YORK, PENNSYLVANIA - On July 17, the Boy Scouts of America — concluding two years of study and deliberation — announced that it would deny membership to “open or avowed homosexuals,” reaffirming the organization’s long-standing national policy.
And now, that decision may have consequences.
United Way of the Capital Region, which oversees Cumberland, Dauphin and Perry counties, is considering withdrawing its funding from the regional scouting council, called New Birth of Freedom, over the policy.
On its face, it seems quite simple. Joe Capita, CEO of the Harrisburg-based United Way chapter, said the organization requires the agencies it funds to adhere to a non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation and it appears that, under the national policy, the regional Scouting council does not.
But it’s much more complicated than that.
“We talk to kids about tolerance and respecting others’ ideas, even if you disagree with them,” said Ron Gardner, CEO of the regional scouting council which oversees programs in central Pennsylvania, including York County. “We feel the issue (of sexual orientation) is something you take up with your family. We don’t want Scouting to be a forum to resolve these issues.”
It’s turning out that way, at least in part.
The Capital Region United Way’s board of directors will meet next week to discuss the issue and Capita said the organization is hoping to have it resolved by the end of the month. At stake is the $90,000 the United Way designates for the scouting council.
“It’s a difficult decision for us because we respect the Scouts, but we have that policy,” Capita said. “It’s not a reflection on the service they provide.”
New Birth of Freedom is based in Mechanicsburg and York and serves more than 11,000 Scouts in York, Dauphin, Cumberland, Perry and Franklin counties. It’s annual budget is about $3 million. Still, the $90,000 from the Capital Region United Way is a significant amount of money, Gardner said.
“It would have an impact on what we try to do,” Gardner said.
The issue is complicated by the fact that Scouting doesn’t actively ask Scouts or its leaders about sexual orientation, Gardner said, drawing comparisons with the U.S. military’s Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell policy.
“Most of the kids we serve are under the age of 12,” Gardner said. “I don’t know when they are ready for a discussion of this issue. We feel that parents know best.”
The United Way of York County is following what the Harrisburg-based chapter is doing, but it may not be an issue. The chapter contributed $166,000 to the Scouts last year.
Bob Woods, executive director of the York chapter, said while the chapter has a non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation, it does not require the agencies it works with to adhere to it.
“We’re all independent organizations,” he said. “It’s a local issue.”
from York Daily Record
Tags: boy scouts