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Activist Groups Urge Obama to Reject Boy Scout Honor

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Activist groups, including Scouting for All, urge President Obama not to accept the honorary Presidency of the Boy Scouts of America until they stop discriminating.

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Boy Scouts excluded from Medtronic gift

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Robert Franklin / Star Tribune

The company foundation of Medtronic Inc. will exclude the Boy Scouts of America from sharing in its $1 million-plus contribution to the United Way this year, the foundation said Wednesday. "It is important that the gift reflects ... the values of our
company and our commitment to nondiscrimination," said foundation executive director

Penny Hunt, referring to the Boy Scouts' national ban on openly gay leaders. She said the foundation's decision is supported by Bill George, the chief executive of Medtronic, the Fridley maker of medical devices, and board chairman of the United Way of Minneapolis Area. George also is a past United Way campaign chairman and, with his wife, Penny George, among million-dollar
donors to the organization. The foundation's position is among the latest Minnesota reactions to the Scouts' position and the U.S. Supreme Court's June decision upholding the Scouts' right to maintain it. Among others:

The United Way of Greater Duluth decided Tuesday night that it will cut off the Scouts' funding of about $30,000 a year. The Red Wing Human Rights Commission asked citizens to continue to support the United Way but to exclude the Boy Scouts from their donations, a position that provoked a lively public debate.

The Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District said it no longer will allow its schools to charter Boy Scout troops or distribute Boy Scout literature, although troops still may meet in schools and use student mailing lists for recruiting purposes. Neither the Minneapolis nor St. Paul United Way has cut off funds for Boy Scout organizations, although both have said they will
consider the Boy Scout matter in future allocations. Both have said individual donors may opt out -- or opt in -- for donations to a particular agency that receives United Way funds. Both groups are in mid-campaign, and it is too early to tell how many donors may exercise those options or what their impact might be. "We have a very positive relationship with the United Way of
Minneapolis and ... will continue to work with the United Way to support our efforts and to support the good things the United Way stands for," said David Dominick, director of field service for the Boy Scouts' west-metro-area Viking Council.

The council receives about $700,000 a year in United Way contributions, while the east-metro Indianhead Council receives about $450,000. At Medtronic, the amount of the foundation's gift depends on how much employees give. The company is winding up a "very vigorous" campaign in which contributions will exceed last year's amount, so the foundation will increase its giving, too, Hunt said.

The Boy Scouts provide valuable programs for young people, Hunt said, and the United Way is the best channel for assuring effective community philanthropy. But Medtronic prohibits discrimination on numerous grounds, including that of sexual orientation, and senior managers -- including George -- made "a thoughtful decision" to exclude the Scouts. Boy Scouts will remain eligible for another type of Medtronic donation, one in which the company will give $500 to an agency where an
employee volunteers for 40 hours or more in a 12-month period. A cutoff in Duluth In cutting off the Scouts' funding of about $30,000 a year, the Duluth United Way said its board determined that the Scouts' position "is in clear conflict" with its antidiscrimination agreements. The board issued a statement saying the Scouts provide valuable services to youth, but the United Way has "no choice [but to] honor its commitment to inclusiveness and access to human services for all members of this
community." The action will not affect money already committed to the Scouts or specifically designated for them. A debate in Red Wing In Red Wing, letter-writers to the daily Republican Eagle newspaper criticized the city Human Rights Commission's stance as "political-correctness police," a "radical left-wing agenda" and an endorsement of homosexuality. Dan Guida, the commission's chairman, responded that "in our country, discrimination is wrong and hurts all of us -- even when we don't know, understand or support the person being discriminated against."

Mayor Romeo Cyr said the commission's call to action was cleared by the City Council unanimously this month and again by a 6-2 vote last week after members got a lot of phone calls. Scouts and schools In the Burnsville District, schools won't be allowed to charter Scout troops or distribute Scout literature. School board president Vicki Roy said Superintendent Ben
Kanninen's decision "is upholding the policies the board set years and years ago. It would be akin to efforts some group made to
keep blacks out of organizations, and we would not have supported that."No other Twin Cities-area schools have taken similar actions, spokesmen for the Viking and Indianhead Boy Scout councils said. Representatives from the Scouts and the Burnsville School District stressed that the decision was a compromise, that the Scouts were consulted by the district and that relations
remain cordial between the two groups. While many of the district's schools host Scout meetings, only Harriet Bishop Elementary in Savage sponsors a charter, which agrees to support the principles of scouting. The chartered group, Cub Scout Pack 239, has regrouped and apparently will grow from 75 to more than 100 members, said Mary Wangerin, the pack's committee chairwoman. Roy also said she understood that last week's introductory Scout meetings in district schools attracted
record numbers.

-- Staff writer Norman Draper contributed to this report.
Robert Franklin can be contacted at (




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