When Boy Scouts of America delegates voted at last month’s National Council meeting to allow gay youth to become Scouts but to continue banning gay and lesbian adults, the organization put itself in a precarious position.
The Boy Scouts’ new policy has managed to infuriate groups that oppose and groups that embrace discrimination against LGBT people. Corporations and charitable organizations balked at the fact that the organization decided to continue to discriminate against adult members and troop leaders based on their sexual orientation. At the same time, conservative groups and some churches were irate that the Scouts would allow openly gay youth to join.
The result has been an exodus of support from both sides of the debate.
Caterpillar is the latest corporate sponsor of the Boy Scouts of America to pull its funding, stating, by way of explanation, that the Scouts’ new policy still discriminates against gay and lesbian adults.
Caterpillar, a manufacturer of land-moving equipment based in Peoria, Ill., announced in early June it would not be awarding its usual $25,000 to the local Boy Scout council.
While we applaud the decision by the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) that youth may no longer be denied membership on the basis of sexual orientation or preference, the fact remains that the BSA continues a policy that does not allow adult leaders who are open or avowed homosexuals,” Caterpillar said in a statement to the Peoria Journal Star. “Because this policy does not align with Caterpillar’s enterprise policies on discrimination against sexual minorities, the Caterpillar Foundation does not invest in the BSA.”
The American Independent reported earlier this year that Caterpillar was among 69 Fortune 500 companies giving a combined total of nearly $5.3 million to the Scouts in 2010, according to 2010 tax documents, the latest date tax information was available.
Responding to protests and petitions that followed The American Independent’s reporting, Intel, Merck, and the United Parcel Service said they were ending donations to the Boy Scouts. KeyBank told The American Independent in April that it was reconsidering its donations, as well.
In addition to Caterpillar, other charitable organizations have said they would no longer give money to the Boy Scouts following the recent policy change.
The Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way Board voted last Tuesday to withhold donations.
"We applaud the Boy Scout organization for including gay youth, but without any rationale, they've excluded gay adults," Keri Albright, president and CEO of Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way told Pennsylvania newspaper, The News-Item. "I've called the National Boy Scouts office and asked for an explanation on their revised policy but have received no response."
In New York, the United Way of the Valley and Greater Utica Area has also halted funding.
"Allowing opening gay youth into the Boy Scouts is a great step in the right direction," Brenda Episcopo, United Way Executive Director told WKTV,. "But it's still not fully inclusive, therefore they are not eligible for funding."
Over the last month, United Way chapters in Ohio and Pennsylvania have considered pulling funding because of the ban on gay and lesbian adults.
But while charitable donors have reacted to the Boy Scouts’ continued anti-gay policy by pulling funding, dozens of churches throughout the country have responded by canceling troop sponsorships and kicking troops out of their churches because of the Scouts' new policy allowing gay youth to be members.
Loss of sponsorship for the troops means the groups lose meeting space as well as organizing and outreach.
Dayton United Methodist Church in Lafayette, Ind., told the Boy Scout troop it sponsors to find a new home. In a statement to Fox 59 News, the church said, “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. We love all people, but we do not endorse all lifestyles. We wish only grace and peace for those who disagree with us.”
In Keller, Texas, a suburb outside of Fort Worth, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church has also decided to cut ties with its Boy Scout troop.
Monsignor James Hart, the priest in charge of the church, told parishioners in a letter last week that he thinks something “undesirable” will happen if gay and straight Scouts are “put together in overnight situations” – alluding in the previous paragraph to sex-abuse lawsuits.
[pullthis]"Given the facts of this known past, which as a Priest has broken my heart, do you honestly expect me to believe that when the time comes in the life of the Boy Scouts of America that there are 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17 year old boys put together in overnight situations, some of whom with a self-professed same-sex orientation and attraction, that nothing undesirable is going to happen?” Monsignor Hart asked.[/pullthis] “Would you have me run the risk, and use the souls of the boys involved, some of them likely your sons and grandsons, as part of the experiment? I cannot. I will not!”
The president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Fred Luter, said recently that his church is cutting ties with the Scouts.
In the Savannah, Ga., area, six to eight churches have cut ties to the Scouts, as reported by WSAV 3, as well as three Central Texas churches, as reported by the Austin American-StatesmanSeveral more in Alabama, have said they are done with the Scouts because the organization will allow gay youth to participate, reports Al.com.
"The Boy Scouts are in a tough place right now,” said Zach Wahls of Scouts for Equality in an email. “Until they have full inclusion, however, corporations like Caterpillar are doing the right thing by withholding funding.”
Wahls said that some religious denominations are rushing in to assist Scout troops that have been orphaned in the political crossfire. For example, the Episcopal Church has offered support, and some Catholic leaders have publicly stated that the new policy is not contrary to church teaching.
Wahls noted that other denominations have stepped up, as well.
We're glad that the United Church of Christ, a partner of Scouts for Equality, is stepping up to help Scouts that have been abandoned by anti-gay sponsors, but until we have full inclusion for adults, the BSA is still going to be sending a harmful message to youth."
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