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United Way pulls funds from scouts Pa. groups lose thousands over gay discrimination.

By Linda K. Harris
Inquirer Staff Writer

CHARLES FOX / Inquirer

Gregory Lattera was ousted from the Cradle of Liberty Council after announcing that he was gay. The group succumbed from pressure from the national council to revoke a new antidiscrimination policy regarding sexual orientation.

After 80 years of providing financial support to local Boy Scout groups, the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania voted yesterday to cancel all funding to the local scouts because of their policy of discriminating against gays.

"It was not an easy meeting," said Christine James-Brown, United Way president. "There was a strong undercurrent of emotion in the room."

The United Way voted to withhold the second-half payment of a $400,862 grant to the Cradle of Liberty Council, the nation's third-largest, serving 87,000 youths in Philadelphia, Delaware and Montgomery Counties. The United Way's contribution represents a substantial portion of the Cradle of Liberty's $6.2 million yearly budget.

The United Way also voted to withhold the second half of a $17,901 grant to the Boy Scouts' Chester County Council for the same reason.

James-Brown said the rest of the grants would be held until the end of the year, to see whether the Boy Scouts could bring their policies into compliance with the United Way's nondiscrimination policies.

William T. Dwyer III, executive director of the Cradle of Liberty Council, could not be reached for comment yesterday. David H. Lipson Jr., the local council's board chairman, also could not be reached.

James-Brown said she was able to reach Dwyer by cellular phone after the meeting to advise him of the decision. She said Dwyer was very disappointed.

Stacey L. Sobel, executive director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights in Philadelphia, hailed the decision.

"I think this was difficult for United Way, but I think they made the right decision," Sobel said. "If they provided funding to the Boy Scouts, it would undermine their antidiscrimination policy."

In June 2000, a divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in the case of a New Jersey assistant scoutmaster who was expelled for being gay, that the Boy Scouts had the right to bar homosexuals as troop leaders. The national Boy Scouts viewed that as a victory.

The Cradle of Liberty Council voted unanimously in May to adopt an antidiscrimination policy regarding sexual orientation. The move was directly related to concerns that had been the subject of negotiations for two years with United Way.

But when the national Boy Scouts organization learned of the local council's decision, it immediately went on the attack. The national council threatened to revoke the Cradle of Liberty Council's charter and to replace the board.

The local council succumbed to the pressure and ousted a South Philadelphia Life Scout, Gregory Lattera, who announced he was gay.

On June 9, national scout executive Roy L. Williams issued a nationally circulated memo saying the Cradle of Liberty Council was in compliance with the national policy.

"As a condition of their charter, no local council is permitted to depart from [Boy Scout of America] membership policies. We are unaware of any council that is not in compliance," the memo stated.

That turnabout on policy, however, already has cost the Cradle of Liberty $100,000. In June, the Pew Charitable Trusts killed a grant for that amount because of the policy change.

In addition to the monetary losses, the City of Philadelphia is looking into whether it wants to continue to let the Cradle of Liberty Council use the headquarters building, which the city owns and which sits on city-owned land.

In 1928, City Council passed an ordinance allowing the Boy Scouts to build a headquarters at 22d and Winter Streets on city land. The ordinance states that once the building was erected, it would become the property of the city. The ordinance also required that the property be surrendered if the city gave one year's notice.

The Mayor's Office yesterday did not return phone calls on the matter.

Since the issue of discrimination became public locally in late spring, the city's law office has been researching options about the Boy Scouts headquarters.

Note from Margaret Downey:

The above article states that the decision to stop funding the BSA centers around the national policy to oust gay scouts. There is no mention of the discrimination waged against the non-theist community. I am asking once again that readers remind the Philadelphia Inquirer, journalist, Linda K. Harris that nontheists are also targeted by the BSA. Just a few weeks ago the BSA booted another Atheist teen (state of Washington, First name of Andy)

E-mail address

The Philadelphia Inquirer
Letters to the Editor
Box 41705
Philadelphia, PA 19101
E-mail: <A HREF=""></A>

Phone: (215) 854-4483
Journalist, Linda K. Harris

Phone: (215) 854-4417

This from FSGP member Bill Brown:

I have sent the United Way an email congratulating them on their stand against discrimination by withholding funding from the local Boy Scout council. Their email address is:

Here is another interesting ruling from San Diego:

"In San Diego a judge has ruled that the Boy Scouts' use of Balboa Park land is unconstitutional, citing that the use violates separation of church and state. U.S. District Judge Napoleon Jones Jr. said the leasing of 18-acre Camp Balboa in Balboa Park violates provisions in the U.S. and state constitutions. Jones said the Boy Scouts are a religious organization because the Scouts require members to profess a belief in God. A lawyer for the ACLU, Jordan Budd, said the city council should cancel its lease with the Scouts unless the Scouts change their policies against admitting homosexuals and requiring members to express a belief in God. San Diego Union-Tribune"

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