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Triangle United Way, Occoneechee Boy Scouts Council in standoff At issue: signing policy of nondiscrimination, Raleigh, North Carolina

Raleigh News & Observer, March 29, 2002
Box 191, Raleigh, NC, 27602
(Fax: 919-829-4872)(E-Mail: )
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Triangle United Way, Boy Scouts council in standoff
At issue: signing policy of nondiscrimination
By Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Staff Writer

 Area Boy Scouts could lose Triangle United Way money unless leaders of the two organizations find a way for the Scouts to comply with a nondiscrimination policy.

 The Occoneechee Council of Boy Scouts of America refused to submit the required policy with its application for certification as a United Way agency and was denied certification March 14.

 Council officials are appealing the decision. A final decision is expected April 23 at the next Triangle United Way board meeting.

 The council, which has a $2.4 million budget this year, received about $448,000 from Triangle United Way last year. The council serves 21,000 boys in 12 counties, including Durham, Orange and Wake.

 If the council loses certification, Triangle United Way donors could still specify that their money go to the Scouts. But the Scouts would not receive money from general fund raising after July 2003.

 "United Way represents the entire community, and its charge is to deliver human services to everyone in the community," Triangle United Way board chairman Roger L. Perry said Thursday. "We just cannot be in a position of funding organizations that discriminate in providing those services."

 Council leaders decided not to submit to the policy because it could conflict with the Scouts' national charter, local council CEO Tom J. Dugger said. Under that charter, Boy Scouts of America reserves the right to exclude boys who are atheist or agnostic, for example. The same would apply to boys who are gay, national spokesman Greg Shields said.

 "Scouting has worked for 93 years ... and we simply feel we cannot change the bylaws," Dugger said.

 The matter had appeared resolved last year. After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2000 that the Scouts can exclude gay men as troop leaders, the United Way received some pressure to cut off funding.

 The Triangle United Way announced last May that it would require member agencies to offer services and programs to people regardless of sexual orientation. At the same time, it allowed agencies to exclude gays as employees and volunteers and still receive money.

 The United Way boards in Wake and Durham counties adopted similar standards. But the Orange County board adopted a broader policy that covers staff and volunteers. That meant that when their certification expires in July 2003, the Scouts would receive only designated donations in Orange County.

 Triangle United Way leaders said Dugger and other council leaders assured them they could comply with requirements in Durham and Wake.

 Dugger said he tried but never promised to do anything that would compromise the Scouts' charter.

 Dugger said the local Scouts saw designated donations rise after the United Way changed its policy and is confident donors will remain faithful should the organizations part ways. For a compromise, he said, Triangle United Way will have to give.

 That appears unlikely. Of 80 agencies that applied for certification this year, the Scouts council was the only one that did not submit a nondiscrimination policy, the United Way said. If it doesn't do so by the board meeting, then "almost certainly they will not be certified," Perry said.

Staff writer Molly Hennessy-Fiske can be reached at 829-4884 or

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