Are senior FBU officials right to claim the union does not want to see the back of the Salvation Army at major incidents? (Answer: no) / hwr21

IN RESPONSE to our previous blog, highlighting how FBU annual conference in May supported a resolution calling for volunteer relief teams who did not support the causes of the LGBT movement to be prevented from offering assistance, in the way of food and drink, to fire crews at protracted and large-scale incidents, some senior officials of the union have challenged our interpretation of the position, in particular suggesting that we were wrong to imply that the much-respected Salvation Army relief team – which has provided support at such incidents for many years – would be captured by the resolution.

We address here some of their arguments.

“The resolution made reference to only one organisation, and that was not the Salvation Army.”   

While it is true that the resolution made an explicit mention of only one organisation – the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church – this organisation was cited merely as a single example. The wording of the resolution – which can be read here on page 46 – shows beyond question that its remit was intended to cover any organisation which provided assistance to the fire and rescue service but did not embrace the cause of LGBT equality and inclusivity.

“The Plymouth Brethren was targeted in the resolution because its members preach to firefighters at incidents, and the purpose of the resolution was to stop this from happening.”

This claim did not appear in the resolution and, to our knowledge, was not made before the publication of our blog. No-one has presented any evidence to support this particular claim.

“The Salvation Army is not anti-LGBT. It has published a mission statement supporting LGBT people.”

Like many other Christian groups, the Salvation Army has spoken of the need to treat all human beings with kindness and compassion, and to offer the hand of friendship to LGBT individuals. It has also spoken out against victimisation and discrimination on the grounds of sexuality. This isn’t unusual or surprising for a Christian organisation. However, there can be no doubt that, when it comes to questions of policy and doctrine, the Army takes a traditional Christian line on LGBT issues – for example, opposing same-sex marriage and stating that scripture forbids homosexual acts. An article highlighting the Army’s record on LGBT rights – which can be read here – leaves little doubt about its historical stance on these issues. Given that the resolution passed at annual conference targets organisations which do not subscribe to the principle of LGBT equality and inclusivity, it is simply not tenable to claim that the Army is not captured by the resolution.    

“Local FBU officials have the power to decide whether or not it is appropriate to raise concerns with managers about the Salvation Army. Until now, the Army has given local officials no reason to be concerned.”

Under the terms of the resolution passed at annual conference, local officials simply don’t have that luxury. Even if we were to set aside the question of the Army’s stance on LGBT issues, the resolution opposes as a matter of principle the use of any voluntary organisation for the provision of food and drink at major incidents (on the grounds that such provision should be delivered in-house by the employer) and, where such organisations are engaged, explicitly instructs local officials to raise the arrangement as a matter of concern with local managers. All FBU officials and members are bound by resolutions passed at FBU annual conference. If local officials fail to raise concerns about the use of the Salvation Army with service managers, they will be breaching union policy.  

“The resolution doesn’t call for a ban on these organisations. It just instructs officials to raise concerns about their involvement with employers.”

If anyone truly believes that a resolution requiring FBU officials to raise concerns about the involvement of these organisations does not amount to a desire to see an end to their involvement, we have a bridge to sell them!

It is quite clear, then, that the Salvation Army is captured by the terms of the resolution, and those claiming that isn’t the case are being, at best, disingenuous. If it was not intended for the Army to be captured, the resolution should not have been written in the terms it was, or it should have been amended or opposed by conference. Instead, it would appear that the resolution sailed through conference without much opposition. As a result, it now stands as official FBU policy.

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