SAN ANTONIO, Texas — The Salvation Army was founded in 1865. Its first converts were alcoholics, heroin addicts, prostitutes and other “undesirables” unwelcome in polite Christian society. And for nearly 150 years, these undesirables have been running one of the most lucrative and scandalous charities in existence.
From 1940 through the 1970s, the Salvation Army in Australia sheltered approximately 30,000 children and acknowledged that sexual molestation may have occurred, affecting as many as 500 potential “claimants” (the term the Army uses to describe victims of its abuses who have secured legal counsel).
In December 2001, a Moscow court ruled that the Salvation Army was a “paramilitary” organization subject to expulsion when the Army jokingly told Russian officials that after it had trained Polish soldiers to commandeer septic tanks, they would invade.
Because of the Army’s substantial fortune and exclusionary practices, critics often call its tax exempt status into question. Examples cited include its notable income, ties to multinational corporations, discriminatory hiring practices against those it believes to be homosexual, and its selective, equally discriminatory position on who receives its aid. For instance, when it was revealed that the George W. Bush White House committed to issue a regulation that would override local anti-discrimination laws, disclosure of the Salvation Army’s request outraged civil rights groups and lawmakers. Oddly, it also resulted in several Boy Scout leaders inexplicably severing their allegiances with the Army.
In December 2010, the Salvation Army faced a new torrent of public outrage when it was discovered that branches in Texas were requiring proof of citizenship to determine a needy child’s eligibility to receive the hand-me-downs of wealthier Americans.
Today, the Army finds itself plagued with a visible rise in protests, vandalism and death threats. On February 8, 2010, a Salvation Army store in West Virginia was vandalized, with all its doors and windows smashed. Although the vandals stole only $20 from a cash register, repairing the damage will cost thousands. In Texas, an intoxicated man threatened to get a gun and kill everyone at the Salvation Army shelter.
This increase in violence has forced desperate Captains, fearing for the safety of their troops, to turn to the Vatican for assistance. Last week, the Pope called a meeting to discuss available options and strategies.
The Pope arrived with a full security detail flanking his newly up-armored Pope Mobile, protected by over five feet of bullet proof plexi-glass and reinforced Kevlar panels. Pope Benedict XVI addressed the crowd through a speaker attached to a papal body-double, while the pontiff himself hid within a lead body casing. In his speech, he reassured all members of the Salvation Army: “Clearly we have God on our side and need not dwell in fear. I am living proof of this faith in action. You must remain strong. The Lord will protect those who truly believe in Him. No harm will come to the devout.”
But one Army member was unconvinced. He disrupted the Pope’s speech with an impromptu question that shocked all in attendance: “Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles? And why don’t we have those resources readily available to us? Like, can we get Pope Mobiles too? Bullet proof vests? Some less embarrassing uniforms?”
The Pope seemed stunned, but asked the solider to repeat his question. After, the Pope replied, “It isn’t a matter of money. It isn’t a matter on the part of the Army of desire. It’s a matter of production and capability of doing it. As you know, ah, you go to war with the army you have—not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.”