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My spare change often makes its way into the red kettles outside the stores I frequent during the holiday season. Now we’re being urged to direct our donations elsewhere, as the Salvation Army doesn’t serve gays and lesbians:

“The Salvation Army has a history of active discrimination against gays and lesbians. While you might think you’re helping the hungry and homeless by dropping a few dollars in the bright red buckets, not everyone can share in the donations,” Bil Browning notes on The Bilerico Project . “The organization also has a record of actively lobbying governments worldwide for anti-gay policies — including an attempt to make consensual gay sex illegal.

Au contraire , says a Salvation Army spokesman:

“I appreciate the opportunity to correct the record when it does come up. In fact, the Salvation Army serves countless people across the country every day from any variety of backgrounds, including gays and lesbians. This number probably reaches into the thousands, though it is impossible for us to determine, primarily because we would simply never ask about a person’s sexual identity.”

“Because The Salvation Army is a church we do have theological positions on a variety of topics. These positions are intended for our church members or those who are interested in our church. Just as you wouldn’t expect everyone you meet to share all your ideas or beliefs, we would never expect everyone we help, our donors, or even our non-church-member employees to necessarily agree with these theological positions.”

Neither love (in Christian terms) nor respect (in classical liberal terms) requires that we agree with or approve of the behavior of those we love and respect. I wish the advocates for gay and lesbian interests would seriously engage with those traditions, instead of defaulting to accusations of hatred.

Joseph Knippenberg is Professor of Politics at Oglethorpe University.

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