Corporate foundations have given millions to the Boy Scouts of America and its subdivisions in recent years despite that organization’s policy of excluding gays and lesbians. Many of those same foundations have policies against giving to organizations that discriminate based on sexual orientation.
Twenty-three of the top 50 corporate foundations, ranked by the Foundation Center in terms of total charitable giving, gave at least $10,000 each to the Boy Scouts in 2010, the most recent year for which data was available for most companies. Combined, they gave about $3.6 million.
Many household names are among the donors. The Intel Foundation gave the most — about $700,000 in 2010. The Verizon Foundation donated more than $300,000, and big banks — such as Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, and Bank of America — each gave more than $100,000.
Most of the corporate foundations refused to give definitive answers about whether they would continue supporting the Boy Scouts in the wake of the organization’s announcement that it would maintain its exclusionary policy. But one company, UPS, told The American Independent that the policy would not impact its donations to the Boy Scouts, which totaled close to $167,000 in 2010.
On July 17, the national Boy Scouts executive committee announced that a secret 11-member committee had decided to reaffirm the group’s exclusion of “homosexuals.” That group had been meeting since 2010.
The policy that was reaffirmed states: “While the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.”
The Boy Scouts reiterated the policy in 1991 after a gay scout in New Jersey came out on local television. That young man, James Dale, later sued the organization for discrimination, a case the Boy Scouts won at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000. In a 5-4 vote, the majority of justices decided that the Boy Scouts’ First Amendment right to “expressive association” allows the group to exclude members it does not want.
The policy excluding gay scouts was rewritten into its current form in 2004. The ban includes gay Boy Scout members, volunteers, and employees.
Ahead of the July announcement, the Boy Scouts had come under increasing pressure to change the policy. In April, a voting member of the Boy Scouts introduced a resolution to change the membership policy at the National Annual Meeting.
In May, Jennifer Tyrrell, a den mother from Ohio who was ousted last spring for being a lesbian, and Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout with two moms, offered the Boy Scouts National Annual Meeting a petition with 275,000 names urging a change to the policy.
Corporate foundations are major donors to the Boy Scouts of America and its subdivisions, such as regional councils and local troops. The American Independent reviewed the tax filings of the top 50 corporate foundations as ranked by the Foundation Center in terms of giving during 2010. Twenty-three provided at least $10,000 to the Boy Scouts; many of those same foundations also have policies that prohibit giving to organizations that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
These foundations had three methods of directing funds to the Boy Scouts. Some gave direct grants to the Boy Scouts. Some companies have a matching program and give a certain amount to an organization based on an individual employee’s donation. At times, that program was through the United Way. Some foundations also gave through volunteer programs, granting funds to an organization based on the number of hours individual employees volunteered for them.
The Boy Scouts, which claim more than 2.7 million youth members and more than one million adult members, have a complicated organizational structure. The National Council of the Boy Scouts of America governs scouting across the country and provides support to 295 local councils, which oversee scouting in their geographic area. Individual scouting units (Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs, for example) are operated by faith-based, civic, and educational organizations.
Corporate foundations gave to every level of the Boy Scouts infrastructure, though the bulk of the donations appear to have gone to regional councils and individual local troops rather than to the national headquarters.
A few Boy Scout troops and councils have publicly stated that they are refusing to comply with the national Boy Scouts of America policy of excluding gays from the organization. (In the past, the national organization has reportedly threatened to revoke the charters of Boy Scout entities that violate the policy.) In some cases, it was unclear to which Boy Scout entity the foundations gave. For example, the Wells Fargo Foundation’s tax documents only listed “Boy Scouts of America” with no additional information.
Most of the corporations contacted by The American Independent would not directly say whether the Boy Scouts’ affirmation of its discriminatory policy would impact grant funding. The UPS Foundation, however, indicated there would be no change in the in its grant-making. UPS gave around $167,000 to various Boy Scout entities in 2010, including $100,000 to the national organization and $30,000 to the Boy Scouts’ Atlanta Area Council. That council confirmed to TAI that it follows the national policy on sexual orientation.
In a statement to TAI, UPS International Public Relations Manager Kristen Petrella said the Boy Scouts’ decision to affirm their policy excluding “open or avowed homosexuals” will not change the company’s funding choices.
“This decision has not and will not impact The UPS Foundation's decision to provide funding to BSA although we evaluate each funding request on an individual basis,” said Petrella. “UPS has always supported and will continue to support youth development. A large number of UPS employees were involved with the Boy Scouts in their youth and some of them continue to serve as scout leaders today. UPS believes in supporting organizations with which its employees are involved.”
Petrella noted that the foundation has supported LGBT groups. “UPS believes in supporting all aspects of diversity. We support dozens of organizations regardless of race, gender, gender identity or sexual preference such as the Human Rights Campaign, and Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. In 2011, The UPS Foundation funded diversity-related projects totaling US $7 million to 173 organizations across the country.”
The UPS Foundation gave $100,000 to the Human Rights Campaign and $50,000 to PFLAG in 2010, and the corporation has an employee non-discrimination policy that covers sexual orientation.