Just in time to ruin Gay Pride month, a media relations director for the Salvation Army had no problem reminding us and the queer journalists he was talking to that gays should be put to death. In talking to Australian queer journalists Serena Ryan and Pete Dillon on their Salt and Pepper radio show (audio below which was picked up by Truth Wins Out's John Becker), Major Andrew Craibe, a media relations director for one of the organization's Australian branches, had this exchange with the hosts:
Ryan: According to the Salvation Army, [gay people] deserve death. How do you respond to that, as part of your doctrine?
Craibe: Well, that’s a part of our belief system.
Ryan: So we should die.
Craibe: You know, we have an alignment to the Scriptures, but that’s our belief.
The doctrine they're referring to is, as Queerty's Dan Avery reports, the Salvation Story: Salvationist Handbook of Doctrine, which borrows heavily from Romans 1:18-32 and states:
For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error. . .
They know God’s decree, that those who practise such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practise them.
Until this weekend, Craibe's media presence had been mostly non-existent, his last remarks that we found were about children with disabilities, social and financial disadvantages, and their visit to a zoo--not something you would expect from a guy who sounds more or less like a hate monger.
Since Craibe's quotes popped up this weekend, the Salvation Army has officially distanced itself from Craibe's remarks with a carefully-worded response. In a statement, Salvation Army spokesman Major Bruce Harmer said Craibe's comments were "extremely regrettable" and Salvation Army members did "not believe, and would never endorse, a view that homosexual activity should result in any form of physical punishment." Harmer goes on to apologize, citing a misunderstanding of the "death" passage (he says the passage refers to "spiritual death" and not physical death):
The Salvation Army believes in the sanctity of all human life and believes it would be inconsistent with Christian teaching to call for anyone to be put to death. We consider every person to be of infinite value, and each life a gift from God to be cherished, nurtured and preserved.
The apology doesn't mention Craibe by name, and yes, a charity (a charity!) to have to carefully point out that they don't condone physical harm towards gays and lesbians is pretty embarrassing. But it also shows you that Craibe's interview might not be the organization's biggest problem.
Craibe's whole interview is a bit curious (it's embedded below), in that the Salvation Army is well-known for being the second largest charity in the U.S. but is also notorious for its anti-gay stance. This past December, The New York Times published a story on their rigid and much-dissented views, in particular how the organization ignored a homeless homosexual couple and offered to help if they only broke up. And the LGBT Bilerico project/blog (created by Bil Browning, who was the subject of the Times piece), has more references about the Salvation Army's history of anti-LGBT actions--from threatening to shut down soup kitchens in New York City because of civil rights ordinances to trying to get a resolution passed so that the charity could ignore non-discrimination laws. And according to the Times report:
The Salvation Army’s “Position Statement” on homosexuality, found on its Web site, reads in part: “The Salvation Army does not consider same-sex orientation blameworthy in itself. Homosexual conduct, like heterosexual conduct, requires individual responsibility and must be guided by the light of scriptural teaching. Scripture forbids sexual intimacy between members of the same sex. The Salvation Army believes, therefore, that Christians whose sexual orientation is primarily or exclusively same-sex are called upon to embrace celibacy as a way of life.”
That page has since been deleted, but it still makes you wonder of why one of the organization's Media Relations Directors, Major Andrew Craibe and his 32 years of Salvation Army experience, decided to go on a queer radio show and talk about death. It seems like an inevitable lose-lose situation and not very savvy from a PR perspective. And isn't telling your interviewer that they should be put to death violate some kind of PR commandment, let along the numerous Christian ones.
Here's the full audio version of interview (the remarks come around the 7-minute mark, and again at 10:23):