United Way chapter to end agreement with Boy Scouts council

The United Way of the Capital Region says it will stop distributing funds to the Boy Scouts council for south-central Pennsylvania unless the group allows memberships for openly gay scouts.

The charity's board of directors on Friday voted not to renew its partnership agreement with Boy Scouts of America – New Birth of Freedom Council unless the council complies with UWCR's non-discrimination policy by January 1.

The New Birth of Freedom Council follows the directive of its national organization, which last month reaffirmed its policy of barring openly gay scouts and leaders.

“The last time we discussed the Boy Scouts' compliance with our non-discrimination policy was in 2000,” UWCR president and CEO Joseph Capita said in a news release. “Over the last 12 years our community has changed and although we accepted the ‘don't ask, don't tell' policy as meeting our non-discrimination policy 12 years ago, we no longer believe we can accept that position as complying with our policies.”

Capita said the money distributed by his organization is meant to serve all segments of the community. By deciding not to serve a portion of the community, he said the Boy Scouts are in conflict with United Way's policies.

According to the charity, the Boy Scouts council last year received $89,116 through United Way of the Capital Region, which represents 2.8 percent of the organization's operating budget.

“We understand the Boy Scouts of America will discuss this issue at a national meeting this fall,” Capita said. “If the organization votes to change its policy at that time, there will be no interruption in the Boy Scouts' partner agency status. We sincerely hope that happens.”

Under the current agreement, the organization will receive funding through March 31, 2013,.

The charity said the council will remain eligible to receive designations through UWCR's annual campaign in 2012 and beyond, as is any qualified non-profit organization.

Ronald M. Gardner Jr., Scout Executive of the council, issued the following statement in response to the vote:

“The New Birth of Freedom Council, Boy Scouts of America was deeply disappointed that the United Way of the Capital Region (UWCR) has chosen to terminate our longstanding positive relationship. Together, we have succeeded in bringing a values and character based program to the 11,300 youth of south central Pennsylvania that have a positive impact on our communities. Scouts are taught to be helpful, friendly, courteous and kind and to respect everyone, including those with different opinions. Scouting helps our youth become better citizens by learning and practicing the values of the Scout Oath and Scout Law and this preparation helps inspire a lifetime of character, leadership and service.

The New Birth of Freedom Council serves youth of all faiths, races and ethnic backgrounds, as well as young women, in its mission to help young people make ethical and moral choices throughout their lifetimes. Scouting has been part of the fabric of our community and our nation for more than 100 years.

It is important to note that the BSA membership policy has been in place for many years. To be clear, the BSA does not proactively inquire about anyone's sexual orientation, and the policy is not meant to be a commentary on social issues. Most of our youth members are under the age of 12 and the majority of parents we serve do not believe Scouting is the right forum for same-sex attraction to be introduced.

Prior to this decision, council leadership met extensively with UWCR leadership in an effort to address any questions they may have had. While we are disappointed in the UWCR's decision, we continue to believe that good people can personally disagree on this topic and still work together to accomplish the common good.

While we respect the UW's right to express its opinion on this single BSA policy, the decision will adversely impact children in south central Pennsylvania and Scouting's ability to teach vital lessons of service and leadership. While the council hopes to continue a dialogue with UWCR on this issue, our primary focus now shifts to addressing this significant gap in our budget so that we can continue providing meaningful programs to youth and the community.

The New Birth of Freedom Council is committed to continuing the positive influence of Scouting because the leaders produced through this great program will shape our future. We are confident the community at large will step in at this important time and help support our youth.”

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