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City Council of Madison Wisconsin Says NO To Frunding The Boy Scouts of America As Long As It Continues To Discriminate

June 2, 2004

The city of Madison is requiring organizers of the nonprofit Rhythm & Booms celebration to stop donating Fourth of July proceeds to the local Boy Scouts.

The City Council on Tuesday approved a requirement that Madison Fireworks Fund Inc. not donate any profits from the Warner Park event to any group that discriminates "based on gender, identity or sexual orientation or any other city of Madison protected classes."

The intent is to stop funds from going to the Four Lakes Council Boy Scouts of America, which has faced controversy for years over a national Scout policy banning openly gay members.

The Scouts' national membership policy bans "avowed homosexuals." The Four Lakes Council was unsuccessful in asking the national organization to reconsider its policy.

The city of Madison gives $11,750 a year, plus at least $50,000 in donated police overtime costs, to Rhythm & Booms. Most of the money to fund the fireworks display and weekend event come from private donations.

During the festivities, donations are collected - some by Boy Scouts - and any extra profits go to local youth-oriented charities.

Despite the move, Four Lakes Council executive director Chuck Dobbins said hundreds of Boy Scouts will still help collect donations at Rhythm & Booms this year.

"That would not be our style, to stop helping," Dobbins said. "That would not be very Scout-like."

Rhythm & Booms organizers donated $22,818 in 2003 to area charities, including $2,500 to the Boy Scouts. The local Scouts received $3,500 in 2002.

Dobbins said the move surprised and disappointed him.

"It's money that we've been grateful to get," Dobbins said. "It's too bad the City Council feels that way."

Madison Ald. Steve Holtzman, 19th District, initially asked that Rhythm & Booms donate only to charities approved by United Way of Dane County. Holtzman said it was important to use a community standard for charities, as set by United Way.

"I don't want to focus on the Boy Scouts per se," Holtzman said before the meeting. "But the public should have the assurance that the funds are going to agencies that are United Way-approved."

United Way, which funds 254 local programs, adopted a nondiscrimination policy in 2001, which the Boy Scouts' policy violates. The local Boy Scouts stopped accepting United Way funding in 2002, losing at least
$75,000 a year.

Holtzman was fine with the amendment that created a more narrow focus to the donations, suggested by Council President Brenda Konkel. After the meeting, Konkel said, "It is unacceptable for the city to be supporting discrimination through the use of any of our funds."

City Attorney Michael May said if Rhythm & Boom organizers don't like the stipulation, they can ask for changes or not accept the city's money. Any changes to the contract would need to come before the City Council again,
May said.

Fireworks Fund President Terry Kelly could not be reached for comment.

Contact Lesley Rogers Barrett at ( or 252-6139

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