The NFL should follow Ellie Goulding's lead in calling for the Salvation Army to take action on LGBTQ rights
- Allison Hope is a writer and native New Yorker who favors humor over sadness, travel over television, and coffee over sleep. You can follow her on Twitter.
- This week, the Salvation Army announced a partnership with singer Ellie Goulding, where she is scheduled to perform at the Thanksgiving halftime show at the Buffalo Bills-Dallas Cowboys game.
- After Goulding was rebuked by fans for working with the Salvation Army, which has historically come under fire for its treatment and views of the LGBTQ community, she issued them a homework assignment to actionably help LGBTQ people.
- Hope says that this is a smart business decision, and one that the NFL should follow. "Money talks," she says, and businesses should make their values clear.
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Top singer and songwriter Ellie Goulding took a stance this week when she received complaints from her fans for partnering with the Salvation Army, long known for its anti-LGBTQ stance.
Goulding is scheduled to perform during the halftime show at the Buffalo Bills-Dallas Cowboys game at AT&T Stadium on Thanksgiving Day. The Salvation Army published a press release last week announcing the partnership with Goulding, saying the Thanksgiving event serves as the "sounding the call for Americans to donate to the iconic Red Kettle Campaign, which helps provide shelter and meals for the homeless and hungry, Christmas toys for children and social service programs to millions of people in need year-round."An Instagram post on Goulding's page announcing the partnership with the Salvation Army received piles of complaints from fans who called out the organization for its anti-LGBTQ reputation. Rather than stepping down as a partner though, Goulding has publicly given the Salvation Army a homework assignment to improve their position and take action to help LGBTQ people in order to keep her (and do the right thing). She thanked her fans for "drawing my attention to this."
The Salvation Army has owned the halftime show on Thanksgiving for 22 years. Dubbed the "Red Kettle Kickoff," a roster of top performers have participated, including Reba McEntire, Selena Gomez, Jessica Simpson, Keith Urban, Kelly Clarkson, the Jonas Brothers, and more.
When prominent brands pull their business because of anti-LGBTQ actions, it often works to both shine a light on a previously unknown issue and to pressure the entity to do better.
The Salvation Army, despite its prominent budget, countless red buckets on street corners, and collection bins in corporate offices, has a long and well-documented history of being anti-LGBTQ. In 2001, they asked that religious charities receiving federal funding be exempt from local laws that barred LGBTQ discrimination. At the time, they specified they wanted a regulation that ensured they wouldn't have to ordain "sexually active gay ministers" or provide employees' same-sex partners with benefits. They have demanded celibacy from gay employees.
For a long time, the Salvation Army didn't try to counter claims that it was homophobic. But more recently, perhaps due to increased public pressure, heightened awareness, and a tipping point that has driven majority and mainstream support for LGBTQ people, they have come out to defend themselves. The organization has published several pages on its central and regional websites that discuss their position. They have, though, been caught speaking out of both sides of their mouth. A leaked internal document a couple of years ago showed them publicly saying they were LGBTQ-inclusive, but privately admitting the sanctioned exclusion of LGBTQ people.
Conversely, on the very same page where they are seemingly trying to boost their reputation by saying they are pro-LGBTQ, they write: "At times, The Salvation Army has joined other religious organizations in solidarity on issues like religious liberty and the traditional definition of marriage."They also re-entrench their position on hiring other Christians at the possible exclusion of others of different religious backgrounds as well as LGBTQ people, stating, "this had everything to do with maintaining our unique character as a church."
What's more, the Salvation Army has slapped statistics about the disadvantages LGBTQ people face on their website with a "donate" button right under each stat, creating a false linkage between their veneer of caring for the community they have historically and continue to hurt, and dollars that will continue to fuel that hatred using the bible as an excuse. To their small credit, it appears they have extended their anti-discrimination mission statement to include sexual orientation and gender identity, and explicitly state that they now provide benefits to same-sex couples.
Let's not be fooled by this. And let's not fall into the jargon trap that some of her fans have. A host of so-called fans who don't agree with Goulding's stance have generously spewed epithets on her Instagram page, calling her a "liberal bully," among other things.
Ellie Goulding is not a snowflake. She is not acting on a whim. Her actions and her call for the Salvation Army to right their wrongs is completely in line with a host of perfectly rational, intelligent, and inclusive business leaders who understand that business decisions impact real people's lives.
Goulding is acting in the recent tradition of the people of the UK, who recently pushed out Europe's first Chick-fil-A because of the restaurant chain's anti-LGBTQ stance. She is in the good graces of PayPal and Ringo Starr, both of whom pulled their business out of North Carolina when the state passed a staunchly anti-LGBTQ bill particularly focused on transgender people's right to use the restroom. In fact, North Carolina's peddling of anti-LGBTQ laws that helped no one and hurt many ended up costing the state more than $3.76 billion in revenue. Walmart helped kill an anti-LGBTQ bill in Arkansas back in 2015, and Salesforce and other companies threatened to pull business from Indiana when then-Governor Mike Pence was ready to sign a bill that would open the door for discrimination against LGBTQ people living in and traveling to the state.
Many of these tactics worked. In our capitalist society, money talks.
Ellie Goulding is a business person. She is making a smart business decision. The NFL should take a page from Goulding's book and back her up. So too should all of the businesses that partner with the Salvation Army as a matter of habit and history, despite their pro-LGBTQ values.
No one wants the Salvation Army to stop helping people in need. We just want them to truly help everyone, regardless of who they are.This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author(s).