Steven Spielberg - All Show, No Go!
by Margaret Downey
GREATER PHILADELPHIA STORY-January 2001
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In the May/June issue of The Greater Philadelphia Story I wrote an article ('Which Road Will Steven Spielberg
Take?') asking readers to write to Steven Spielberg. I turned to readers as a last resort in my effort to convince
Spielberg that he should dissociate himself from the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) due to their anti-gay and anti-Atheist
policies. Spielberg is both a member of the National Eagle Scout Association (NESA) and the BSA's National Advisory
Board. He is also a major contributor and lets BSA use his name in recruitment literature.
Since May, I have received forty-five copies of letters written to Spielberg. The number is not impressive,
but the passion that each writer expressed could be counted two-fold. Each letter was unique in its perspective
and I was very proud to have eloquent supporters on my side of the issue.
I am very grateful to those who took the time to write a letter to Spielberg. To those who have not written,
please know that it is not too late. You still can and should convey your opinion about Spielberg's equivocal stance;
his support of BSA tarnishes his reputation as an advocate for tolerance. He can get by with such hypocrisy if
only a small portion of a minority notice it.
What would happen to his reputation if more people knew about his affiliation with a group that advocates
bigotry' We can only speculate. After eight years of communicating with Spielberg's office regarding this issue,
I would have no sympathy if his affiliation with a discriminatory organization were to cause him embarrassment.
It is as if one lifted a Ku Klux Klansman's hood and found an affluent African-American wearing it. Spielberg's
support for BSA has become that incongruous.
So why doesn't Spielberg publicly denounce BSA' According to his personal assistant Marvin Levy, Spielberg's
BSA connection goes back to his childhood. He credits BSA activities as giving him the confidence to pursue a career
in movie making. Spielberg is only willing to give us a new statement. Responding to the forty-five people who
wrote, Spielberg sent the following:
I have consistently spoken out publicly and privately against intolerance and discrimination based on ethnic, religious,
racial, and sexual orientation. While I support the principles of Scouting, it does not imply that I support every
current policy. Although I have no direct active role in Boy Scouts, I encourage ' for the good of Scouting ' efforts
to end this intolerance and discrimination once and for all.
However laudable, Spielberg's statement means absolutely nothing without action. He did not resign his position
as a BSA Advisory Board Member to show his disapproval of the bigotry BSA espouses against Atheists and gays. He
remains on the Board as if to say that he is only kidding when he claims he has a problem with its policies.
According to Levy, Spielberg has not made one phone call to other BSA board members; he has not written
one letter to anyone at the BSA national office; and he has not attended one board meeting to voice his objection
to BSA discriminatory policies. After eight years of knowing all about the problem, Spielberg has yet to take a
positive action against BSA bigotry.
According to published reports, Spielberg also continues to contribute large sums of money to BSA. This
is a show of support, not a show of disgust.
Since Spielberg continues to go along with BSA policies and allows BSA to use his name, it is now obvious
that he does indeed support and advocate BSA policies.
The Atheist and gay communities have suffered an insult at Spielberg's all-show-and-no-go attitude. He
is quickly losing respect of many people who once held him in high esteem.
I expressed these sentiments to Levy a few months ago. The time had come for me to be stronger in my condemnation
of Spielberg's inaction. I may have burned some bridges but after eight years of reasoning there was nothing else
left to do. I had nothing to lose.
Recently, other developments prompted me to contact Levy again. In January I notified him that Reform Jewish
leaders publicly recommended that parents withdraw their children from Boy Scout chapters and that synagogues end
their sponsorship of Scout troops. In all, Jewish organizations sponsor 277 of BSA's 123,935 troops nationwide.
The Reform movement, which represents about 1,000 congregations and 40% of America's 6 million Jews, ordains openly
gay men as well as women to be rabbis.
My letter asked, 'For eight years Mr. Spielberg has ignored our pleas, but how can he ignore a call to
action from Reform Jewish leaders' What will it take for Mr. Spielberg to see that his inaction is totally out
of keeping with the thoughtfulness and integrity for which he has been known in the past' Will he be the last person
to disassociate himself from BSA prejudice?'
Shortly afterward, I notified Levy that BSA's NESA had revoked the membership of Mark LaFontaine (a
gay Eagle Scout and NESA member). Members of NESA need not be a member of BSA. The only requirement is that a person
has achieved the rank of Eagle. As a NESA member, I asked if Spielberg was proud of his association now.
Spielberg needs to be shown that his attempts to finesse this issue are not working. We are not satisfied
with just words and no action. Readers can write to:
Steven Spielberg c/o Marvin Levy at DreamWorks
P.O. Box 8520
Universal City, California 91608.