Also ignored sexual abuse of women.
I am utterly incredulous at two stories about the Christian charitable organisation, the Salvation Army.
In the UK the organisation has admitted they will not allow LGBT+ to serve as ‘soldiers’ or ‘officers’ (is it only me who finds the very idea of regimenting Christianity distasteful?), yet in a story from Australia, one SA officer, who did not act on the sexual abuse of two women, has also denied having a paedophile in their ranks, a man who admitted his offence, by claiming that not all child abusers are paedophiles.
In a BBC television show The Sally Army and Me, openly and actively gay comedian, female impersonator and TV / Radio presenter Paul O’Grady, better known to many as his drag queen persona Lily Savage, spent time with the organisation, concentrating on it’s charitable works, but also performing in a Salvation Army band. O’Grady was allowed to wear a Salvation Army uniform for the cameras, but the organisation has confirmed that as an actively gay man he would not be allowed to serve as an SA officer. The Salvation Army’s internal hiring policies ban gay men from serving, unless they remain celibate, which of course would be almost impossible to prove.
In the show, Paul O’Grady openly confronted Commissioner Clive Adams, chief officer of the Salvation Army in the UK, upon their policy concerning LGBT+ people. Adams confirmed “You wouldn’t be allowed to be a member. You could volunteer for us, you could come to our church services but if you want to become a soldier in the Salvation Army, you have to commit to what we believe.”
This is completely at odds with another claim from Commissioner Adams, who also stated that the organisation “abides by all applicable anti-discrimination laws in its hiring”. Indeed, I actually wonder if the Salvation Army is acting within employment law by banning sexually-active LGBT+ people from employment.
“That’s upsetting, really,” Paul O’Grady replied, “because I know so many men and women who are gay and lesbian and they’d be the most wonderful officers.”
The Salvation Army’s policies towards LGBT+ people have long come under criticism. In the USA in 2014 transgender woman Jodielynn Wiley had to flee her home in Paris, Texas, due to death threats and moved to Dallas. The US Salvation Army refused her emergency accommodation because she had not had gender reassignment surgery. She was eventually rehoused by another charity. In 2014 the Australian Salvation Army were forced to apologise after Major Andrew Craibe discussing a Bible passage (Romans 1:18-32) which suggests gay men should be put to death and which appears in the Salvation Army Handbook, confirmed he believed that it should be taken literally.
Also in Australia we have the recent claims of Major Peter Farthing, a man who himself failed to act over the sexual abuse of two women, trying to defend another member by alluding that he was not a paedophile.
Speaking at the Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse, the former SA Secretary for Personnel, Major Farthing, was speaking on the 1989 sexual abuse upon an 8-year-old little girl by SA officer Colin Haggar in a town in New South Wales. Haggar had admitted the offence, yet Major Farthing denied the man was a paedophile and refuted having a paedophile in their ranks.
“My understanding is that a paedophile is somebody whose primary sexual orientation is towards children or adolescents, and not all offenders are paedophiles,” Farthing told the commission.
“Some people offend in a kind of crime of opportunity – a situational crime.
“Left alone with a child, they might have some brokenness, something going on in their own life which may make them vulnerable to offend and they will abuse a child.”
Farthing concluded that while all such offences were “serious” in his view, “the nature of the offender is not the same. They are not all paedophiles.”
Major Farthing had also failed to act when Colin Haggar sexually assaulted two women in 1990. He told the commission, “it wasn’t a contemporary action”.
“It is not second nature to me. It is not something I’m greatly familiar with, and it is not something the Salvation Army have habitually done,” he said.
“So you know my mind didn’t immediately run I have to investigate this.”
Haggar was dismissed from the Salvation Army in 1992, but was later re-admitted and allowed to remain until his retirement in 2015.
Major Farthing could not of course be more wrong over the nature of paedophilia. Anyone who has a sexual attraction to children, whether they act upon those urges or not, is, by definition, a paedophile, and their urges are not even driven by sexuality.
The overwhelming vast majority of paedophiles are heterosexual men, most of whom are in relationships with women or even married. They often have families of their own and the vast majority of child sexual abuse is carried out by family members of close family friends. Even the majority of paedophile men who abuse little boys are otherwise heterosexual and will show revulsion to any suggestion of sexual relations with other adult men.
This is because paedophilia, like all abuse, is not about sex, it is about power. The paedophile just like any other abuser, whether they use sexual, physical, verbal, or psychological means, is an inadequate individual who seeks to assert power over their victims. Because they are so inadequate and powerless – or see themselves as such – abusers pick out the weakest targets, those least likely to be able to defend themselves. In the case of the paedophile, this just happens to be children, whom they seek to belittle, humiliate and control through sexual means. In reality the abuser, any abuser, is a bully, and in the nature of the bully, a coward at heart.
Should anyone doubt that, just look at Colin Haggar’s track record; having abused a little girl one year, he moved on to abusing two women the following year. If his “primary sexual attraction” was to children, why should he suddenly abuse two adult women? There are volumes of cases of sexual abusers and sexual thrill killers who have equally attacked children, adolescents, and women. Serial Killer Robert Black mainly targeted little girls, but once tried to abduct a teenage girl, thereby making him both a paedophile and a hebephile; one attracted to pubescent teenagers. Fred and Rosemary West abused their own children, the children of others, teenage girls and grown women.
Farthing is not even correct in claiming that child sexual abuse is a crime of “opportunity” or “situational”. Paedophiles are world class manipulators, who can spend weeks, months, years even, building up a trust in their targeted victim. Paedophiles from outwith families will weedle their way into the trust of the child’s family and of the child themselves before they strike. The idea of “stranger danger” and the stereotypical image of the paedophile as the dirty old man in the park in a shabby raincoat are very much myths. While not unknown, the vast majority of paedophiles are very far from being opportunists, and that is one thing which makes them so bloody dangerous.
And while they may indeed have someth “brokenness” within them, that can never excuse the behaviour of the paedophile who acts upon their urges. Contrary to what some claim, paedophilia is not a mental illness – or just another sexuality as some are nowadays trying to claim – but rather any psychologist worth their salt who has dealt with paedophiles will tell you it is a “learned sexual behaviour”, which is usually triggered by some catalyst in the past of the individual. All too often and all too sadly, in the case of paedophiles it is a “cycle of abuse”, where they too were sexually abused in childhood. That however can never excuse their actions. I would also argue that to say a paedophile abusing a child because they are “broken” and in a “situation” where they are left alone, is tantamount to shifting the blame from the abuser onto the child; another favourite tactic of paedophile abusers.
I would never deny that the Salvation Army does an enormous amount of good works, whether that is giving overnight beds to the homeless, supplying food banks to those in desperate poverty, supplying emergency accommodation to those in need of such, or many of the other good works that make a difference to millions worldwide. But for senior officers to hold such views against the LGBT+ community, to turn a blind eye to cases of sexual assault upon women, and to completely blindfold themselves to a paedophile within their ranks is wholly unacceptable and their priorities appear to be completely twisted.
It seems to me the SA would do well to consult sexual psychologists, who would be able to show them that LGBT+ people are normal – and by sheer weight of numbers they must already have LGBT+ members who have not outed themselves – but those who abuse women, children, anybody are far from normal and should not be trusted one iota.
Well, there’s one thing; at least the Salvation Army is being wholly consistent with the Bible, which while it calls gay men an “abomination” and calls for their execution, it seems to have absolutely no problem with sex with little kids, incest, rape, and the subjugation of women.