Major corporations that have donated to the Boy Scouts of America in recent years are largely remaining quiet ahead of the highly anticipated vote Wednesday on the organization’s policy on homosexuals, but some have made it clear their money will go only to groups that don’t discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
In 2010, the latest year for which figures are available, the top donors to the Scouts, listed in descending order according to amount, were Intel, Emerson, Verizon, 3M, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Pfizer, Valero, UPS, U.S. Bank, Eli Lilly and Co., GE, Monsanto, Medtronic, PNC, Nationwide, Abbott, General Mills, Alcoa, Caterpillar, Illinois Tool Works, Allstate and Dow Chemical.
As WND reported last week, a major drop in corporate funding came last September 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.
Since the September report, Intel, UPS and Merck are among the corporations that have declared they have stopping funding the BSA.
The homosexual-rights group Scouting for All lists some of the corporations that have refused to fund the BSA’s national organization. They include IBM, Levi Strauss and Company, J.P. Morgan, American Airlines, Medtronic, Portland General Gas and Electric, Hewlett Packard, Textron, Fleet Bank, CVS/Pharmacy Stores and Carrier Corp.
At the time of the September report, shipping giant UPS, which gave $167,000 to the Scouts in 2010, insisted the “gay” policy would not impact its donations. But after a petition drive that month by another homosexual-rights group, Scouts for Equality, UPS changed its mind.
Scouts for Equality now lists UPS, Merck and Intel as corporate sponsors. Among the public figures who support the group’s aims, along with President Obama, are 2012 Republican presidential nominee Gov. Mitt Romney and Washington state Republican gubernatorial nominee Rob McKenna.
Scouting for All also has a list of companies that donate to national or local Boy Scout councils and/or having a matching gifts program for employees who donate to the Scouts. But the list is not up-to-date, as it includes UPS. Scouting for All urges supporters to boycott the listed companies.
UPS spokeswoman Kristen A. Petrella, the international public relations manager, told WND Monday that UPS had no comment in response to questions about how the vote by the Scouts executive board Wednesday might affect the corporation’s position toward the BSA.
General Mills spokeswoman Kris Patton told WND her corporation’s foundation funds local Boy Scout organizations that sign an “affirmation of nondiscrimination” but does not contribute to the national organization.
“As a longstanding practice, organizations we support must sign an affirmation of nondiscrimination as a standard part of our grant-making process.”
The Verizon Foundation, which donated more than $300,000 to the Scouts in 2010, did not respond directly to questions submitted by WND.
More than 70,000 have signed an online petition asking Verizon to stop funding the Scouts.
Spokeswoman Ellen Yu offered only a statement to WND, saying the Verizon Foundation “does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, age, religion, national or ethnic origin or physical disability.”
“As a company with a highly diverse workforce serving an equally diverse set of customers, Verizon through its foundation supports a wide range of programs through direct and matching grants that benefit diverse communities, including minorities, veterans, gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender and others,” the statement said. “The Verizon Foundation expects all of its grant recipients to comply with all applicable laws, including those governing tax-exempt status and non-discrimination laws.”
Jim Nawrocki, a vice president for communications for the Wells Fargo Foundation, told WND the banking giant was aware of the Wednesday vote but had no comment.
However, he said the foundation’s “position with respect to the Boy Scouts of America has been, and continues to be, that we support the Boy Scouts and the good work they do for our communities, but we do not fund general Boy Scout operations or programs.”
“This is consistent with our commitment to diversity and inclusion and our opposition to discrimination,” he said.
Under the Scouts national organization are nearly 300 regional councils that oversee some 116,000 local troops. The proposed new policy, announced last week, would allow local scouting organizations to set their own leadership and membership rules.
The Boy Scouts’ National Council and its local councils receive grants from foundations. The National Council says it uses its funds for development of program materials and resources; infrastructure support for local councils such as maintaining membership database and reporting functions; development of professional and volunteer training materials; and salaries and benefits for employees.
According to its website, BSA reported revenue of $201.5 million in 2011, including $61 million in contributions and bequests.
Nawrocki said that while Wells Fargo does not fund general Boy Scout operations and programs, it does fund the Scouts’ Learning for Life and Exploring programs, which have explicit non-discrimination policies.
Learning for Life is a pre-kindergarten-through-grade-12 program that provides character education, “bullying prevention” and related “life skills training.”
Exploring provides mentoring, internship and community service opportunities for 14- to 20-year-olds.
“We have carefully reviewed the eligibility requirements for these two programs to ensure that they do not exclude participants and volunteers,” the Wells Fargo spokesman said. “We have no plans to stop this funding. At the local level, we believe our local business leaders make the best possible decisions for their communities and can choose to support any scout programs that meet our commitment to diversity.”
About 70 percent of local scouting troops are sponsored by churches, which contribute funding along with facilities and other resources. The biggest supporter is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Mormons.
LDS officials have declined to comment on the Wednesday vote. But when the Scouts policy was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2000, an LDS attorney wrote that the Mormon church would “withdraw from Scouting if it were compelled to accept openly homosexual Scout leaders.”
The second biggest church supporter of Scouting, the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, also has declined to comment ahead of the vote.
But the Southern Baptist Convention has urged congregations to pray that board members will retain the Scouts policy.
Frank S. Page, head of the convention’s executive committee, said if the policy is changed, he expects an exodus from the Scouts.
“I think there are a lot of parents and students who will make the decision to look for other organizations that are more in line with the principles that they espouse,” he said, according to NBC News.
WND reported yesterday that many Scout leaders, from the national organization to the troop level, have said they will resign if the proposed policy is passed.
‘Our core beliefs’
The September report posted by the Huffington Post was published in collaboration with The American Independent. It called out Intel, UPS, 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.
Along with UPS, Intel cut off its funding to the Scouts after the report. 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.
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.
Meanwhile, two prominent board members – including an adviser to the Obama White House – have stated their intent to change the policy, Randall Stephenson of AT&T, who is next in line to become BSA national chairman, and James Turley of Ernst & Young.
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 has been 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.
In a Super Bowl pre-game interview Sunday with CBS’s Scott Pelley, Obama affirmed the Boy Scouts should be open to “gays.”
“I think that my attitude is that gays and lesbians should have access and opportunity the same way everybody else does in every institution and walk of life,” he said.
Obama called the Scouts “a great institution” that is “promoting young people and exposing them to opportunities and leadership that will serve people for the rest of their lives, and I think nobody should be barred from that.”
The FRC’s Peter Sprigg discussed the Boy Scouts on CNN:
The White House said last August that Obama opposed the organization's ban.
In contrast, in a speech to a group of Scouts in Texas Saturday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican presidential candidate last year, urged the organization to not change its policy.
“Hopefully the board will follow their historic position of keeping the Scouts strongly supportive of the values that make scouting this very important and impactful organization,” Perry said, according to the Associated Press.
An Eagle Scout, Perry wrote a book in 2008 titled “On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting For.”
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said in an email Monday to supporters that thousands of Americans have contacted the BSA's national office and board members, urging them "not to cave-in to homosexual activists and corporations which have been threatening the organization's funding."
Perkins said BSA leaders "have no doubt realized that their proposed decision might alienate more than it appeases."
FRC and 41 other allied organizations Monday released a half-page national advertisement in USA Today calling for the Scouts to "stand strong."
"Every American who believes in freedom of thought and religious liberty should be alarmed by the attacks upon the Boy Scouts, who have had core convictions about morality for 100 years," the ad said. "Every Scout takes an oath to keep himself 'morally straight.' The Boy Scouts have every right to include sexual conduct in how they define that term."
"Join your voice with ours in sending a message that the organization should model the conviction it has espoused for over a century – that timeless values really are timeless, and don't change because of threats from corporations and homosexual activists."
Meanwhile, homosexual-rights activist George Takei, who played Mr. Sulu in the Star Trek TV series, is urging opponents of the Scouts policy to hit their "BATTLESTATIONS!" and "flood" the lines at BSA headquarters with thousands of calls.