LEAKED MEMO FURTHER DIVIDES SCOUTS, UNITED WAY
by Ken McLaughlin
San Jose Mercury News, 11/14/92
United Way and Boy Scout officials can agree on one thing about this week's revelation that the two agencies were going their separate ways: Something went wrong, terribly
The result was a public relations disaster, as a purported deal to sever ties because of the Boy Scouts' exclusion of gays exploded into headlines and led to public denials by officials for both organizations.
The resolution of the crisis now seems unclear.
On Tuesday, the Mercury News obtained an internal United Way memorandum which said the Boy Scouts had proposed to cut ties with the charity by June
1996. This was seen as a way to resolve the fractious dispute over the Scouts' anti-gay policy.
A draft of the statement even said that United Way's board of directors would act on the Boy Scouts' proposal by Nov. 20, the next regularly scheduled meeting.
"We just made a mistake, and I assume full responsibility" for the memo becoming public, Perry VanDeventer, interim president of United Way of Santa Clara
County, said Friday.
As of now, the plan for resolving the crisis appears to be dead in the water. But a competing proposal for a United Way committee -- which could prove worse for the Scouts -- is still alive.
"Basically we still haven't received an offer from the Scouts, nor do I expect to receive anything," VanDeventer said.
"There is no proposal to act on," said Al Kugler,
Scout executive of the Stanford Area Council.
Privately, some United Way officials grumbled that the Scouts seemed to have reneged on a deal that seemed to be good for both parties -- a seemingly ingenious compromise of putting off the agencies' divorce for four years, by which time the issue could be resolved on a national level.
But the disclosure of the contingency plan -- as VanDeventer has called it -- has put the Boy Scouts on
the spot. And although local Boy Scout officials are sticking by previous statements that there never was a deal, the only issue now on the United Way board agenda next Friday is a recommendation by a committee to cut off funding of groups that discriminate against gays by June 1994 -- two years earlier than the contingency plan.
VanDeventer blamed the leak on carelessness in faxing the 1996 plan -- which he said was not "written in stone" -- to the 15 or
so members of a special public relations committee that would eventually have to deal with the Boy Scout issue.
"We sent a fax to a (phone) number that we were told was confidential but was not," he said. "I guarantee that we have to change our ground rules about what we fax... All it did was embarrass the Scouts and confuse the public."
On Thursday, the day the Mercury News story appeared, the two Scout
councils in Santa Clara County issued a joint press release saying that the "announcement leaked by the local United Way organization was inaccurate."
"The Boy Scouts of America does not wish to leave the United Way of Santa Clara County, and we will not abandon the beliefs and values that families have come to expect of us," Kugler was quoted as saying.
In a pointed reference to gay and lesbian groups that have
challenged the Scouts policy of not permitting gays in the organization, the statement maintained that special interest groups were challenging "scouting's tradition and standards of membership."
"If United Way of Santa Clara County decided to force special-interest values on all agencies funded by the group, the effect could be profound," Doug McDonald, Scout Executive of the Santa Clara County Council, said in the
On Friday, however, on assistant Scoutmaster from Palo Alto criticized the Scouts for not addressing the issue head on.
"There are many super-dedicated people in this organization...but the Boy Scouts has absolutely stonewalled on this entire thing," said Bob Smith, 47, a computer software company executive.
"Very sadly, the impression I have is of an organization that is not listening an
really doesn't want to hear what the community has to say," said Smith, and Eagle Scout who serves on United Way's 32-member ad hoc committee studying gay and lesbian issues.
Smith, who has a 16-year-old son in Scouting, said he has written dozens of letters to Scout officials trying to prompt an internal debate "on all levels of Scouting," but has "never received a response."
"The difference between
the United Way and the Boy Scouts has been night and day, " Smith said. "(The United Way panel) has had 60 meetings over the past year, and the Boy Scouts won't even discuss the issue."
Kugler said that he had discussed the issue with Smith, but that his view was a minority position among parents of Scouts.
"They believe that our policies are correct, but Bob personally believes that the (anti-gay)
policy should be changed," said Kugler. "But I think he's asking us to go beyond our mission. Our mission is to serve kids."
United Way Still Funds the Boy Scouts
May 1998 in Outnow
by: Jessica Lloyd-Rogers
United Way of Santa Clara County continues to fund two local Boy Scout Councils despite their now legally-sanctioned discrimination against gays and those who refuse to state a belief in God. An
agency spokeswoman said, "We haven't received any complaints."
On March 23, the California Supreme Court issued two opinions on two cases, both saying that the Boy Scouts did not fall under the Unruh Civil Rights Act which would forbid them to discriminate. Instead, the Court decided that forcing the Mount Diablo Council to accept openly gay Timothy Curran's application for assistant scout
master, and the Orange County Council to accept two brothers who refused to affirm a belief in God, would violate the councils' rights of intimate or expressive association under the first and fourteenth amendments of the US Constitution.
According to the spokeswoman, United Way funds both the Santa Clara County Council of the Boy Scouts of America and the Pacific
Skyline Council. Funding is generally issued for a two year period with the second year contingent on the total money raised by the annual United Way campaign. The funding period is fiscal year July 1 through June 30, 1998, meaning the Councils both come up for renewal this July.
The current funding for both Councils for one year is $200,077, with
the Santa Clara County Council receiving slightly more ($106,230) than the Pacific Skyline Council which received $99,847.
When asked if the funding might be questioned in light of the Supreme Court ruling and the Council's stated intentions to keep discriminating against gays, the spokeswoman quickly said that both Councils had signed a non-discrimination agreement that was on file
with the Agency. When it was pointed out that they had changed the agreement several years ago and were not signing the same non-discrimination agreement that other agencies signed, she said that she didn't know anything about it. She promised to look into it and report back. She never did and repeated calls went unanswered.
Scouts Call the Shots at United Way
In December of 1993, after months of delay, the Santa Clara County Council of the Boy Scouts of America signed the non-discrimination policy after changing it to suit their needs. United Way officials refused to release a copy of the agreement causing further tension between the gay and lesbian community and United Way.
At the time, Robert Smith, a former member of the United Way's Ad
Hoc Committee on Services for the Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual Communities said, "The Scouts are trying a triple end run: around Boy Scouts national, around the United Way; and around the gay, lesbian, and bisexual community."
Smith, who was also an assistant scoutmaster with the Stanford Area Council said that he was read a copy of the proposed changes
but never saw a copy of the document. His recollection was that the change consisted of adding one sentence which, when paraphrased, would read, "The BSA reserves the right to operate under the Constitution of the United States of America," or "The BSA abides by all laws under the Constitution." He said at the time that either statement could be seen as innocuous and inoffensive. Under then current interpretations, the Scouts could say that they were abiding
by the Constitution and therefore by the amended policy. Now, of course, they can claim the Supreme Court is on their side.
However, at the time, there was clearly some political maneuvering from within the United Way itself. The policy change was not brought to the full United Way board. Staff members maintained that the alterations made "no substantive change" to the meaning of
the policy, and it was reported that some board members and members of a specially formed ad hoc committee were prevented from viewing the policy.
Rocky History: Gay Community vs. United Way
In 1988 and 1989, United Way did a five year needs assessment which identified several key problems affecting the gay and lesbian
community including: the threat of physical harm to gays; discrimination based on sexual orientation; legal inequities faced by the community; substance abuse; AIDS; and homelessness, particularly of the gay youth. However, the UW did not respond with any kind of a plan.
In the summer of '91, several leaders from the gay community urged UW to take action on those needs already defined, and to conduct
further research into the needs, assess existing services to address those needs, and take steps to eliminate barriers to obtaining service. That fall, the ARIS board, an AIDS service agency which received funding from UW, requested that UW adopt policies prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment and provision of services.
United Way responded by agreeing to establish the Ad Hoc
Committee on Services for the Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual Communities. The committee was chaired by United Way board trustee and former Santa Clara County supervisor and San Jose city council member Susanne Wilson, and was charged with three tasks: 1) research the health and human service needs of the gay, lesbian and bisexual communities in Santa Clara county, and determine the current availability of services; 2) recommend the United Way's role in
addressing recognized needs and gaps in services; and 3) review the United Way's current affirmative action and non-discrimination policies in light of current federal, state, and local laws, and to recommend any changes to those policies.
The committee, composed of volunteers, corporate leaders, representatives from the gay community and United Way staff, divided into three groups, one per task.
Each group contributed its finding to the whole report, which was developed by the entire committee. The report was adopted in whole. The United Way Board followed the adoption by amending Article XI, Section 3 of the by-laws to include a new non-discrimination requirement that participating agencies would now have to agree in writing to either conform to or abide by.
The Board also made a special allocation of $200,000 for services to the gay community. About $122,000 of this money was allocated to the Billy DeFrank Lesbian and Gay Community Center in 1993, after a change in United Way leadership.
Scouts and the Ad Hoc Committee:
The Scouts' continued policy of discrimination against gays and the United Way's continued funding provoked an ongoing dialogue between the agency and the gay community. At the time, several people admitted that the ad hoc committee was pushed into existence as a result of the issues with the Scouts. However, when the committee was convened, members were told that they were not
to address the issues of the Scouts, but instead must only focus on the "gay issues." This was said despite the fact that one of the tasks was to "review the affirmative action and non-discrimination policies" of United Way.
According to one ad hoc committee member, "When it came down to it, the two sides that went before the board were the Boy Scouts and the ad hoc committee.
It was very hard to separate the non-discrimination policy issues from the Boy Scouts."
Although the Boy Scouts were repeatedly asked to participate in he committee's work, they refused, making their continued funding by the United Way and even more bitter pill for the community to swallow.
Adding to the bitterness was that fact that he United Way held several press conferences standing side by side with Scout officials making their support clear, while continually failing to mention the existence of the ad hoc committee tasked with the evaluation of the affirmative action and non-discrimination policies.
Some members of the committee said they felt that United Way had
created the committee as a pacifier to the gay community and felt free to use the committee to handle "damage control" in the community. Initial hope at the selection of Wilson as chair gave way to cynicism when it became clear to many that she was an advocate for the Scouts, and was ultimately more concerned with United Way funding issues than civil rights.
During the committee's term, the Scouts were funded yet again. At
the same time, funding was denied to the DeFrank Center. Members of the Center, BAYMEC, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and other community groups held a candlelight vigil to protest what they said was United Way's consistent track record in neglecting to fund programs dealing with gay issues.
Did "Hush Money" Quiet Concerns About BSA?
After a change in leadership, the DeFrank Center was funded in 1993 and has been consistently funded since then. While appreciative of the funding, one community member called it 'hush money,' saying as long as agencies serving the gay and lesbian community got their share they wouldn't worry too much about the continued funding of the Boy Scouts.
Others echo the community member, and former ad hoc committee member, who said, "For the United Way to take an agency that has said publicly and repeatedly that they will not accept homosexuals, let that agency design a non-discrimination policy to suit their bigoted needs, and then say that agency is in compliance shows how far United Way is from understanding the issue.
My civil rights are not a funding issue, and it appears the United Way still doesn't get it."
EDITORIAL - Demerit Badge
August 18, 2000
San Jose Mercury News
EDITORIAL - The opinion of the Mercury News
United Way appropriately decides to cut funding for local Boy Scouts because of discrimination against gays by the national organization
For seven years, United Way Silicon Valley has given a wink and a nod at the Boy Scouts of America's policy that discriminates against gays. Last week, the local United Way board ended the charade when it voted to cut funding for two local Boy Scout Councils.
The vote was appropriate, even gutsy. Given the United Way's own
struggle back from near-financial ruin over the past year, the board could have reasoned that the last thing it needed was another potential controversy.
Many churches and school groups have had long-standing ties with Scouting and, no doubt some will be irked by cuts in funding. For the past 75 years, United Way funding for the Scouts has benefited boys throughout the valley.
But the board's action was consistent with its promise to the community to make decisions evenhandedly and impartially, and it was fully consistent with the United Way's own non-discrimination policy.
In 1993, the board added sexual orientation to that policy. But every year it has granted a unique exemption for the Boy Scouts. (Girl
Scouts have no prohibition against hiring lesbian scout leaders.)
Then in June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled narrowly that the Boy Scouts, as a private organization, had the right to exclude gays. Scouts' lawyers had argued that homosexuality was incompatible with Scouting's core values. The United Way board already had decided to review its exemption process, but the Supreme Court's
decision -- and all the publicity surrounding the case -- forced its hand.
National Scouting's immutable position prevented the local Scout organizations from signing the United Way's non-discrimination pledge. The United Way board would have looked hypocritical if it failed to enforce it.
The Pacific Skyline Council, based in Palo Alto, was to receive $75
,000, and the Santa Clara County Council, based in San Jose, $85,000 from the United Way this year. The latter is a fraction of the organization's $2 million budget. It is also way down from the $450,000 donation -- nearly a quarter of its budget -- that the Santa Clara Council received in 1993. So the financial hit, though sudden and unexpected by the Scouts, will be far less today than it would have been then.
The United Way took another step that will soften the immediate impact. Along with the regular Boy Scout troops, the national Scouting organization runs a separate subsidiary. Learning for Life offers leadership curricula for schools and career exposure for teenagers through Explorer programs affiliated with police departments and companies.
Learning for Life is not bound by the Boy Scouts creed. The United
Way has agreed to shift most of the Scouts' allocations to these programs for one year.
United Way's new CEO, Greg Larson, an Eagle Scout himself, says that the board acted on principle, without weighing the impact of its decision on donations.
That's just as well, since the board has found itself in a no-win
situation. The 1993 board clearly feared a backlash from angry donors, one reason it put off the day of reckoning. But since then, there's been a discernible shift in views in the valley. A number of companies with workplace campaigns have extended benefits to partners of gay employees and have adopted strict anti-discrimination policies. With the Supreme Court ruling, some donors may have chosen to withhold donations if the United Way hadn't cut its funding.
In the end, the United Way did what was right. It's unfortunate that the local Scouting programs must bear the price for a position set by national headquarters. But if other funders of Scouts across America also express their firm disapproval, perhaps this policy of intolerance will end.