Every holiday season, multitudes of charities come out of the woodwork soliciting for donations. The Salvation Army is no exception, armed with their ubiquitous red shield, ringing bell and red bucket of shame, turning every visit to the grocery store into an epic dilemma: do I toss in a few coins or just try to avoid eye contact as long as possible? I'm here to offer you a third way: ignore them with impunity. They don't deserve your money.
I know what you're thinking: great, another anti-religious self-righteous rant about the perils of religious-sponsored charity. Another time, maybe. While I cannot deny that I find an organization of evangelicals organized around a military structure to be extremely creepy, that isn't the biggest problem here. The problem is something that any honest charitable donor should be troubled by:
In may of 2004, the Salvation Army objected to New York City's proposed anti-discrimination ordinance, which would mandate fair-hiring practices and offering of benefits to spouses in same-sex marriages. To combat this, they threatened to forego the ~$70 million/year in city funding, close their soup kitchens and pull out of NYC entirely.
This is a transgression that goes far beyond the superficial issue of whether or not you're terrified of Teh Gays. Even if you're comfortable with the agenda they pushed in this case, are you comfortable with the recipient of your charity dollars using them to promote a political agenda? Further, are you comfortable with a charitable organization withholding those services -- literally using them as leverage -- in pursuit of that agenda?
Think long and hard before you answer. Charity is not a game, and it's not a tool for political exploitation. We have a social safety net comprised of many organizations from many sources: secular, governmental, and religious. For many, they are the thin line between survival and destitution. When a charity threatens to withhold those services, it demonstrates a blatant and irresponsible disregard for its core mission.
There are tons of charities that offer similar services on a local and national level with integrity and transparency (and not all of them are secular!), which I urge you to donate to instead.