make here. The first: why do the Sabres support an organization that admits that they believe same-sex couples are inferior? Does the Salvation Army's official policy of non-discrimination excuse that organizational belief? And secondly, if this were something completely different, if say, the Salvation Army was opposed to interracial marriage, would the Sabres go anywhere near them with the same evidence? If the answer is yes, why on earth would the Sabres do that? If the answer is no, why are the Sabres admitting that (like the Salvation Army's stance on couples) that not all discrimination is created equal?
I understand that the Salvation Army has done some good things, and that ending a relaitonship with such an organization might not be a popular choice to make, but I have to ask if the Sabres can look at the whole picture and say they're really comfortable in this partnership.