Pro-life group targets Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Pro-life group targets Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

A holiday tradition of more than 100 years is stirring up some controversy, as one area organization is encouraging its members not to donate to the Salvation Army's annual Red Kettle Campaign.

It all comes down to the controversial topic of abortion.

The Salvation Army, as a unified, global organization, says it believes that a termination of a pregnancy may be justified only when the pregnancy is threatening the mother's life, when medical professionals identify a fetal abnormality that would result in a baby's death very soon after birth and in cases of rape or incest. The Salvation Army's full statement on its position on abortion is HERE.

Dubuque County Right to Life is a pro-life organization that believes under no circumstance is an abortion justifiable.

In its December newsletter, DCRTL encourages its members to "please consider dropping a note in the kettle...rather than giving money to the Salvation Army Church."

It then goes on to give an example note, which explains why, "as a 'no-exceptions' pro-lifer, I can't, in good conscience, contribute to your kettle. If your position were different, I would most certainly donate to your cause."

The Salvation Army's Red Kettle Campaign, combined its with holiday mail donation appeal, make up more than half of the Dubuque Corps' operating budget for the year, and dollars donated locally stay within the community.

Maj. Kay Mason with Dubuque's Salvation Army corps said their Red Kettle Campaign goal for this year is $185,000 and their holiday mail appeal goal is $70,000, and this protest isn't helping them meet those.

"To reach that goal, it's getting harder every year," Mason said. "People are not working. People are struggling. Prices of everything has gone up, so whenever we don't meet that kettle campaign, something like that-- anything outside the ordinary -- really does hurt us."

She said the DCRTL protest is only one of the obstacles the Salvation Army faces in fundraising.

"Less and less people are carrying cash, so...it's just a little trickier," Mason said. "Plus, weather, location, volunteer bell-ringers."

It's why the Salvation Army is thankful for people such as Linda Strong. Monday afternoon, she was outside Dubuque's Walmart, ringing the bell at the red kettle.

"You know, I ain't got nothing else better to do. I'm on disability, so it keeps me going, doing something," she said cheerily.

This is Strong's fifth consecutive holiday season of volunteer bell-ringing for the Salvation Army.

"I'll be doing this up until the 24th of December," she said.

Strong has seen more than just coins and bills going into the red kettle.

"I've seen envelopes and stuff go in there," she said.

Whether the envelopes contain cash, a check or a letter of protest, Strong or any bell-ringer wouldn't know.

The Salvation Army has 23 bell-ringing locations in Dubuque.

Dubuque County Right to Life has been protesting the Salvation Army's Red Kettle Campaign in this manner since the late 1990s, its executive director Marian Bourek said. Currently, CRTL's mailing list is about 1,400 addresses strong.

DCRTL declined an on-camera interview Monday but submitted a written statement to KWWL, in which it acknowledged the Salvation Army does good work for those in need but regrets the organization's stance on abortion.

"As recently as November of 2013, our office contacted the International Headquarters of the Salvation Army to inquire any possible changes in their abortion policy," DCRTL's statement says. "We are sorry to report there has been no change. The SA approves of abortion in cases of rape, incest, health of the mother and fetal deformity. We, as a 100% pro-life organization, cannot make exceptions."

In a request for a response, the Salvation Army at a national level provided an e-mailed statement.

"As a Christian church, The Salvation Army believes in the sanctity of all human life," the statement says. "As one of the largest providers of social services in the U.S., we put that belief into action every day. Whether it's feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, or giving at-risk kids a safe place to be after school, donations made to our Red Kettles help fund those services throughout the year."

The Salvation Army Dubuque Corps has an emergency food pantry, a senior center and a Christmas campaign, in which Dubuque's Salvation Army corps provides food and toys to more than 500 Dubuque-area families.

Mason said Dubuque's Salvation Army has met its fundraising goal every holiday season - so far. She said they're still looking for volunteer bell-ringers this year, especially on weekdays. The campaign goes through Christmas Eve, Dec. 24.

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