Fact Check

Is a Photograph of a Salvation Army Bellringer's Sign About 'the Gays' Real?

A photograph of an unknown individual protesting near a Salvation Army sign was miscaptioned as an image of an actual volunteer.

Published Dec 16, 2016

A photograph depicts a Salvation Army bellringer holding a sign stating the group helps people, "just not the gays."

In December 2016, two Facebook pages shared a photograph of what appeared to be a Salvation Army bell ringer holding a sign that read, "We help people, just not the gays":

One post was captioned that the sign was "something to remember this holiday season," while another said "Just a friendly reminder that 'the gays' aren't people. Brought to you by your local Salvation Army."

Neither post included information about the photograph, such as its subject, the date on which it was taken, or any other details enabling readers to put the image in context.  As a result, some people interpreted the photograph to be that of an actual Salvation Army volunteer announcing the organization's views on its placard.

The image dated back to at least 2012, as evidenced by a blog post and Imgur page; the latter linked to a Reddit thread and captioned: "Next to a Salvation Army sign in Union Square, NYC." All versions suggest that the photograph was taken in or before December 2012, and early versions universally identified the man with the sign as a protester of the Salvation Army, not a volunteer.

Later in 2012, descriptions of the photograph shifted to assertions that the sign's holder was not a protester and was actually a bell ringer:

salvation army not the gays

The Salvation Army's web site details a "no discrimination" policy for LGBT individuals.

Although the origin of the image is still unknown, the scene it showed was originally presented as a protest and not a Salvation Army initiative. Nevertheless, we contacted the organization for further information about the photograph but did not receive a reply.


Salvation Army.   "The Salvation Army and the LGBT Community."     Accessed 16 December 2016.

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.