The Providence, R.I., chapter of the
United Way has decided to cut off funding to local Boy Scouts, saying the popular 90-year-old organization discriminates against homosexuals, even as a group of congressional Democrats plans to introduce legislation to strip BSA of its honorary charter.
Yesterday, the Providence chapter of the United Way of Southeastern New England gave the state’s Boy Scout chapters five months to reverse bans on homosexual scoutmasters or risk losing funding from the charitable organization.
Though the new policy, adopted by the New England chapter on Friday, does not specifically address the Boy Scouts, it states that funding would be cut off from any group that “discriminate for any reason, including sexual orientation,” according to the Providence Journal-Bulletin newspaper.
On Monday the charity sent letters outlining the policy to 65 groups that receive about $7.3 million in funding during this fiscal year. New England United Way officials also sent letters to an additional 86 associate groups that do not receive funding, but which are qualified to claim a United Way “seal of approval” for missions.
The policy is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2001. The letters ask recipients to sign an enclosed form that says they promise to adhere to the new policy, and then return the form to the United Way.
Neither the policy nor the letters mention the Boy Scouts by name, but one official with the New England UW chapter said it was written for them, the Journal-Bulletin said.
“We concluded that it was time for the United Way … to act and to be a leader on this,” said William Allen, executive vice president of community services for the United Way.
The policy decision follows a U.S. Supreme Court ruling late last month that overturned a New Jersey Supreme Court decision ordering the Boy Scouts to lift their ban on homosexual scoutmasters. The New Jersey decision stemmed from a lawsuit filed by James Dale, a former Eagle Scout and assistant scoutmaster in Matawan, N.J.
Dale was forced to surrender his post in 1990 after a local newspaper article revealed he was the head of a college homosexual group and after Dale himself admitted his homosexuality. The New Jersey high court ruling upheld the state’s lower court rulings in favor of Dale, proclaiming that by letting him go, the Boy Scouts acted unconstitutionally.
Dale was ejected by the Narragansett (New Jersey) Council, saying it acted in accordance with the oath included in the Scouts’ 1910 handbook, under which each Scout pledges “to keep myself morally straight.”
“The Narragansett Council has since joined a Minnesota council by passing a resolution urging the national parent organization to reconsider the ban,” the newspaper said. “Officials from the Narragansett Council say the parent group is still reviewing its policy, even though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last month that the Scouts, as a private organization, may ban gay leaders.”
The New England chapter policy states:
“United Way of Southeastern New England shall not discriminate on the basis of age, sex, color, race, veteran status, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or disability with respect to employment, volunteer participation or the provision of services. Agencies choosing to receive funding from the United Way Fund or the Critical Issue Funds and those choosing to be associate agencies will comply with this policy.”
The policy would not bar people from earmarking donations to a particular group — even one that rejects the nondiscrimination policy — through the United Way. The Narragansett Council got $71,790 in such “donor designations” this year, according to the United Way, said the Journal-Bulletin.
A spokeswoman for the United Way of America told WorldNetDaily that local chapters adopt their own policies and raise funds to support groups of their choosing.
“We don’t donate money to any organization, directly or indirectly,” she said. “We’re the training and membership organization; all fundraising … is done by the various United Ways around the country, which operate independently. This decision was made in Providence, by that board. We had nothing whatsoever to do with that,” she added.
Gregg Shields, spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America, told WND he wasn’t “familiar [with] the intricacies of the Providence decision.”
However, he said, United Way should consider “the breadth of the many the organizations they currently fund.”
“Many of these organizations might seem to be at contrary goals or missions,” but “the betterment of the community is what should be kept in mind, as well as the youth we’re trying to serve,” Shields said.
Nevertheless, other United Way chapters have also begun to examine the issue of funding Boy Scout chapters.
A day after the Supreme Court rejected Dale’s case, the United Way of Central Massachusetts announced it would study the issue of contributions made to Mohegan Council of the Boy Scouts of America, a scout chapter near Worcester.
According to the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, Eric S. Buch, president of the United Way of Central Massachusetts, told the paper, “It’s really something that we’re going to have to take a look at now that the Supreme Court has handed down its decision.” The central Massachusetts charity chapter this year is providing $138,600 to the Mohegan Council, which has 5,500 members and 2,000 volunteers throughout most of Worcester County.
Anthony DeChristofaro, vice president of marketing and communications for the United Way, told
CNSNews.com July 3 that there will be no current change in donations to the BSA by his organization. However, he also said the decision does not rest with the national headquarters for the United Way, but with the 1,400 local autonomous United Ways across America.
The United Way channels over 83 million dollars each year in contributions to the BSA, the news service reported.
Meanwhile, several Democratic lawmakers said yesterday they plan to introduce a bill in Congress revoking the Boy Scouts’ honorary charter.
|Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif.|
Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., who is leading the effort, said that while the Boy Scouts claim to be open to all boys, a recent Supreme Court decision has allowed them to reject gay members and scout leaders.
“We’re not saying they’re bad,” she said Tuesday, “we’re saying intolerance is bad, and I don’t see any reason why the federal government should be supporting it.”
The Boy Scouts received its charter in 1916, six years after it was founded. Congressionally approved honorary charters, which have been granted to about 90 groups, do not require annual reauthorization but do contain clauses allowing Congress to revoke a group’s charter if lawmakers feel it is warranted.
The charter confers no benefits, but, Woolsey said, it “gives the impression that an organization has a congressional seal of approval.”
July 13 letter to President Clinton, Woolsey and 10 other Democrats asked that the president resign as the honorary head of the Boy Scouts, as a protest against the youth group’s gay policy.
“In order to disavow this policy of intolerance, as well as to clarify any misconception of presidential approval, we urge you, the leader of our nation, to resign as the honorary head of the BSA,” said the letter.
“Scouting should help boys grow and learn how to be leaders and good citizens,” Woolsey said, “but intolerance is not a value we want our children to learn and it’s not a value that the president of the United States should support.”
Woolsey became active in the effort to expand the Boy Scouts to include homosexuals when Steve Cozza, a teenager in Woolsey’s hometown of Petaluma, Calif., started Scouting For All, a national grass-roots campaign aimed at convincing the Boy Scouts to change its policy against homosexuals.
Shields said that “fully half” of current congressional members were involved as youths in some level of scouting. “We have appreciated their support throughout the years,” he said.
But, he added, the charter permits “patriotic organizations,” as it describes such groups as the Boy Scouts, the “right to conduct our business” as the organization sees fit.
Other similar groups, including “The Jewish War Veterans, Catholic War Veterans, and Veterans of Foreign Wars” are all permitted to be selective with the types of members they enlist.
“Our charter is a license of the government to conduct our operations,” he said. “Federal law allowing us to have a charter … has been an honor, and we hope we will continue to have one.”