BSA Council Loses UW Funding
Anti-gay policy blocks funding: The Portland-area United Way pulls support for the Boy Scouts of America.
Salem Statesman Journal
April 25, 2003
PORTLAND - The Boy
Scouts of America will not receive regular contributions from the United Way of the Columbia-Willamette so long as the Scouts exclude gays.
Beginning in July 2004, organizations that receive donations raised by the United Way chapter must have a nondiscrimination policy or certify that they don't discriminate.
The Boy Scouts prohibit gay leaders, resulting in years of debate across the country about United Way
contributions. Locally, the controversy caused a Multnomah County commissioner to resign from the United Way board and brought threats from elected officials to stop payroll deduction campaigns.
Stacey Graham, United Way's vice president of marketing and communications, said the new policy was developed as part of the charity's revised strategic plan and was not aimed at the Boy Scouts.
isn't about us not funding someone," Graham said. "It's about how we're continuing to clarify what the new United Way is all about. We've been taking a look at a lot of our policies, and it was time to make some changes."
The United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley, which covers the Salem area, visited this issue in January. The board of directors added sexual orientation to its nondiscrimination policy
for its funding agencies, but made an exception for the Boy Scouts.
Board members said the exception is because the Boy Scouts provide a good service in the community. Board members also say they are not aware of any discrimination against gays by Boy Scout troops in this area. Paul Krissel, the board's president elect, said if discrimination arises, the board may revisit the decision.
"Everybody agreed that, in general and on principle, we should require that agencies that receive money from us should not discriminate based on sexual orientation," he said.
The board of directors for the United Way of the Columbia-Willamette voted in a private meeting Tuesday to adopt the new policy. Before the vote, the chapter had "strongly urged" its partners not to discriminate.
"We're disappointed, and we think it's the wrong thing to do," said Don Cornell, director of field services for the Cascade Pacific Council of the Boy Scouts, which serves about 53,000 boys in Oregon and Washington.
Boy Scout vote lets adults win, but kids lose
April 25, 2003
S. Renee Mitchell
Homosexuals and folks of color spend a lot of time fussing about getting their civil rights. And rightly so.
But there's an unintended consequence to this king of the
minority hill game. Lately - in Portland anyway - when one group claims victory, the other loses ground.
Gay-rights activists, for instance, pressured the Portland School Board to keep military recruiters out of high schools for six years. The losers in that decision were mostly low-income or minority students needing discipline, direction and a chance to earn college tuition.
When United Way was pressured to dump the Boy Scouts as a funding partner, the losers - again - are poor and minority students. While trying to appease one group, the fund-raising agency let the other groups who are affected fall off the radar screen.
"If they had asked us, we would have said: 'Look. Look at the impact of what the organization does,'" says Don Cornell, field
services director for the regional Boy Scouts council.
"There's a lot of at-risk youth that we serve who can't afford to be in Scouting and this allows them to participate."
Boy Scouts may not accept gays, but it does a better job than many United Way agencies at reaching out to everybody else.
Its leaders encourage Latino kids in Clackamas County to play
soccer, take leadership-training seminars and stay in school. Another partnership at a Vancouver elementary school attracts mostly low-income boys. One in North Portland is run through churches and exposes high schoolers to camping for the first time.
The chapter's largest outreach program is in Northeast Portland. Participants, ages 13-21, concentrate on community-service projects. They call themselves the Venture Crew.
"To our kids, in an urban environment, Scouts are still considered hokey," says Craig Fondren of the Sabin Community Development Corp., which runs the 3-year-old program.
One project involved giving families computers and then showing them how to use them. Students also are working on a documentary about Vanport, an unincorporated city north of Portland
that was flooded 55 years ago. And they're planning their first soapbox derby off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard sometime next month.
In the summer, Venture Crew holds a three-day camp in a public park. Children get exposed to all of the typical camping activities, but they go home at the end of the day.
"We've been pleased that they've respected the fact that we
can live up to Scouting values, but we're very untraditional at delivering the service," Fondren says. "We give them the values without the religion."
All of the activities - including toys, games and food - are paid for by the Boy Scouts.
"We could not have afforded that," Fondren says. "They have brought to the table everything we've asked for."
But now, at least $110,000 of United Way funding that went directly to serving low-income and minority children will be cut because this private group excludes homosexual leaders.
"We don't know how today we're going to find the money," Cornell says, "but we will because we're not going to abandon these kids."
The United Way decision may be a victory for gay men and women. But it means something else to hundreds of boys who also deserve every opportunity to be all they can be: Equal rights isn't always equal or right.