Which Road Will Steven Spielberg Take
by Margaret Downey
GREATER PHILADELPHIA STORY-May 2000
For more that fifteen years, nontheists and gays have challenged the biased membership policies of Boy Scouts
of America (BSA). Since BSA has traditionally recruited in the public schools, accepted public funds from United
Way, maintained special and exclusive relationships with state and federal agencies through special charters, received
government gratuities, and held a Congressional charter empowering it to teach 'scoutcraft,' it has always been
presumed that BSA was a public organization. But a recent U. S. Supreme Court decision now holds that BSA is a
private 'expressive' organization, entitled to advocate its odd, retrograde viewpoint.
The BSA viewpoint is that nontheists and gays are morally corrupt and could subvert BSA's value system.
Consequently, Atheists and gays are not welcome in the BSA. The Supreme Court sanctioned BSA's discriminatory policy
under the rubric of 'freedom of association' even though there is no evidence whatsoever to justify BSA's claim
that nontheists and gays are immoral. That supposition is based on unsubstantiated stereotyping and pure prejudice.
The BSA is now happily marching along the low road of prejudice. Every BSA executive, National and Honorary
Officer, Advisory Board member, troop leader, scout, and volunteer must walk in a 'straight' line behind BSA leadership,
When Unitarian Scouts declared their disapproval of BSA's biased membership rules, BSA stripped them of
their religious emblems. It would come as no surprise were BSA to decide that Unitarians should 'take a hike' altogether.
So here we are at a fork in the road. The low road looks dark and dangerous. It is darkened with prejudice
and hatred. There are 'big-o-trees' lowering above all those who walk this trail. BSA leaders are not frightened
' they like this atmosphere of separatism, prejudgment, and stereotyping.
Then there is the high road. How many BSA executives, National and Honorary Officers, Advisory Council
members, troop leaders, scouts, and volunteers will take that road' Not many, I'm afraid.
For over seven years, I have tried to convince influential BSA affiliates to walk away from BSA prejudice.
I reached out to people such as U. S. Presidents Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, and Bill Clinton. I also contacted
movie producer Steven Spielberg and many famous businessmen. I asked these men to show their disapproval of BSA
membership policies by announcing they would disaffiliate themselves and cease financially supporting the BSA.
Not one of these men agreed to do so.
I was not surprised when U. S. presidents ignored my letters and phone calls. It was also not surprising
to get the cold shoulder from big-shot businessmen. It was a shock, however, that a man I respected for his anti-discrimination
movie messages and reputation for tolerance continued to financially support the BSA, maintain his position on
the BSA Advisory Council, and allow BSA to use his name in their literature.
In 1995 Spielberg released a somewhat supportive anti-discrimination statement. He said:
'I have spoken out publicly and privately against intolerance and discrimination based on ethnic, religious, racial,
and sexual orientation. While I support the principles of scouting, that does not imply that I support every current
policy. Although I have no direct active role in the Boy Scouts, I encourage efforts to end intolerance and discrimination
once and for all.'
In 1995 Spielberg was in the middle of a huge business deal with a gay producer. Was the motivation to finally
speak out against BSA discrimination to avoid bad publicity, or was Spielberg sincerely concerned' Spielberg released
that statement only after I had asked the gay community to help me put pressure on him ' a full three years after
I began communicating with his personal assistant, Marvin Levy.
Five years ago, Levy told me that Spielberg could possibly make a difference by working on the inside through
his BSA Advisory Council position. To date Levy admits that Spielberg has never made an attempt to change any BSA
policy or contact other Advisory Council members. He has remained a mute Advisory Council member throughout this
Levy contends that Spielberg is a BSA Council member in name only and that BSA never consults with him.
There is no excuse, however, for Spielberg to ignore the issue and not offer his opinion. BSA gladly accepts Spielberg's
money and uses his name. This says an awful lot about BSA board and council ethics.
The time has come for Spielberg to choose the road he will travel. If he continues to donate to the BSA,
stay on the BSA Advisory Council, and allows the BSA to use his name in their literature he will be traveling down
the bigotry trail.
Spielberg could become a leader against discrimination if he chooses to take the high road of tolerance.
Many other BSA supporters, board members, and affiliates would be inspired to pressure BSA into doing what is morally
correct ' show respect, acceptance, and tolerance for nontheists and gays.
As a last resort, I am asking readers of this article to write directly to Spielberg. Express your disappointment
that Spielberg continues to affiliate with a bigoted private group. His BSA affiliation is comparable to someone
who maintains a membership in a private country club that will not allow Jewish or Black members. Would Spielberg
do such a thing' Of course not. So why doesn't he stop funding the BSA, resign from the BSA Advisory Board, and
prevent the BSA from using his good name on advertisements and its literature?
Spielberg has been sitting on a fence post for over seven years. A letter writing campaign is needed to
push him off the post. The question will be, 'Which road will Spielberg travel once he is off the fence post?'
It might depend on how many people he hears from. We also know that he does not want his reputation ruined over
an issue such as this one. Make your feelings heard by writing a polite yet strong letter to Spielberg today. Send
your neatly typed or handwritten correspondence to:
100 Universal Plaza, Bungalow 477
Universal City, CA 91608
The Anti-Discrimination Support Network would appreciate receiving a copy of your correspondence. Please
send copies to:
Anti-Discrimination Support Network
c/o Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia
P.O. Box 242
Pocopson, Pa 19366
If you have any questions, please call Margaret Downey at (610) 793-2737 or E-mail to: