This post isn't actually about the reasons you should boycott the Salvation Army (though you totally should). I write for the newspaper at my school, and, being hard-pressed to come up with a topic for the upcoming issue, I decided to take the suggestion of one of my fellow staffmembers and write about the bellringers that begin to pop up around this season.
The thing is, my position isn't exactly likely to be popular.
For those of you who don't know, the Salvation Army is a proactively homophobic organization that devotes resources to acts of discrimination. I don't support them, and I think it's morally irresponsible at best to give them your change. (I don't care how warm and fuzzy it makes you feel.)
In the back of my mind, it bugs me a bit that I know this will probably be my least popular article this semester. It seems like it should be really morally straightforward -- it's a bad idea to support organizations that suppress human rights. It's not like the SA is the only organization out there that helps poor people. Goodwill is around, so are various secular soup kitchens and homeless shelters. There are hundreds of other charities you could devote that money to, as well.
But the SA has ingrained themselves in the Christmas culture so thoroughly that people take it like an attack on the very notion of charity when you point out the fact that that particular organization is made up of total assholes (and a great many part-assholes and less well-informed employees and volunteers who (a.) should have done better research or (b.) couldn't get a better job.)
As a general rule, I think it's a bad idea to donate money to people on the basis that they happen to be standing by with a bucket. While I do believe most charities have good in their hearts, a lot of them don't necessarily have sense in their heads. An irrationally run charity can do more harm than no charity at all, and it's a lot harder to do research in the thirty seconds it would otherwise take to just walk past the annoying beggar and give that same change to (a.) a real homeless person who can use it for food or (b.) go home and use that guilt you have from walking past the bellringer to motivate you to look up a charity worth supporting and send them a fiver.
Some of the text of this post might make it into my article...