The Salvation Army encourages a healthy spiritual, mental, physical and social lifestyle without the recreational use of drugs, including alcohol and tobacco.
Although social or recreational use of mind-altering or mood-changing drugs (both legal and illegal) does not inevitably lead to dependence, such use can have financial, relational, psychological, educational and legal consequences. The Salvation Army believes that abstinence from these substances is the most effective way of enhancing the wellbeing and health of all people.
While The Salvation Army believes that abstinence is the only certain guarantee against the harmful effects of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, it does not condemn people who use these substances. The Salvation Army continues to work compassionately with those whose use of such substances has become harmful; supporting them to regain social, physical, mental, and spiritual health through a health-focussed, harm-reduction approach in addiction treatment services.
Scripture teaches the human life and the body should be respected in every possible way.
Paul in his letter to the Corinthian church states:
‘Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies’ (1 Cor. 6:19-20 NIV).
At the commencement of its mission, The Salvation Army confronted human and community damage resulting from the consumption of alcohol; and found that the alcohol and drug-free community of faith people were invited into was often a key factor in their process of recovery and restoration.
We believe that alcohol and drug free living contributes to health and well-being, and that reducing or eliminating consumption of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs is therefore consistent with caring for our neighbour as we care for ourselves (Matthew 22:39).
Likewise, Paul writes to the church in Rome:
‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.’ (Romans 12:1-2)
We believe that a life lived free of alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs is therefore consistent with living according to the good and loving values of God.
Although an occasional social drink does not inevitably lead to alcoholism, alcohol is a mind altering substance with sedative effects similar to those of barbituates, and is a contributing factor in many personal and social tragedies. The Salvation Army will actively support legislation likely to reduce the availability and abuse of alcohol.
Around the world, The Salvation Army faces human situations where alcohol is used in excessive or harmful ways. The result of alcohol abuse is destructive to individuals, families and communities, and as a result, soldiers and officers of The Salvation Army choose to abstain from consuming alcoholic drinks.
The Salvation Army accepts the evidence presented by medical science of the harmful and addictive effects of tobacco on the smoker and those nearby.
We also acknowledge there is a developing body of evidence around the harmful effects of e-cigarettes.
Salvation Army premises are designated smoke-free. Within available resources, smokers attending Salvation Army premises are offered active support to help them stop smoking.
Recognising these harmful effects, soldiers and officers of The Salvation Army choose to abstain from using tobacco in any form.
Although social or recreational use of other drugs (both legal and illegal) does not inevitably lead to dependence, such use impairs judgement and is a contributing factor in many personal and social tragedies. Even prescription drugs can be harmful when misused. The Salvation Army will actively support legislation restricting the availability and use of illegal drugs and the abuse of legal drugs while promoting a health-focused, harm reduction approach in addiction treatment services that is grounded in analysis of available research.
Recognising the harmful consequences of drug abuse, soldiers and officers of The Salvation Army choose to abstain from using drugs, except as medically prescribed.
This paper should be read in conjunction with The Salvation Army’s International Positional Statement on ‘Alcohol in Society’.