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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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United Way of Whatcom County, Bellingham, WA

Bellingham Herald, December 15, 2000 Bellingham, WA

United Way bans gay bias
SOCIAL ISSUES: Action could prevent local Boy Scouts from receiving more funds.
by Mark Porter

United Way of Whatcom County leaders approved a sweeping revision Thursday of the agency's non-discrimination policy by adding a sexual orientation clause prohibiting bias against gays.

The revision, completed in a simple majority vote by 37 board members, blocks partner agencies from discriminating against homosexuals in their programs, services, volunteers and staffing. Agency gives Scouts $37,000 Mt. Baker Council, Boy Scouts of America, currently receives 14 percent of its budget, or $37,000, from United Way of Whatcom County.

They will be eligible for funding from the 2000 campaign. Boy Scouts have currently garnered $33,000 in direct donor designations since the campaign began.

The board also added the term "disability" to the revised policy.

The decision apparently could prevent the Mt. Baker Council of the Boys Scouts of America from receiving further funding from the local United Way. The BSA currently has a policy that prevents homosexuals from serving as troop leaders.

Supporters of the non-discrimination policy lauded local United Way officials for "taking a stand" against bigotry. Local residents who publicly opposed any change say residents should "question" the United Way's motives.

"United Way's Community Safety Net should be the good Samaritan for the community, providing services without excluding any group of people," said Stan Snapp, who chaired the special committee formed in October to study a possible revision.

The committee heard from anti-discrimination advocates and local Boy Scouts supporters and reviewed letters and e-mails.

"Quite simply, this decision says United Way wants its partner agencies to be inclusive," said Yvonne Cartwright, local board chairwoman, in a prepared statement.

The committee formed only two weeks after Evergreen AIDS Foundation officials announced in September they would dissolve their affiliation in protest of the organization's acceptance of a partner agency -- Boy Scouts of America -- that discriminates against gays.

National and local criticism began after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that the Boy Scouts could bar homosexuals from serving as troop leaders, saying private groups have a right to associate with those who share their beliefs and ban those who don't.

United Way of King County, which has a special non-discrimination policy regarding sexual orientation, announced before the annual campaign started that it would limit Boy Scout grants that discriminate against homosexuals.

United Way of Whatcom County, which follows state and federal laws, had no such policies and was flooded with phone calls and e-mails in the aftermath of the King County decision.

A representative for local Boy Scout officials said Thursday afternoon he would have to sit down with the Mt. Baker Council volunteer board before making a statement about any United Way policy revision.

"There wouldn't be any declaration about it tonight (Thursday)," said Duane Rhodes, scout executive with the Mt. Baker Council, which oversees scouting in five counties, including Whatcom.

Local scouting programs would continue if the group's partner agency status changed, Rhodes said. People could also still make direct designations to the Boy Scouts. The organization could also raise funds raise throughout the year, including United Way's fall campaign, he said.

Vocal opponents of the decision said United Way's decision clears the way for the Boy Scouts to be axed as a partner agency.

"I think it is unfortunate that the United Way is not remaining true to the spirit of a charitable organization and is involving itself in the most politically controversial issue of our times," said Annetta Small of Bellingham.

Small, who runs a ministry that urges men and women to leave the homosexual lifestyle, was among several speakers who publicly urged local United Way officials three weeks ago to resist adding sexual orientation to a non-discrimination clause.

"Because of the implications of tonight's decision, I think the community should call into question any organization such as the Evergreen Aids Foundation and the United Way -- who would suggest the Boy Scouts of America are not worthy of community support," Small said. "To reduce or severely cut funding to a worthy organization such as the Boy Scouts of America is unthinkable," she added. Supporters welcomed the revision.

"The Evergreen AIDS Foundation recognizes the difficulty of taking a stand that is so truly the right stand in such a political environment," said Evergreen board president, N.F. Jackson, an Eagle Scout and Whatcom County Clerk.

"Sometimes the obvious takes great courage." Jackson applauded the board, adding, "United Way truly stands for united for all people now. Our community is a better place tonight because of the United Way of Whatcom County's courageous decision."

The board "agonized" over the decision, said executive director Mark Larson. The revision applies to all agencies, but won't take effect until the 2001 campaign, he said.

Officials have also increased the percentage of shrinkage -- the amount of the campaign not collected -- from 6 percent to 9 percent, in large part to the shut down at Georgia-Pacific West Inc., and the scouting controversy. "It's (possible backlash) hard to say," he said. "This is a tough decision and we know that not everybody is going to like it."

Reach Mark Porter at or call 715-2263.




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.

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