The Salvation Army throws family out into freezing night, due to fear of imaginary gay paedophiles

by | December 2, 2014
The logo of the Salvation Army, superimposed with a no (or prohibition) symbol.

Don’t donate to the Salvation Army

Stop giving money to The Salvation Army. Seriously, stop it. They are not a charity, they are a church. They are an evangelical Christian church. This is not opinion, this is fact. And it is no great secret, they even say so plainly and clearly right on their site.

Every year I repeat this plea, not out of mere habit but because every single year they do something fucking horrible. Usually several things. (At this point I would link to my many previous articles documenting the shenanigans of The Salvation Army, but due to a series of circumstances – such as this blog’s history being erased in January – all of my old articles are now gone. Bummer, but Google will give you plenty of examples if you’re interested.)

This year’s (first) horror story comes from Tennessee. The Lejeune family – Tim, his wife, their daughter (16), and two sons: 15 year-old Dustin and a 5 year-old – is going through some hard times. They’ve been living out of the car, sleeping in it parked in WalMart parking lots. But when a cold snap hit and nighttime temperatures were approaching −10 °C, they needed a place to stay. So they went to the Johnson City Salvation Army, who took the desperate family in so they wouldn’t freeze to death in their car.

Nah, I’m just fucking with you. They turned them away of course.

Of course if you’re as familiar with I am with The Salvation Army’s bullshit, at this point you’re probably shrugging and saying, “Meh, so what? That just means it’s a day that ends in ‘y’.” Stories of people being turned away by The Salvation Army are hardly news. At most, you’re probably morbidly curious what the reason was this time. Were they gay? Muslim? Atheist?

Nope, the crime this time was being between the ages of 12 and 16, and male.

Wait… what?

No, really. And this wasn’t just some random officer making a decision on his own that isn’t official policy (that’s The Salvation Army’s favourite excuse for explaining away shenanigans that make the news). This is apparently a longtime policy of theirs.

According to their “logic”, a boy who is 12–16 can’t be put in the women’s side – because then he would see all those scandalous pyjamas. (Like, seriously? Do these people even know what a 12 year-old boy can see on the Internet any time he wants? Or is it the women they’re trying to protect here?) But he also can’t be put in the men’s side… because of gay paedophiles.

No, seriously. Gay paedophiles. That’s literally their excuse. Apparently, they’re like… everywhere. Lurking at Salvation Army shelters, for some reason.

And note – the boy was accompanied by his father. (Or, alternately his mother, if they chose to put him on the woman’s side, I suppose. The point is, he was accompanied.) Didn’t matter. They threw the entire fucking family back out onto the street on the coldest night of the year.

Yes, that actually is how it ended. They literally did throw the entire family back out into the freezing night rather than let Dustin stay accompanied by his father.

Luckily police came across the family, and when they heard the story, the police actually went to The Salvation Army to plead with them to take the family in.

The Salvation Army refused.

So the police took the family to an inn, and the officers tried to pay for them to stay the night out of their own pockets. When the inn clerk realized what was going on, the room was offered for free. And as if that wasn’t enough, the cops took that extra cash and, along with the help of their comrades and some 911 dispatch operators, got the family some groceries, some food, and some gas.

See that, Sally Ann? That’s what charity looks like.

Oh, but the story doesn’t end there.

The Salvation Army is – unsurprisingly – unrepentant about what happened, though they are reviewing their policies. They did quickly make some gestures to stave off the negative publicity – they gave the family a tank of gas. They also let them stay the shelter a few nights – so they managed to sort out that policy problem after all, right?

Well, no. The reason the family was allowed to stay was because Dustin was no longer with them. After the whole mess went down, the kid had a breakdown, believing that it was his fault the family was homeless and couldn’t even stay at a Salvation Army shelter. He had to be checked into a local hospital to get mental help.

I hope none of this comes as any surprise to any readers here. The Salvation Army has a long and storied history of horrible shit. Whether it’s throwing people out onto the street for being gay or the wrong religion, taking charitable donations and using them to finance lobbying for bigotry and discrimination, burning books and destroying donated toys because they’re “un-Christian”, shutting down an entire city’s support services so they don’t have to work with gay people or non-Christians, doing their part for racism by “civilizing” the “savage” aboriginals of Canada in residential schools, or – hell – just living up to their founder’s vision of fighting the “three A’s” (alcoholism, atheism, and anarchy), The Salvation Army has proven time and time again that whatever good they might do, they’re not worth keeping around anymore.

There are plenty of good charities who will not only do more with your money, they will do it better and they won’t discriminate or act like sanctimonious assholes while they’re at it. This season, give the bell-ringing assholes a pass. Give your spare change to a charity, not a church. Do real good.

16 thoughts on “The Salvation Army throws family out into freezing night, due to fear of imaginary gay paedophiles

  1. Corwin

    I’m no fan of the Salvation Army, and I wouldn’t give them a penny even if pennies still existed. But could a secular charity be trusted to be any more accommodating towards Dustin Lejeune? It sounds like at least a big part of the problem was rooted in the current moral panic around paedophilia and sexual harassment, which is hardly limited to evangelical Christian circles.

    1. Tim Underwood

      sorry about the typos: so again.

      You’re right about charities in this line of public service. I believe the care for the homeless shouldn’t be left to charities. We need better protection of human life, in Canada, than this.

      Unlike you I used to be a big fan of the Army. They had a great marching band in my little home town.

      Today’ they are just an anachronism.

      If their purview was limited to extended help to the needy they would be admirable.

      Naturally, in the future, it would be great if the Army would embrace totally secular, benevolent ideas. This isn’t so far off as you may think. The merger of the Army with the Unitarians would accomplish this overnight.

      As for the Army’s bigger assets, such as major hospitals, they are already publically financed and only need to be declared secular in all things.

      1. Indi Post author

        I get the impression that you’re labouring under the notion that the Salvation Army is a charity. They’re not. They’re a church. That’s not a figure of speech. They are *LITERALLY* a church. Just like the Catholic Church… *EXACTLY* the same as the Catholic Church, but for doctrinal differences and less flash. They are not a charity that has a religious flavour, they are a church that runs charitable services. There is as much chance of them going “totally secular” as there is of the Catholic Church – with its numerous shelters and hospitals – or any other church doing the same… which is to say none at all.

        There’s also no chance of them “merging with Unitarians”. The Salvation Army is a fundamentalist mainline Evangelical church; the Unitarians are a liberal offshoot with a heretical doctrine – mainline Evangelicals are trinitarians, Unitarians are, well, unitarians. There’s as much chance of the Salvation Army merging with a Unitarian church as there is of them merging with Jehovah’s Witnesses (who, incidentally, are also unitarians). (Unless by “merging” you mean they will share responsibility to run their shelters and other support programs. I suppose that’s possible, but I wouldn’t hold my breath – and even if it happened, it wouldn’t change the real point: the organizations we rely on to provide necessary services should exist primarily to provide those services… they shouldn’t exist primarily to push their religious agenda, and only have the services as an afterthought.)

        As for the Army’s hospitals (for example – but all major facilities, really) being publicly financed and therefore required to be secular… I’m afraid you’ve been misinformed. While it is true that they take public money, it is not true that they are required to be secular. The requirements obviously vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but generally the situation with their hospitals is no different from the situation with Catholic hospitals (I keep comparing them to the Catholics because they’re very similar in practice outside of their doctrinal differences, though the Army is a little more loosely structured and less ostentatious), where the doctors are free to discriminate and official hospital policy can be religiously based. The Salvation Army can – and does – discriminate in its hiring and service policies (for example, requiring employees to swear to serve Jesus), and when secular laws are applied to force them to stop discriminating, they can and have responded by simply shutting down the services (creating havoc in places that relied on them).

        Saying they would be admirable if only they stuck to doing good things and stopped being evil is kind of a silly thing to say. *ANY* group would be admirable if they only did good things and did no evil – that statement would be just as true for the Catholic Church, Answers in Genesis, and ISIS. They point is: they’re not. And they’re not going to. They’re not being evil because of a failure in their corporate culture, they’re doing it because that’s what they believe, religiously, that they should do. The only reason they’re not actually worse is because secular law won’t allow them to be (but they’re trying damn hard, both to skirt the laws and to change them in their favour).

        If their purview was limited to just helping the needy, then they wouldn’t be a church… they’d be a secular charity. We already have those. We don’t need the Salvation Army.

    2. Indi Post author

      A secular charity would have been better for Dustin for three reasons.

      First: They would be *far* less likely to be part of the “moral panic” to begin with. Actually having to work on the front lines and facing problems relating to this day-in and day-out, they would have a much more practical handle on the problem than the average citizen, and almost certainly much better procedures for dealing with it. For example, they would be taking steps to protect *ALL* the kids who have to stay there from *ALL* predators… not just specifically gay paedophile predators (note that Dustin’s sister was accommodated without complaint). The Salvation Army’s solution – putting their fingers in their ears and just being leery of “teh gayz”, or of not seriously talking openly about abuse at all (even when its your own employees doing it) – is a uniquely religious solution that a secular charity could not get away with for long.

      Second: The policies of a secular charity would be based on secular reasoning, which can be explained and discussed. The Salvation Army’s policies are based on their religious homophobia, and are not open to debate. When the police showed up to plead Dustin’s case, a secular charity would have been far more likely to listen to reason than a religious one.

      Third: A secular charity would have to follow the secular law… no religious exemptions for them. This particular policy, despite the Salvation Army’s pretensions that its about protecting young boys, is plainly obviously just based on homophobia. It’s literally nonsense without that fear (why was Dustin’s 5 year-old brother safe with his father but Dustin would not be? why would an 11 year-old boy be safe but not a 12 year-old one?). A secular charity could be called out for that and disciplined… a religious charity can just cry faith and get away with open discrimination (and the Salvation Army does).

      The bottom line is that if all the money going to the Salvation Army had gone to a secular charity – and that shelter was run by that secular charity – while it’s not *CERTAIN* that Dustin would have been accommodated, it’s a *HELL* of a lot more likely. (And that would be true for any of the *numerous* other stories of people being ejected for stupid reasons.)

    3. Tim Le Jeune

      I am Tim Le Jeune. This is my family is the family that this story is about. The Salvation Army is so into just collecting money and not helping family’s.
      if you are a pedofile you get to stay there. God forbid that you are a boy. You can sleep in the cold just because you are a child

      1. Bubba Kincaid

        Sorry to hear it Tim. Don’t give up. You can work it out and it’ll get better.

  2. Bubba Kincaid

    Ok. But have you seen the state of the social safety net for destitute people such as these?

    It’s not like there is much alternative for who to give money to, unless you’re into fledgling “thought experiment” outfits that haven’t actually reached the point of doing anything concrete aside from perpetually preliminary outreach.

    I would have much rather you prefaced the blurb with how it should have been constructed, as a plea to realization that the safety net will have to be greatly strengthened way past where it is now, in order to help families like these avoid honey traps like those.

    1. Indi Post author

      I’m quite well aware that the government is dropping the ball, and failing to live up to its responsibilities to provide help to the people who need it most.

      That, however, is not only utterly irrelevant to the point here, it’s a dangerous distraction. Yes, in a perfect world, the government would provide these necessary services, but this isn’t that world, and they don’t (nor do any of the major political parties show any sign that they might in the foreseeable future), so we need charities to step up to fill the gap. That’s the current reality, so that’s what we have to work with for now, because we can’t put off helping people in need until the government gets its act together.

      There *ARE* practical alternatives you can give the money to, and they’re always *starving* for money (whereas the Salvation Army is so flush with cash they could apparently just stop fundraising for the next three and a half years and still continue to provide the same services). The obvious, and best, solution is to simply donate directly to the secular shelters in your area (which are hardly “thought experiments”; they’re there and doing the job already) – but if you really want an organization with bigger reach there are plenty of options, like United Way. If they got even a fraction of what the Army gets every year, they could quite easily completely eclipse the services the Army provides. Distracting from their need by trying to shift the argument to a pie-in-the-sky political one about what government should be doing only hurts them further, and benefits the Army.

      If you want a takeaway point, it is this: Stop giving money to “charities” that use some of it for evil, and give it to charities that will just do good. If you want to add the secondary point “and also vote for a government that will work toward providing these services so charity isn’t needed at all”, that’s not really helping. This is a point about what we can do *NOW*, not a hypothetical about what we could do. Leave the focus on what can actually be done for now, and agitate for the ideal separately. Put the fire out in front of you first; lobby for better fire safety later.

      1. Corwin

        Put the fire out in front of you first; lobby for better fire safety later.

        I don’t see why one shouldn’t lower the fire hose for just long enough to say, “You know, maybe having a cigar party to celebrate the grand opening of our munitions factory wasn’t the best idea.”

        Expecting government to provide such a good safety net that charities aren’t necessary might be pie-in-the-sky, but pushing for incremental improvements certainly isn’t. Arguing over which charity (or charitably minded church) to give money to without acknowledging that the government could be doing a lot to help the situation strikes me as a bit short-sighted, so I’m glad Bubba brought up the social safety net.

        Of course, it also bears pointing out that all Canadian jurisdictions are probably doing a lot better than Tennessee in this regard. The behaviour of the Salvation Army may not (or may, for all I know) be any better in Canada than it is in the United States, but the holes that it and other charitable organisations are trying to fill are smaller.

        1. Bubba Kincaid

          And of course there is the trap of falling into the habit of following the crowd in thinking about these things only around the very specific and narrowly prescribed date of the holy baby being birthed in a ramshackle barn.

          But more to the discussion, there is definitely an entirely useless polarization between theory and immediate need, which can often suddenly appear at the most inopportune time.

          I’m sure there must be a joke somewhere about a group of doctors arguing over a patient who dies under them.

          The better question is why that joke seems to have fallen out of favour as a piece of humour, so much so that I can’t even remember how it goes.

          Maybe it has been since elevated out of the realm of humour and into the realm of anecdotal wisdom.

        2. Indi Post author

          I don’t see why one shouldn’t lower the fire hose for just long enough to say, “You know, maybe having a cigar party to celebrate the grand opening of our munitions factory wasn’t the best idea.”

          Then you’ve never had to fight a real fire. You don’t stop, and you don’t get distracted, until the fire is out (technically under control, but whatever – means the same thing in this context). Or to use Bubba Kincaid’s analogy, if you’ve working on a patient, you focus on the patient… you don’t discuss the state of government health care programs.

          I never said nor implied that we should not do *anything* about how bad our government handles social support. But that is not this battle. It is irrelevant and distracting in this battle. It is possible to fight many battles at the same time, but within the context of each battle you fight *THAT* battle, not other ones. If you’re more interested in diverting attention away from the issue at hand to talk *other* problems rather than solving *this* problem, then you’re not helping with *this* problem… or the other problem, for that matter. I would have thought that was just common sense.

          Of course, it also bears pointing out that all Canadian jurisdictions are probably doing a lot better than Tennessee in this regard.

          Think so? I know Canadians like to pat themselves on the back for their health care… but what you makes you think that extends to other social services? If you consider health care and social services combined, then sure, Ontario (to pick the biggest province) spends almost twice as much of its budget as Tennessee (~50% vs ~28%). But, if you drop health care… Tennessee outspends Ontario on social services by more than twice as much (~26% vs ~12%).

          (Mind you, these are *very* rough numbers, because administration costs – which are like half of Tennessee’s health and social services budget – are not split between health and social services. But even if you remove their administrative costs *completely*, Tennessee would *still* spend (barely) more than Ontario does (and that would even be without removing Ontario’s administrative costs). In the end, you’re really comparing apples and oranges, because the funding structure and situation is so different there. Still, that data should give you pause.)

  3. Steve Farthing

    The bottom line is that the Salvation Army is a Chriatian Church. I don’t think that they would have wanted this family on the street, but there is so much going on around safeguarding children and the possibility of litigation, they are probabky being over cautous. I think the SA provides a bed for 6000 homeless people in Canada every night. Which other Christian church does this? And what is the State doing about Candada’s 30,000 homeless people? It looks like the SA are worried about politically correct social policy. Can you imagine the headline if a child was abused or harmed in one of the SA’s hostles? Would it be “SA fail to safequard child” ? Perhaps the answer for them is not to try and help anyone.

  4. Soldier Vincente (Body of Petrolina, Pernambuco, Brazil)

    As much as the Author wants to condemn the Church and Social Assistance Salvation Army, the Truth is that it is WRONG.

    In fact what happened was more a Local Policy and not an Institutional Practice. I Know, I Have Seen and Worked with Gays, Prostitutes, Drunks and People of All Kinds in the Salvation Army and I say that the Salvation Army IN BRAZIL does not throw anyone who desires social help or even know Jesus Christ.

    I have also met officials misrepresented or misguided about the mission of the Evangelical Church Salvation Army and I know how much trouble these can generate for both the Society in Need and the Members of the Institution.

    1. Indi Post author

      I explained in the post that it literally was institutional policy at the time, not an individual or local decision, so your standard apologetics response doesn’t work here.

      Is it true today that the policy is still in place? No idea. The Salvation Army has been working very hard to scrub all anti-LGBT statements from their public documents, but it’s impossible to say whether that’s because they’ve actually changed their position, or just because they’re embarrassed by it.

  5. John Matthews

    Atheism = Subjective Morality
    No God = No objective moral standard.

    So stop judging and stop complaining about what you think is “fair” or “unfair” or just” or “unjust”. ATHEISM ALLOWS FOR NO SUCH THINGS. It’s ALL a matter of opinion. You can say you don’t like what a person or organization does but you cannot say what they do is wrong. How is that so hard to comprehend?

    The logical inconsistencies in atheists is mind boggling. If you want to be an atheist fine, but stop borrowing from the theistic worldview in order to argue against it.


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