Salvation Army Strong-Arms Marriage


red_kettle.jpg Next time you see the dingaling bell ringers on the sidewalk, and before you drop your coin in the red kettle, consider this: If you’re an officer for the Salvation Army, you also live Salvation Army. Meaning the country’s second largest charity (behind the United Way) mandates that their leaders (not priests, mind you, business professionals) don’t drink or smoke, and that they marry only other officers. This all because the charity is a devoutly religious one, founded by an evangelical Christian in 1865. Still, Salvation Army gets a hefty chunk of its budget from government funding (via faith-based funding that Obama says he’ll expand) so the marriage restriction seems to fly in the face of employment discrimination principles.

Take Captain Johnny Harsh, the head of Salvation Army’s Oshkosh, Wisconsin chapter. His wife, also a captain, died of a heart attack in June. Johnny has since fallen in love with a nurse he met on a Christian online dating site, a nurse who, incidentally, is not a Salvation Army officer. Still, they got engaged. (The harsh consequence after the jump.)

The charity responded by suspending Harsh who’s been with the Salvation Army for 14 years.

Harsh says the rule is outdated and he won’t call off the wedding. And despite the fact that he’ll probably be dismissed when he goes before the review board next week, he’s publicly asked people to not stop giving to the charity during the holidays. He told FoxNews.com: “I want to tell people, and use the media, to say don’t stop giving to the Salvation Army because of this. That would be terrible.”

Speaking of terrible, being fired from your job, by a charity no less, because of who you want to marry seems criminal, especially in this day and age. I say Harsh proposes to one of his male officer friends. Let’s see how the holy army takes that marriage arrangement.

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  • Elizabeth Gettelman is a former managing editor and public affairs director at Mother Jones. To follow her on Twitter, click here.