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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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Steven Spielberg - All Show, No Go!

by Margaret Downey

 More than 3,000 non-profit groups are earning direct rebates from Genuardi's Family Markets. More than 20 years ago, Genuardi's established a direct cash rebate program for non-profit groups, called the Community Cash Back Program. This program is designed to support the efforts of all participating non-profit groups by providing direct cash rebates for the groups to spend on worthy causes.

 Since 1976, the Genuardi's Community Cash Back Program has donated over $16 million to over 3,000 non-profit groups. Each group participates by collecting Genuardi's receipt tapes from members and other supporters, and then submitting these tapes to Genuardi's. The groups receive rebates of one percent of the total face value of the tapes (less tax).

 Schools, churches, synagogues, senior citizens groups, civic associations, educational organizations, Boy Scouts of America, and youth groups are examples of groups that participate. Some very active groups receive rebates from Genuardi's totaling hundreds or even thousands of dollars each year. Each group is free to spend the rebates as its members choose.

 The Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia (FSGP) has now joined the many other non-profit groups involved in Community Cash Back Program. We invite and encourage you to visit the Genuardi's Family Market nearest you. Please save your store receipts and periodically send them to FSGP. See the list below for a location near you or check your local yellow pages.

 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.




Scouting For All is not an alternative scouting program.
We are an education and advocacy organization reaching out to gay and nontheist youth and adults in our effort to get the Boy Scouts of America to rescind its exlusionary policy.

Any communications sent to Scouting for All or any Scouting for All representative may be published on the Scouting for All web site or in Scouting for All materials unless the communication specifically requests that it not be published.

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