You May Want to Save Your Pocket Change Next Time You See a Jingle Dude

It’d be my guess that given the overlap between the skepticism and atheism camps, a lot of our readers are already going to have a few reservations about the Salvation Army, and whether or not they should throw them a little change, or if perhaps their money could be better used elsewhere.

But contrary to certain stereotypes, we are not, as a community, a bunch of heartless meanies with no standard of morality who don’t have any interest in charity. I find, as a general thing, that skeptics are an enormously compassionate bunch who are consistently willing to give of their time, money, energy and resources to worthy causes and things that benefit the greater good. As such, maybe we could overlook the Christian ethos of the SA and focus on how their good outweighs their problematic beliefs, and find it in our hearts to spare a little extra this year. But does the good they do outweigh the problematic beliefs?

There’s been a fair bit of hub-bub (I love that word) brewing out in Facebook and the blogosphere lately about the Salvation Army’s anti-LGBT practices. A Facebook page has been started recommending a widespread boycott. It’s been covered on MSNBC, in the Chicagoist, on the Bilerico Project, and many other places.

The stories generally concern the fact that the Salvation Army has a wide and noticeable history of financing and supporting anti-LGBT legislation, such as opposing marriage equality. Is that where you want your pocket money going… to defense of marriage lobbyists? They also have overtly discriminatory hiring practices, refusing to allow LGBT individuals to become “soldiers”. I thought DADT had been repealed? And although they claim their charity work and services are available to anyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, anecdotal evidence suggests otherwise. I even read one story about a homeless gay couple who were turned away unless they agreed to break up. Can you imagine the mentality of that? “Unless these two individuals publicly renounce their love for one another, in front of me, I’m going to force them to sleep out on the cold streets.”

Their own claims pay lip service to being supportive of LGBT individuals, but their actions are directly contradictory. What counts is not saying “I love gay, lesbian, bi and trans people!”, what counts is treating us in a fair and respectful way.

There are numerous other large, successful charity organizations that do not have any history of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. The Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, Habitat For Humanity, Goodwill and so on. Perhaps consider giving elsewhere this year?

But if you’re absolutely dead set on giving to the those who “do the most good”, the guys with the not in the slightest bit annoying jingle bells and red buckets, how about offering them one of these.




Natalie Reed now writes at

Related Articles


  1. Thanks for the printout at the last link. I was thinking of making my own little cards with a similar message, and may still do, but it gives me inspiration.

  2. I’ve been passing these out to jinglers for years but I haven’t printed mine out this year yet. Thanks for the reminder Natalie!

    1. I don’t tend to get into many of these boycotts or campaigns, mostly becuase I found I’d been misled by the organizers in the past. But I think I’ll join this one.

  3. That’s a really cool idea, that 3 dollar bill. I always felt kinda guilty, having to walk by these people, with the goddamn incessant jingling in my ears, which I swear they amp up when I pass by and try to ignore them.

    As for charity, I give my money to the local no-kill animal shelter, where I got my kitties.

  4. As I was walking back from lunch about an hour ago, I passed a corner where a homeless man, selling copies of Outreach (a local newspaper which raises funds for the homeless) was being berated by a Salvation Army “Santa” who was shaking his jingle bells rather viciously a couple of inches from the guy’s face. Not my idea of Peace on Earth and Goodwill Toward Men…

  5. I give to United Way through work. They let you choose which programmes you support. I am hopefully avoiding godly places. Half goes to after school programmes at a community centres in my area and half to a low income day care centre.

    I also give to UNICEF which I am pretty sure isn’t godly… I hope.

    Also, it’s hard to find things to support that you know are actually using the money you send for the cause. It would stink if your money was instead going to pay the admin costs of the charity.

    1. And a good chunk of that money you give to United Way doesn’t go to any charity organization.

      It’s so, so much better to just give to local non-profits, charities, and causes, in my opinion. And, with the internet, you can easily give directly to organizations in other parts of the country or world.

        1. UW is convenient, for sure, but I am greatly displeased with their overhead. It’s better to give directly to your particular charities of choice than to add another layer of administration for it to trickle through. If the options are giving through UW or not giving at all, though, giving through UW is the way to go.

    2. A lot of Christians got very snippy with me over UNICEF when I was out fundraising for them, so I’m pretty sure they aren’t quietly furthering a religious agenda with all their education, community development, and maternal health care programs.

  6. One of the issues that I have now is that there is a Salvation Army thrift store just down the street from me. I am still recovering from an ankle injury and I don’t have a car, let alone any money. This store has some fantastic deals, they sell clothing and household items really really cheap. I need cheap. I also need accessible. I don’t want to give them money, but they have some things I need at the only price I can afford (extremely cheap, though free would help). This is a low-income area overall, and many people in the neighbourhood shop there out of necessity. I don’t want to support their homophobia, because that really bothers me, but I don’t know where else I can go for some of this stuff that is both the same very low price (they also have 50% off days every couple months) and is accessible to me. I’m pretty conflicted.

    1. Oh, I have the exact same problem — pretty much every damn thrift store in Stockholm is run, overtly or covertly, by a religious organisation. Definitely all the “big” ones that everyone know of and which therefore have the best stuff. I shop at the SA thrift store closest to me simply because the only other shop close to me is run by an even crazier org…

      1. All the best thrift stores in the city are Salvation Army-run, I had no idea they were homophobic, and I feel awful for all the money I’ve given them over the years, but Winnipeg doesn’t give me a lot of choice. Value Village is the other non-religious option, but their prices are insanely high for a thrift store (7.99$ for a faded, worn t-shirt? Seriously?) and they’re farther away from me (requiring a bus ride).
        Being moral and being poor are often conflicting and it sucks.

          1. You’re right. I had no idea. I always assumed that since the one I shopped at in college made a point of hiring developmentally disabled adults that they were more invested in community support than they apparently are, according to the internet. I can’t think of any secular alternative thrift shops that are run as charities. Do they exist?

  7. Somewhat tangentially related to Madfish and Felicia… does anyone know the affiliation of Goodwill? I shop there occasionally (usually for chairs to replace my latest broken one), because they’re not the Salvation Army, but I couldn’t find any information about their affiliations.

    1. I actually used to work for Goodwill, once upon a time.

      They don’t have any overt Christian connections, no. The main nature of their charity work is that they provide an opportunity for work to people with developmental disabilities, mental illnesses, people who have been unemployed for a very long time and require on-job experience to get back on their feet, seniors, etc.

      Most Goodwill employees are just regular employees, hired through the same processes as anyone else. But there are the volunteers, described above, who work with the regular employees and have that as a way of gaining experience, building a resume, feeling like they’re more of value to the community and a part of it, etc.

      I do, however, have reservations about Goodwill in that it seems like although they’re a non-profit, the vast majority of their financial earnings go into maintaining and promoting the corporate structure, not the actual charity stuff.

      They don’t have any overt religious ties, though, or, to the best of my knowledge, support any religious or discriminatory initiatives. Their hiring practices are no more or less discriminatory than the laws of wherever they happen to set up shop.

      1. Of course, given the number of Christian books I stocked and sold, I don’t feel like my hands will ever be clean again.

        One time we got a donation that contained a “pray away the gay” book. I chucked it straight in the pulper. Absolutely NO WAY was I going to put it on the shelves.

        I also made a point during my last week there to covertly organize an LGBT section on the shelves.

        1. There is a Goodwill by my house and I’ve become friendly with most of the employees- several of whom are gay and lasbian. Once a religious organization donated about 200 t-shirts that depicted a little dress person + little pantsy person= shiny ring! These poor folks had to sell them for weeks!

      2. The Goodwill store in the Castro in San Francisco is entirely staffed by transgender employees. This says all I need to know about Goodwill’s willingness to hire a diverse workforce.

      3. I feel like I heard that they had recently (like within the last year or so) lost their status as a non profit because they made too much money although I most certainly could be wrong about that.

  8. It’s so nice to see this story getting some attention. I started the boycott page last year, and I’m glad it’s finally gaining some traction this season. I don’t think it should be too hard for people to find alternative charities. It’s really not a lot to ask.

    1. Oh, hello! Thanks for bringing attention to this issue and starting up the Facebook page. I think it’s really important that people know what their money is being used to support.

      I’m going to be a guest on the Godless Bitches podcast this week. When Beth Presswood announced they’d be having a transgender guest, one of her friends was all “I hope it’s Zinnia Jones!” and I was all “awww, I’m going to let this person down. I wish I were, but I’m no Zinnia Jones.” ;)

  9. I also found some good lists of secular charities:

    And a very important charity: Love 146
    “Is Love146 a faith-based organization?
    No. Though the co-founders of Love146 are inspired by Christian faith, a system of faith is not required to work at Love146 and we value the diverse perspectives of our staff and supporters. We readily embrace all those who unite in our common vision of the abolition of child sex slavery and exploitation. While some Love146 programs and partners may incorporate faith foundations, we evaluate programs based on their effectiveness and impact in protecting, defending, restoring, and empowering children.

    Love146 is an international human rights organization, serving people regardless of religion, political preference, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, or gender. Love146 believes partnerships across religious, political, social, and cultural boundaries are vital in working towards the abolition of child sex slavery and exploitation.”

    1. I have chosen to support Doctors Without Borders and Amnesty. I have also supported IHEU. There are plenty of options available if you want to avoid funding bigotry and fundies.

      As my family have been actively involved with the Salvation Army, I have been asked a few times to help collecting money in December. I have refused loudly every time :)

  10. I feel like handing out those fake dollar bills might be perceived as rude and manipulative. If we want to fight bigotry I think we shouldn’t be passive aggressive and drop a fake bill. Instead if we feel the need to protest we should have the strength to speak to the person’s face and tell them that we do not believe in their cause and why.

    I agree, it might make us feel better to drop those messages in the tip jar but I feel like it will do more harm than good. Likely the person who will filter out the tip is so far down the chain that they will not have decision making responsibility. Additionally, the person receiving it is likely going to feel like they were tricked (because they were) and will likely resent receiving that fake bill. I feel that its better to directly address someone (thus giving them a chance to respond and engage with you)than it is to sneakily deliver a message while getting their hopes up.

    Here is a perfect example of how this technique looks from the other side:

    1. you wrote: “I feel like handing out those fake dollar bills might be perceived as rude and manipulative. If we want to fight bigotry I think we shouldn’t be passive aggressive and drop a fake bill. Instead if we feel the need to protest we should have the strength to speak to the person’s face and tell them that we do not believe in their cause and why.

      I agree, it might make us feel better to drop those messages in the tip jar but I feel like it will do more harm than good. Likely the person who will filter out the tip is so far down the chain that they will not have decision making responsibility. Additionally, the person receiving it is likely going to feel like they were tricked (because they were) and will likely resent receiving that fake bill. I feel that its better to directly address someone (thus giving them a chance to respond and engage with you)than it is to sneakily deliver a message while getting their hopes up.”

      I completely agree :) And imo, the most important reason to forgo dropping in fake bills……neither they (or anyone else) will know WHY you did it.

      If/when I encounter a Salvation Army ‘rep’ this season, I will tell them precisely WHY I’ll be putting my money elsewhere.

      p.s. *waving to Natalie* :) As I said, I’m really looking forward to your appearance on the next Godless Bitches!:)

      1. The bills explicitly state that the reason a legit donation was not offered was because of SA’s bigoted ideology. I think that communicates effectively why.

    2. You are right, the ringy ding folks *are* really far down the chain of command…probably a lot of them aren’t necessarily religious, but poor, needing temp holiday work. I think engaging with them might not only fall short of reaching the decision-makers, but also probably make them feel cruddy for being too broke to getr a job they can feel good about.

      I’m also not sure that fakey god-money is a fair analogy to make. That tip was just that…a tip. It was left for the server to compensate them for thier below-minimum wage labor. When you leave a dollar for a ringy ding person, that money is not for them to keep, so I’m not sure they have enough of an emotional investment in thier collection to hold a grudge about it unless they are a volunteer because they emotionally invest in Salvation Army’s ideologies.

    3. AGREED. It would be more effective to write a letter to the org’s complaints department (or whatever) rather than drop a fake bill (thus looking like you support them to anyone not aware of the bill), and then hoping that the existence of the bills are even mentioned to anyone higher up. It’s a cute idea at first, but to me, having received enough Jesus dollars that I thought were real tips, it stinks of being too self-righteous to let things be while simultaneously being too cowardly to say what you think to the people with whom you take issue. The more effective tactic would be to write the SA, tell them you won’t be donating, why, and who you will be donating to instead.

      1. Point being, since we are being neither annoyingly self-righteous or cowardly in taking a stand, let’s take a stand in a way that will be effective. I love Zinnia’s boycott page because it’s proactive,clear, and helps people express in LARGE NUMBERS how much and why they disapprove of SA’s homophobic (and other problematic) policies.

        As a side note, I would especially not want to leave these bills, because seeing YOU put “money” into the bucket may encourage others around you to do so.

  11. When you queue up at the Salvo’s soup kitchen, they don’t ask if you’re gay or lesbian. In winter when they hand out blankets I never got asked if I was gay. When you go in to get a food parcel, they don’t ask if you’re gay or a junkie. When I was on my feet again and wanted to help in the kitchen I was not asked if I was gay.
    The good overwhelmingly outweighs the bad. Just like Greenpeace or the Occupy movement.

    1. As always, just because you have been lucky enough to not experience discrimination doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.

      Also, please remember that not every LGBT individual or “junkie” / IV drug-user is able to control when that information is disclosed. Not every LGBT individual or IV drug-user is able to “pass” as otherwise. Not everyone needs to be asked.

      Whether or not you feel the good outweighs the bad is your own decision, of course. I simply would like to raise awareness about these issues so people can make a more informed choice.

      1. So where are all these non-religious soup kitchens and winter-blanket appeals you speak of. Where are their vans late late at night when the under-the-bridge crew are burning cartons to keep warm.
        I don’t give a fuck what they’re selling at that moment, Seventh Day, Salvos, Mormons, whatever. In 30 yrs on and off the streets I’ve never once seen an LGBT van or a Transgender blankie… but I’ve met heaps of LGBT’s in the line and serving the meals.
        Hit the streets, people. We all got our problems. This is just my personal experience. There is no god.

        1. I think that the LGBTQ communities that do poverty outreach might not be as visible as religious outreach for a few reasons. 1)We are oppressed communities, and as such, do not have as much collective disposable income available in order to to do massive and visible charity work in the ways that very rich religious organizations do. Probably a lot of the giving we do are small, episodic donations, given to help each other get by. 2) Unfortunately a huge portion of the mainstreamed and wealthy members of LGBTQ communities are often wrapped up in wealthy-person struggles for equality. For example, getting equal marriage status in order to share insurance benifits, adopt children, and to have the uncontested ability to leave real estate to our partners upon our passing.

          One thing you said did ring true for me. I have also spent time on the streets. In fact, I depend on a Christian food bank every week (and have never been turned away, like you. I don’t even “pass.”)We don’t have the option to be too choosy about the resources we depend on to eat. Echoing Natalie though, just because we’ve never been turned away or interrogated or outed, simply doesn’t mean that these are not the traumatic experiences of others.

        2. I think that’s part of the larger point, though: That we need more options. A lot of people just aren’t aware of that, though, because faith dominates our society.

          If you need help, get it, in any way you can — none of us are going to judge you, I promise.

          Speaking out against the discriminatory practices of these organizations is important. Just because they do good things does not mean we should ignore the very real, and very common bad things.

          Also, in my community, I know of several non faith-based organizations that help out the poor and homeless LGBQT youth, for instance. I’ve worked with them, so I know they exist. :)

          And someone else in these comments left a few links that help you find non faith-based charities, though I haven’t had a chance to go through those links myself.

          1. I agree. I’ve always felt like those who shame others for patronizing corrupt buisnesses because that is the best concievable option for them (for example, Walmart’s $4 perscriptions, are not examining the privilege that affords them to be able to be moral purists. You can be a consumer, and demand that there are better choices made available at the same time.

          2. p.s. I don’t think those “better options” can or should be demanded from the less-visible/oppressed communities who offer support. It would be like victim-blaming to say “Hey LGBTQ communities doing poverty outreach- you needa be bigger and better!”

        3. I don’t know about your community, but in my own there are many programs and non-profits designed to reach out to and assist LGBTQ people, and even more that make an explicit point of adopting non-discrimination policies and putting forth an effort to be as sensitive as possible to such identities. I even volunteer and work with some trans-oriented programs.

          1. P.S. My point is not that people in need should not access their services (if able). My point relates to which charitable organizations people wish to support.

          2. Unfortunately in South Florida, that “wealthy gay community” abounds. The outreach that is done here is very often not directed towards the impoverished, Disable, or People of Color… it is directed primarily toward older, retired, (usually white, male, Cis) Gay populations who want to leave thier summer home to thier partners.

    2. Just like the Catholic Church or Chick-Fil-A, institutional bigotry doesn’t have to manifest in day-to-day operations or point of sale interactions. But that doesn’t mean buying a chicken sandwich isn’t contributing to political fundraising against topics like marriage equality…a topic also unlikely to come up in a soup kitchen line.

      I’ll still try and help the less fortunate this holiday season, but I don’t think it’s necessary that my funds go to a helpful organization that’s also bigoted when there are plenty of helpful organizations that aren’t.

  12. My mother was an SA member. When she was on her deathbed, an SA officer came to visit her and spent her entire time complaining to my aunt about how difficult it was nowadays to get parade permits.
    My Christmas charity extends to not punching them when I see them. That’s as far as I’ll go.

  13. I have a long standing policy to ignore those mofos. I’m already donating to the charities that I’m comfortable donating to. I have no interest in propping up yet another religulous organization.

    1. I just came in to say something similar, in that I never give money to mainstream Christian organizations. They are almost always going to be discriminatory.

  14. Their GLBT hatred is not the only reason to boycott them; they also have extreme religious bigotry. Years ago I worked in an inpatient CD treatment center that really was the center of last resort/last chance. The men we worked with had burned, and blown up, every bridge in their lives. Most had nowhere to live, no chance at a job. The salvation army demanded that everyone utilizing their services submit to both church services and a minimum of an hour a day of bible classes, from very right-wing evangelical perspective. This was required of catholics as well as muslims and atheists. If you didn’t agree, you received no services. If you agreed, then didn’t follow through, you were booted out. Don’t give them a goddamn penny.

  15. Hmmm….a lot of crying but no solutions. Anybody have an alternative charitable organization to recommend? List a website and creds. so that everyone can check to see if they’re legit.

    1. ??? @Madfishmonger suggested two such websites early on in the comment thread, as well as others offered multiple suggestions like Doctor’s Without Borders, Love146, IHEU, Amnesty..

    2. Um… post itself contained a few suggestions, the links contained many, and the comments contained a few more.

  16. @Digger- The New York Times has, in the past, listed a handful of the most worthy organizations. I am happy to see my personal favorite, Doctors Without Borders, always at the top of those lists.

    As for the Salvation Army, I’ve never trusted any group that works via such severe aural abuse. And now I feel vindicated. {Thanks, Natalie!}

  17. I was not aware of the Salvation Army’s discrimination against LGBTQ community. (How did I miss this?) Thank you for this article, and I will happily join your boycott.

  18. My kids set aside a percentage of allowance money all year for charitable giving. In the past, when they were little, we’d just let them cram it into a jingle-bucket. It’s a thrill for a kid to do something like that. This year, my mother-in-law has been seriously pushing for it to go into her church collection plate. That was a big no. Also, my views on the SA had pretty much shifted into the lines found here, despite some personal family history and volunteer work.

    So, this year, it all went to Child’s Play. Secular, low overhead, and it’s easy to see exactly what your money will do. Oh, and one of the founders is an “out” atheist. We’ll be doing that again.

  19. Another suggestion for giving, year round!

    Check with your local school district re homeless children. My school district, for example, has about 800+ homeless kids, kg-12.

    They need all sorts of things, from winter coats (Wisconsin!) to USB flash drives to field trip bus money.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button