Did Target Say No to the Salvation Army While Selling Sex Toys?

The Target retail chain’s stance toward sex toys appears to have changed since right-wing religious groups criticized it in 2004 for limiting its association with the Salvation Army.

Going into late 2004, the American Family Association (AFA) complained that the retail chain would not allow bell-ringers for the Salvation Army to solicit donations at its stores.

As ABC News reported at the time, Target was not the only retail chain to bar bell-ringers; Barnes and Noble and Toys ‘R’ Us had as well.

But after the AFA reportedly emailed its 2 million members calling Target its “Ebenezer Scrooge” for the year, other right-wing Christian groups took notice.

“For Target to say that the Salvation Army is no longer welcome at the inn should send a message to Christians that perhaps they’d like to do their shopping elsewhere,” a spokesperson for Concerned Women of America told NBC News at the time.

A spokesperson for Target told the network that the ban was related to an overall policy against solicitation outside its stores and not specifically targeting the Salvation Army.

“It’s unfortunate that this is being looked at as something against the Salvation Army,” they said. “That’s not the way we intended it to be. It’s really about us trying to make our policy consistent. We have always respected the Salvation Army’s mission and their goals.”

The Salvation Army has come under criticism from other circles, as well as several accusations of supporting anti-LGBTQ political policies as well as denying help to people in those communities. The organization’s reputed “position statement” on homosexuality — since deleted from its website — reads:

The Salvation Army does not consider same-sex orientation blameworthy in itself. Homosexual conduct, like heterosexual conduct, requires individual responsibility and must be guided by the light of scriptural teaching. Scripture forbids sexual intimacy between members of the same sex. The Salvation Army believes, therefore, that Christians whose sexual orientation is primarily or exclusively same-sex are called upon to embrace celibacy as a way of life.

The group has since posted a separate webpage claiming that it does not discriminate against LGBTQ people seeking help, though it does not mention any specific political stances beyond its services.

“We embrace people regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity,” its statement reads. “Our hiring practices are open to all, and we provide the same benefits to opposite-sex and same-sex couples.”

As of December 2021, Target’s anti-solicitation policy still applies to the Salvation Army. According to the retail chain’s website:

Based on Target’s commitment to maintaining a distraction-free shopping experience for our guests, we do not allow Salvation Army bell ringers outside our store nationwide. However, Target proudly supports The Salvation Army, which serves more than 30 million people across the United States each year. Some of our year-round efforts include grants to local chapters, volunteerism and in-kind donations to help those who need it most. Target also partners with The Salvation Army to support its disaster relief efforts in communities across the country.

Around the time of the AFA’s campaign against Target, a separate rumor circulated saying that the chain would begin carrying sex toys sold under the banner of the Trojan condom brand. While Target denied this at the time, a review of Target’s website in December 2021 shows that sex toys are now available for pickup or online orders as part of the company’s sexual health section. However, there is no sign that this inventory addition is linked to the no-solicitation policy.

This longstanding narrative received renewed attention in December 2022, when far-right lawmaker Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) appeared to reference it during an appearance at the New York Young Republicans Club Gala:

Update 12/19/2021, 11:32p.m. PST: This article has been revamped and updated. You can review the original here. -ag