The Salvation Army removed two links to organizations that advocate so-called ex-gay or reparative therapy from its website Tuesday, after LGBT organization Truth Wins Out contacted the charity group about the supposed endorsement of the scientifically discredited practice that aims to turn gay people straight.
"We thank the Salvation Army for acting swiftly and decisively in addressing our concerns about links to ‘ex-gay’ organizations," said Truth Wins Out executive director Wayne Besen. "This is a step in the right direction and congruent with their antidiscrimination campaign. We hope this action leads to further progress in gaining the full confidence and trust of the LGBT community."
In a letter sent to Truth Wins Out Tuesday, the Salvation Army's director of communications claimed the "ex-gay" links were part of an archived page that was inadvertently republished when the organization relaunched its site last month.
"We apologize for our oversight and any confusion this may have caused," said Jennifer Byrd in the letter, published at Truth Wins Out. "The Salvation Army does not consider homosexual orientation a sin. Please know that we serve anyone who comes to our doors without discrimination."
The offending links, posted under the site's resource list for dealing with "sexual addictions," included Harvest USA, which bills itself as a "ministry committee to offering hope in Jesus to men and women struggling with sexual brokenness and sin." The second resource, Pure Life Ministries, boasts 35 full-time "biblical counselors and support staff" who its website promises are dedicated to "bringing the hope, healing, and restoration found only in Christ to those who have been touched by the leprosy of sexual sin." Pure Life's website notes that most of its counselors and staff are themselves "graduates" of the faith-based counseling programs.
Both organizations advocate the scientifically discredited practice of "reparative therapy," which aims to turn gay people straight through prayer and counseling. Reparative or "ex-gay" therapy has been disavowed by every major medical and psychological organization in the country, and its use by licensed therapists on minors has been outlawed in California and New Jersey.
"Harvest USA and Pure Life Ministries are two destructive organizations dedicated to demonizing LGBT people," Truth Wins Out associate director Evan Hurst said in a statement. "The Salvation Army did the right thing today by removing these ‘ex-gay’ groups from its website before they could harm more innocent victims."
The Salvation Army, a Christian organization, has had a strained relationship with the LGBT population. In 2011, several LGBT advocates called for a boycott of donations to the Salvation Army's iconic bell-ringers collecting change outside storefronts in red buckets, citing allegations that the evangelical charity refused to serve LGBT people because it considered them "sexually impure," according to NBC.
But Tuesday's statement from the Salvation Army's director of communication indicates an apparent shift in tone, as the organization strives to fulfill its new antidiscrimination policy, which prohibits the denial of services or employment based on race, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, or sexual orientation.