Susquehanna Valley United Way 'pauses' Boy Scout contribution until homosexual policy settled
SUNBURY - The Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way Board announced Friday it will be placing discretionary funding for the Susquehanna Council of Boy Scouts of America on "pause" while the national Boy Scouts of America organization concludes its review of a policy of "not granting membership to open or avowed homosexuals."
The action, which was unanimously approved Tuesday by the board, was taken in response to recent discussion at the national level of
the Boy Scouts of America and the withdrawal of support for the Boy Scouts of America by large corporations that have a long history of working with the United Way.
The decision also follows inquiries and discussion with both donors and regional Scout executives regarding the United Way's requirement that funded agencies have non-discrimination policies which disavow discrimination on the basis of several characteristics, including sexual orientation.
"I'm very hopeful the policy will change," Keri Albright, president and CEO of Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way, said Friday. "Once upon a time, slavery was the rule of the day, women couldn't vote and 'separate but equal' was okay. There comes a day when we have to change our policies that are exclusionary."
The board decided it was appropriate to set aside any additional funding pending the internal review by the Scouts at this time, she said.
Susquehanna Scouts executive Jon Brennan said Friday the local Boy Scouts chapter and the United Way have always had a strong relationship and he looks forward to continuing to have that relationship in the future.
Brennan said that since the local chapter is part of the national organization, it will adhere to whatever decision is made by the BSA's National Council at the annual meeting in May.
"I applaud that they're reviewing it. They're being forward thinking and progressive," said Brennan, who reserved further comment.
Decision in May
Last year, The United Way allocated $25,200 to local Scouts. Of that total, $8,200 came from private individuals donating to the Scouts through the United Way, which the organization will still deliver if specifically designated for the Boy Scouts, as they would for any other agency, Albright said.
However, the 2013 amount, which will not be made public until March 15, was placed in escrow until a decision is made.
Albright said the board has not made a decision on what to do with the funds if the national Boy Scouts organization continues to ban the membership of homosexuals. That decision will be discussed during a meeting in June, if necessary.
"That review is supposed to be concluded in early summer. If it goes the way most people in our region expect, United Way and Boy Scout policies should be fully aligned and all the funds will be shared," she said.
Based on long associations and personal affiliations with local Scouting, several members of the United Way board expressed appreciation for the leadership of the Susquehanna Council of the Boy Scouts of America and confidence that the local Boy Scouts council was completely inclusive.
'Do what's right'
Based on conversations Albright has had with local Boy Scouts leadership, she said the private policy of the Susquahanna Council is not to ask about or guess a person's sexual orientation, but she noted they still follow the national discriminatory practices publicly.
Not publicly welcoming gay adults and children is the same as not welcoming them, she said.
She said she understands there may be some criticism from those who support the current policies of the Boy Scouts, but she insisted the United Way must stand firm.
"We have to do what's right. I think it's wrong fundamentally and deeply insulting," Albright said.
She also noted that they will gain support if the Boy Scouts openly accept homosexuals; there are organizations and individuals who will not support the United Way because of the Boy Scouts current policy.
Your opinion counts
In the meantime, the national Boy Scouts of America organization is accepting and analyzing public input during the policy review through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brennan said he has not heard any similar announcements from Lower Anthracite Regional United Way or Clinton County United Way, both of which provide support like Great Susquehanna Valley does.
Also, he said, "I haven't had anyone reach out to us to say 'yea' or 'nay.' We haven't had an outpouring of the community one way or another. Most people recognize it is a nationally-based organization and it will be a national decision."
Of the 1,400 voting members of BSA's National Council that will decide on a resolution regarding "membership standards," three of those members will be from the Susquehanna Council.
Brennan would not provide their names, but their vote will be based upon the feedback they receive from the local area.
There is no pressure or official policy from the leaders of the local chapter to vote any certain way, he said.