Salvation Army Upset About Location Limitations

Shopping centers that don’t allow soliciting aren’t allowing the Salvation Army to solicit, Liz Palka reports for CBS-19, and I get the impression that we’re supposed to be angry about that. The Salvation Army is singling out both CVS and Harris Teeter, neither of which allow solicitation on their property, saying that they’ve raised $22,000 less than last year as a result of having fewer locations to show up at. (Is $22,000 a lot? Palka tells us it’s “staggering,” but without knowing what percentage of the total that comprises, viewers can’t have any idea.) They’ve tried to set up at other places, but those places have also said that they’re not interested in having somebody ring a bell and ask for money next to their front door. Of course, there are lots of charities all over Charlottesville that would like your support, and the Salvation Army is set up in locations throughout town, so the fact this particular charity isn’t in front of these two particular stores shouldn’t be an obstacle to people helping the less fortunate this Christmas season.

Shopping centers are private property, and they don’t allow the sorts of things that are permitted on public property (like the Downtown Mall)—juggling, guitar playing, protesting, soliciting, or even just standing around. These places look public, but it’s a simulation of public property—you have no First Amendment rights there. Whether or not you think that the loss of that makes these places better or worse than real public space is up to you. You’ll recall that House of Delegates candidate Rich Collins was arrested for campaigning in a shopping center back in 2005 in a dispute over the same matter.

21 thoughts on “Salvation Army Upset About Location Limitations”

  1. Note that the Salvation Army reserves the right to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and worked with the Bush administration to have his “faith-based initiatives” program allow them to discriminate against gays while still accepting federal money.

    I used to toss $20 in their bucket every December, but after that little nugget came out in 2001, that was the end of my support of them. I have since provided direct support to people staying there, but not to the organization. It’s too bad, because they seem like a good group in all other regards. They do important work, they’re efficient, and we really need them. But I just can’t get past their anti-gay thing.

  2. Waldo, isn’t posting the first comment a little like laughing at your own joke? Some loyal reader has been robbed of that thrill and I say no fair!!! Now back to our regularly scheduled programming…

    I just wanted to say I doubt if they let other people ask for money in front of their store.

  3. The Newsplex sales department must be loving this story; especially when Harris Teeter and CVS decide that their ad money can be better spent somewhere else (not that a fifth place news rating wasn’t already reason enough).

    Bring back Jeremy. HA!

  4. Of course, the Salvation has no legal right to solicit on private property. Is anyone saying they do? Well-functioning communities are full of voluntary agreements that go beyond the bare rights of corporations, and this is especially important given the lack of true public space available (downtown mall, excepted). The Salvation Army cup is a tradition that most would agree has been beneficial to our community.

    Until I read your comment, I was very confused that you sided with the profit margin of CVS and Harris Teeters against a tradition of helping those in need in our community.

    The Salvation Army is the only organization that offers a regular meal year-round to the homeless community in this region, and they have been doing that for years. I’m glad you’re doing solo work helping those in need, in which case I’m surprised you do not see the SA as an ally in your goals and offer some words of support. Instead you have chosen to use the public platform of your blog to blacklist them based on a culture war issue that is unrelated to the charitable purpose (if they were actually discriminating against those in need based on sexual orientation that would be much different).

  5. I think the Salvation Army itself started the culture war. They, as a private religious organization, are allowed to discriminate based on religious beliefs. Their success in certain focused charitable arenas in no way undoes the harm they cause through discrimination. We’re not buying indulgences from the pope here.

    Ditto to the Boy Scouts.

  6. Fact of the matter is, the Salvation Army has solicited at shopping centers for years. Why are they being told now that they can no longer do it? Especially at a time when there seem to be more people in need.
    Holiday bellringers for the SA have been a long established tradition,along with Christmas music being played in the stores. Will they stop that too if someone claims they are offended? (Though I think they could be a little more discriminating in what they play-love the carols but could do without some of the cheesey secular songs about Santa doing whatever).
    Yes, Waldo, I don’t agree with their sexual orientation policy-but they are hardly unique that in that regard. Guess it comes down to the question of whether it vitiates all the positive things they do.

  7. It’s not just Sexual Orientation in which they descriminate. They also descriminate in hiring, and will not hire anyone of another faith. In many ways, that’s the real story of the so-called faith based initiative. It was really set up to allow religious non-profits to receive federal funds and still descriminate. Some religious groups like the Brethren have a long history of accepting people of other faiths to help with service work (as long as they are fine with the Brethern having a Christian mission). Think about it. If a guy wants to help your church hand out food to the homeless, then why should you care if he is Jewism, Muslim, Hindu or Pagan? I’ve no interest in supporting religious organizations that descriminate as it reeks of hypocrisy (After all, would Jesus descriminate?)

    That said, Waldo brings up another good issue. That of fake public space… It makes me wonder if in the neighborhood model if the county are requiring developers to leave real public space or merely faux public space? A “town center” without real public space is limited in value, since it will never serve as a legitimate gathering space for the community.

  8. Folks, this is what happens when we happily privatize everything. It then becomes up to the private property owner to decide who can/cannot come onto their property. I think the nation would be a better place if we insisted that all businesses in all strip malls contribute some public space to feed the community need for public space. I can see why a private property owner would want to maintain control over the space inside his/her store or building. But sidewalks? parking lots? a little bit of green common space where people can gather? where people can leaflet, or get on a soapbox, or set up their Salvation Army kettle? i think it makes for healthier communities.

    In short, if you’re sad/mad that HT and CVS are saying no, I hope you’re cognizant that this is simply the downside of our elevation of private property rights above nearly all other considerations.

  9. Cecil, you’re absolutely right. I heard a story that the guy that invented the modern indoor mall, Victor Gruen, initially envisioned it as this community gathering spot for all seasons and later became one of the biggest opponents of them when they failed terribly in this regard. I think the same issus apply to outdoor malls. Can you imagine the Downtown mall if it were all privately owned?

    For that matter, I think the concept applies to lots of other features of a neighborhood, including greenspace, sidewalks and roads. For this reason, I think VDOT was spot on when it imposed new restrictions on subdivisions with cul-de-sacs. Public features need to be accessible and owned and controlled by the public. It’s why I think the County was right when it overruled the planning commission on the trail connecting to the Woodbrook neighborhood. Without those kinds of public connections you end up with faux greenspace.

  10. Fair enough. But I was thinking of support for the Salvation Army being allowed to solicit again this year in front of businesses.

    I agree that the bottom line to this is lack of free expression, due to the existence of only private property everywhere. The Neighborhood Model does call for:

    “residents having convenient access to parks, public gathering spaces, and natural views.”

    But it does the mall count as a “public gather space” or does it have to be truly public? And then there’s the fact that none of this is required.

  11. Dan, I’m not trying to start an argument, but why do you say the Downtown Mall is not “truly public”? What’s not public about it, besides the insides of the shops/businesses?

  12. There was a bell ringer in front of the Barracks Road CVS a few weeks ago. I don’t know if they’re still there. Maybe they got around the rule by standing on a part of the sidewalk that technically wasn’t CVS’s.

  13. Hey I’m all for Salvation Army people standing outside asking for donations, but my eardrums are chearing for this decision!

  14. The SA bell ringers are -required- to man those collection buckets as a condition of getting SA food, bed, prayers. Not slave labor, though a lawyer could make the case that it is.

    The bell ringers now accept donations via credit card, according to a recent headline.

    Read the whole story? Nonsense. Who needs entire news stories in the Twitter Age.

  15. I remember at one point sometime in the past “Target” was one of the companies (nationally) that got news coverage over their decision to prohibit Salvation Army Bell Ringers.

  16. I share some of the reservations expressed about the SA. I see no excuse for discrimination against gay people or religious requirements for all their employees. But right now in this community they are doing essential work feeding and housing the poor.
    I think that private property owners are within their rights to allow or disallow charitable solicitations and customers can express their approval or disapproval by choosing where to shop. I do most of my shopping at Barracks Rd and am pleased to have the SA kettles allowed there. However, I give a lot more money to the Santa Fund. This might be one of the more ambivalent paragraphs I have ever written…

  17. The Salvation Army’s mission statement, which has been the same for about 100 years I think, states that the agency’s mission it to “preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.”

    I happen to work for The Salvation Army, and I am not a Salvationist. I’m Episcopalian. My supervisor here is Jewish. We also have gay people working here.

    It’s true that The Army doesn’t ordain openly gay ministers, yes, but for an evangelical church, it’s not that surprising. And no, we don’t have domestic partner benefits, but neither have most of the other companies (private or publicly traded) that I have ever worked for.

    Just so we have our facts straight. Thank you to the folks who posted about what an efficient and effective charity The Salvation Army is. That part is true.

    It does help when businesses allow us to ring during the Christmas season, but we understand when they don’t. Target, for example, supports The Salvation Army in other ways. If we were allowed to stand in front of every business in every city, we would never be able to staff that many hours anyway.

    Thanks for reading.

  18. See Dodge v. Salvation Army (1989), Or Lown et al. v. The Salvation Army et al. (Pending)

    In fact, the Salvation Army has used some of the money from those little red buckets specifically to lobby Washington to allow it to discriminate on religious grounds while receiving federal tax money. (If they don’t discriminate then why would they fight so hard to assert their right to do so?)

    I can’t speak to the local branch and it’s policies and its possible that, like the Boy Scouts, that local groups may be more diverse and welcoming than the organization as a whole. Doesn’t matter though, they should still be banned from receiving public funds and should not be given any special treatment.

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