CLEVELAND, Ohio — Officials with United Way of Greater Cleveland announced Tuesday they are moving to pull their funding next year from the Boy Scouts of America after the group recently reaffirmed its prohibition of openly gay youth and adults.
At issue is nearly $100,000 that goes to the Boy Scouts of America Greater Cleveland Council for Scoutreach, a program that brings scouting to about 1,600 inner-city youth with an eye on physical fitness and citizenship.
United Way is just one of several sources of funding for the program, a Boy Scout official said. United Way will continue to fund the program through June 30, 2013, but likely not after that because of the Boy Scouts ban on openly homosexual leaders and youth.
That ban violates a new United Way of Greater Cleveland equal opportunity and diversity policy.
Barry Norris, the top executive at the Boy Scouts Greater Cleveland Council, indicated he was saddened by the break. He said the two local institutions have been working together since 1913.
“You’re talking about a relationship that’s almost 100 years old,” Norris said.
The 81-member United Way board voted Sept. 12 to add sexual orientation to the policy that requires that people will be valued and given opportunity regardless of race, sex, age, disability, among other things. Though not all board members were present, the vote was unanimous, officials said.
The policy covers United Way and its partner organizations.
“The implication is that they’re not going to get funding,” said Bill Kitson, United Way’s president and chief executive officer. Kitson added that the decision on funding for the Boy Scouts won’t come until next spring, but added, “They’ve told us they’re not going to change. We’ve told them we’re not going to change.”
At the Boy Scouts, Norris said the Scoutreach program will continue, and hopefully grow as others step forward with funding.
“We respect the right United Way has to make their policy,” Norris said. “But we didn’t change our policy. They changed theirs.”
Norris said the organization’s stance isn’t meant to be a social commentary and it doesn’t inquire about anyone’s sexual orientation.
“Keep in mind that most of our youth members are under the age of 12,” Norris added. “And the majority of parents we serve do not believe that scouting is the right forum for same-sex attraction to be introduced and discussed. It’s just not in our purview.”
Paul Clark, board chairman of Greater Cleveland United Way, said the Boy Scouts of America is the only organization in the more than 100 programs that the local United Way funds that has a discriminatory policy. Clark is a regional president for PNC Bank.
Clark said United Way officials met with local Boy Scout leaders Monday and informed them of the move.
“I think they view their policy as one of protection,” Clark added. “I think the premise of the protection idea is that anyone who is homosexual is a pedophile. I abhor that. I think it’s indefensible.”
The announcement came as United Way of Greater Cleveland is kicking off its 2012 fundraising campaign with a goal of raising $41 million, officials said. Clark said his agency was hearing from donors, particularly young people and corporate leaders, who said the Boy Scouts policy on people who are openly gay differed from their workplace policy.
Clark indicated that the move would likely have a mixed effect on donations, with some people cutting their donations and others giving more.
Those who contribute to United Way can still designate the Boy Scouts on their donation form and the group will continue to receive those contributions, which total about $180,000 annually.
But an additional $100,000 that United Way provides through its allocation process –specifically for the Scoutreach program — is expected to cease July 1, 2013, the start of United Way’s new fiscal year.
The decision here follows similar funding cutoffs in a couple dozen other communities nationwide, although other reports are that the Scouts have continued to receive significant money from other sources.
The Scouts have been facing growing opposition after the national organization recently reaffirmed its exclusion of homosexuals from scouting. The Boy Scouts executive board in July had announced it would continue its policy of banning openly gay boys as well as gay adults from scouting.
The policy “reflects the beliefs and perspectives” of the organization, the Boy Scouts said in a news release from its headquarters in Irving, Texas. That policy had been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000.
The Boy Scouts reaffirming their ban on openly gay members came as the group braced itself for a wave of bad publicity that is expected from the release of decades of records of confirmed or alleged child molesters within the organization across the nation.
About 1,200 files dating from 1965 to 1985 are set to be publicly released in the next few weeks under a June order by the Oregon Supreme Court.
The Los Angeles Times reviewed some of those files and reported earlier this month that the Boy Scouts failed to report allegations of sex abuse of scouts by adult leaders and volunteers to police in hundreds of cases from 1970 to 1991.
In some cases, the Boy Scouts helped the accused “cover their tracks,” the paper said.
Paul Mones, a Portland, Oregon lawyer among those who represented the plantiff in the Oregon lawsuit, declined to comment specifically on the Boy Scouts ban, but said that it’s a myth that homosexuals pose more of a threat than others to children. Mones has represented children in abuse and molestation cases for 30 years.
“There’s nothing to that,” he said. “The reality is that we’re talking about people who are pedophiles. Unfortunately, vast numbers of [people] want to lump these two groups together. But one doesn’t have anything to do with the other.”