Could there be more to the story of Salvation Army's bell ringers being asked to leave the grounds of Target stores than what the Chronicle is reporting?

Founded over 120 years ago in San Francisco, the Salvation Army has traditionally helped the needy while asking those same needy to accept Jesus into their hearts. Of course there's no free lunch, and if you are hungry and cold, you probably don't mind that the person with the hot food and warm blankets slips a little proselityzing in with their charity.

In 1998, however, San Francisco made it mandatory for organizations to provide domestic partner benefits to its employees if they wanted to receive city contracts -- which sparked a wave of cities to follow suit, forcing many companies to institute the policy nationally. The Salvation Army, however, simply decided to stop doing business with the city. The western branch had a change of heart, however, and relented in 2001 -- only to be told in no uncertain terms by the national organization that homosexuality is bad, very bad, and re-reverse back to denying Adam coverage under Steve's health plan. This was all around the same time they were backroom-dealing with the Bush administration in order to get religious organizations exempted from laws requiring equal benefits for domestic partnership in exchange for supporting Dubya's Faith Based Initiatives.

Until recently Target had exempted Salvation Army from their blanket no-solicitors policy, but this year chose to enforce the rule during the Christmas season. Since Target offers their LGBT employees domestic partner benefits and their customers the fashions of pitchman Isaac Mizrahi, many "family values" groups are accusing Target stores of "caving in" to the "homosexual agenda." We'd like to give Target some credit, but they're not really "standing up" for "equal rights" by coming clean about their intent, either. We probably weren't going to spend any money at Target or give any to the Salvation Army this year, but if we were, we wouldn't. In the meantime, Salvation Army is preparing robotic cardboard bell-ringers (who, while all male, are entirely incapable of buggery) to man buckets at lower-traffic locations due to a shortage of volunteers. Since we're in a second-guessing mood, we think that these "cardboard cutouts" would be the perfect shock troops in the coming Culture War.