Ellie Goulding, Salvation Army Clash Over Halftime Show, Gay Rights - Rolling Stone
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Ellie Goulding, Salvation Army Clash Over Gay Rights and Halftime Performance

Singer also releases cover of Joni Mitchell’s “River”

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Ellie Goulding has threatened to cancel an NFL halftime show over the it sponsor the Salvation Army's alleged mistreatment of LGBTQ people.

David Fisher/Shutterstock

Update: Reps for Ellie Goulding and the Salvation Army both say that Goulding will still perform at the halftime show.

A spokesman for the Salvation Army has issued a statement in response to the issues Goulding raised about the organization’s stance on LGBTQ people. “We’d like to thank Ellie Goulding and her fans for shedding light on misconceptions and encouraging others to learn the truth about the Salvation Army’s mission to serve all, without discrimination,” Commissioner David Hudson, National Commander of The Salvation Army, said. “We applaud her for taking the time to learn about the services we provide to the LGBTQ community. Regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity, we’re committed to serving anyone in need. Every day, we provide services such as shelter for the transgender community and resources for homeless youth — 40 percent of whom identify as gay or transgender. Ellie’s performance in the 23rd annual Salvation Army Red Kettle Kickoff during the Dallas Cowboys game Thanksgiving Day on CBS will kick off a season of giving that helps support these and many other programs and services throughout the country.”

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Ellie Goulding is questioning whether she will still perform at an NFL halftime show on Thanksgiving because of the way its sponsor, the Salvation Army, supposedly treats the LGBTQ community.

In an Instagram post to a follower who brought the organization’s alleged policies to her attention, Goulding wrote, “Upon researching [the allegations], I have reached out to the Salvation Army and said that I would have no choice but to pull out unless they very quickly made a solid, committed pledge or donation to the LGBTQ community.”

The user’s original post — which was a comment on a photo of Goulding in a Salvation Army uniform — and Goulding’s reply appear to have been deleted as of Thursday morning, but NBC News captured a screenshot of the exchange.

The performance would coincide with the launch of the Army’s Red Kettle Campaign, which raises money for people in need.

The Salvation Army has long faced claims that they shun the LGBTQ community in various ways. Out magazine reports that the organization allegedly will not house same-sex couples unless they split, endorses conversion therapy and asks employees not to weigh in on same sex marriage. The magazine also claims that the Salvation Army refuses to help trans people. A post on the Salvation Army website refutes many of these claims.

Goulding was replying to a user who claimed the organization was “extremely homo/transphobic literally to the point of letting queer homeless people die.” The user has since walked back her claims somewhat, saying she was misinformed but stood by her claim of mistreatment of LGBTQ people.

Goulding’s reply to the user’s original post said, “I am a committed philanthropist as you probably know, and my heart has always been in helping the homeless, but supporting anti-LGBTQ charity is clearly not something I would ever intentionally do.”

A spokesman for the Salvation Army, David Hudson, responded to Goulding’s message in a statement. “With an organization of our size and history, myths can perpetuate,” he wrote, according to NBC News. “An individual’s sexual or gender identity, religion, or lifestyle has no bearing on our willingness to provide service. We stand firmly behind our mission to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.”

The game, which will see the Dallas Cowboys face off against the Buffalo Bills, will begin at 4:30 p.m. EST on Thanksgiving. Goulding has not yet publicly announced whether or not she will perform at the halftime show. But on early Thursday morning, she was posting tweets in support of the Salvation Army.

A rep for Goulding did not respond to Rolling Stone’s request for comment on Thursday.

In the meantime, Goulding has released a cover of Joni Mitchell’s ode to Christmas escapism, “River,” which originally appeared on her Blue album. Goulding’s cover, which finds her stretching her voice over piano in a reverent performance, is an Amazon Original, meaning you need to have a subscription to hear the whole thing. You can hear an excerpt of it, though, in a behind-the-scenes video she released publicly.

“I have always loved Joni Mitchell,” Goulding said in the video. “She was one of the first female artists that made me want to be a singer. She’s one of the greatest songwriters of all time, and I just truly hope I’ve done this song some justice.”

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