The Boy Scouts of America’s apparent decision to reverse a century-old policy to bar homosexuals from its ranks coincides with a sudden drop in major corporate funding that began last summer after a gay-rights blogger for the Huffington Post published a collaborative report that named the donors and chastised them for violating their own policy of not discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.
At the same time, two prominent board members – including an adviser to the Obama White House – were carrying out a vow to change the policy from within.
Published in collaboration with The American Independent, the report called out Intel, United Parcel Service, United Way, Merck and others for contributing to an organization with a stated policy of banning homosexuals from membership.
The report came less than two months after the BSA affirmed its policy at the conclusion of a two-year examination of the issue by a committee of volunteers convened by national BSA leaders.
The Boy Scouts’ national headquarters in Texas said it is not granting interviews at the moment but invited questions submitted by email. Questions posed by WND were not answered, however.
At the time of the September report, shipping giant UPS insisted the Scouts’ policy would not impact its donations, which totaled close to $167,000 in 2010, the most recent year for which data was available for most companies.
However, bolstered by a petition drive by the homosexual-rights group Scouts for Equality, Intel – which led the way in 2010 corporate giving with $700,000 – announced that month it would stop funding Scout troops that adhere to the ban.
UPS followed Intel’s lead and also cut off its funding.
In December, Merck issued a statement saying it could not “continue to provide support to an organization with a policy that is contrary to one of our core beliefs.”
“We remain ready and willing to re-consider our funding position in the event that the BSA were to revise its policy,” the statement said.
At the moment, the Verizon Foundation, which donated more than $300,000 in 2010 is facing heat as more than 70,000 people have signed a petition asking the corporation to stop funding the Scouts.
The American Interest report said 23 of the top 50 corporate foundations, ranked by the Foundation Center in terms of total charitable giving, gave at least $10,000 each to the Boy Scouts in 2010.
Combined, they donated about $3.6 million.
The Boy Scouts, with more than 2.7 million youth members and more than 1 million adult members, reaffirmed its policy on homosexuals July 17 upon the recommendation of an 11-member committee that had been meeting since 2010.
The policy states: “While the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.”
But last week, the national office signaled a reversal ahead of its national board meeting next week.
Speaking for the BSA National Council, Director of Public Relations Deron Smith explained the organization is discussing allowing, the local, chartered organizations that oversee Scouting to establish their own requirements.
BSA members and parents “would be able to choose a local unit which best meets the needs of their families,” Smith said.
He said BSA leadership “has always been in an ongoing dialogue with the Scouting family to determine what is in the best interest of the organization and the young people we serve.”
Under the proposed policy, the BSA, he explained, “would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization’s mission, principles or religious beliefs.”
The BSA has more than 290 local councils nationwide that oversee more than 116,000 local organizations. Individual Scout troops are sponsored by religious and civic organizations.
While there have been major cuts in funding in recent months since the Scouts reaffirmed their policy, the organization has faced boycott and censure for more than a decade, particularly since the U.S. Supreme Court sided with them on the issue in 2000.
In 2002, for example, the United Way chapter of Ventura County, Calif., stopped its allocations to the Scouts after funding the group for 57 years.
The resistance also has come from within as many homosexual scouts and family members, and some local councils, have engaged in activism.
As WND reported in 2003, the Scouts’ Cradle of Liberty Council in Philadelphia drew national attention when it added “sexual orientation” to its policy of nondiscrimination.
In contrast to its current stance, the national office at that time was resolute.
In an interview with WND, BSA national spokesman Gregg Shields declared: “No council is allowed to depart from Boy Scouts policy.”
“We have a national policy that has been in existence since we were formed,” he said in 2003. “The Boy Scouts have taught traditional, American family values. A known or openly avowed homosexual would not be accepted for membership nor would an atheist.”
‘Change from within’
Amid the spotlight on major donors, the prominent homosexual-rights group Human Rights Campaign has warned it plans to downgrade its non-discrimination ratings for corporations that continue to give the BSA financial support.
Meanwhile, two corporate CEOs on BSA’s national board, Randall Stephenson of AT&T, who is next in line to become BSA national chairman, and James Turley of Ernst & Young have said they would work to end the ban.
Last June, Turley vowed he “will work from within to seek a change” to the BSA policy.
“As I have done in leading Ernst & Young to being a most inclusive organization, I intend to continue to work from within the BSA board to actively encourage dialogue and sustainable progress,” Turley said.
Stephenson was praised for publicly opposing the Boy Scouts’ policy and explained he would remain on the board, which he’s in line to lead in 2014, because he could have more influence.
Turley was nominated to President Obama’s Export Council in 2010, and has been a promoter of Obama’s economic policy.
Turley and his wife, Lynne, were guests at a state dinner hosted by President Obama for British Prime Minister David Cameron at the White House last March.
As with previous U.S. presidents going back to President William Howard Taft in 1910, Obama became the honorary president of the BSA shortly after taking office in 2009.
His induction, however, was conducted behind closed doors in the Oval Office with no notice in any official communication.
Obama also did not attend the BSA’s 100th Anniversary Gala in Washington, D.C. in 2010.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins has pointed to attacks on Scout funding sources by activist homosexuals as a major influence on the organizations decision to reconsider its policy.
“The Boy Scouts of America board would be making a serious mistake to bow to the strong-arm tactics of LGBT activists and open the organization to homosexuality,” he said.
“What has changed in terms of the Boy Scouts’ concern for the well-being of the boys under their care? Or is this not about the well-being of the Scouts, but the funding for the organization?”
Perkins emphasized the Boy Scouts has been “a force for moral integrity and leadership in the United States.”
“Sadly, their principled stances have marked them as a target for harassment by homosexual activists and corporations such as UPS, which are working to pressure the Boy Scouts into abandoning their historic values.”