Corporations Giving Big Money to Boy Scouts Despite Antigay Policy

The list of corporate donors to the Boy Scouts of America includes several that support anti-discrimination policies being inclusive of LGBT people.

BY Andy Birkey of The American Independent

September 18 2012 2:27 PM ET


Funding discrimination
Intel isn’t alone in funding the Boy Scouts despite having a policy that would appear to prohibit it.

The charitable giving arm of Aluminum producer Alcoa contributed $9,000 to the Rip Van Winkle Council of the Boy Scout in New York State (another payment of $6,000 was scheduled for 2011) and $25,000 to the “Boy Scouts of America” in 2010. The United Way of Ulster County, New York, ended a 40-year relationship with the Rip Van Winkle Council in 2004 because it refused to sign a non-discrimination statement that included sexual orientation, according to reporting at the time.

The Alcoa Foundation’s grant guidelines state that “in general” it does not make grants to “organizations whose policies or actions are inconsistent with Alcoa’s non-discrimination policy.”

A search of Alcoa’s website did not turn up a “non-discrimination policy,” but Alcoa has an equal opportunity policy that states:

“Alcoa reaffirms its policy to provide equal employment opportunity in recruiting, hiring, upgrading and promotion, conditions and privileges of employment, company-sponsored training, access to facilities, educational assistance, social and recreational programs, compensation, benefits, transfers, discipline, layoffs, recalls or termination of employment to all employees without discrimination because of race, color, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity / expression, veteran status, genetic information, sex or age (within statutory limits).”

The U.S. Bancorp Foundation — the charitable arm of U.S. Bank — gave about $143,000 in 2010, much of it through direct grants, including $78,000 in direct grants to the Western Colorado Council of the Boy Scouts of America. The rest came from an employee-matching grant program. The Western Colorado Council did not return a request for comment and has also declined other media outlets’ interview requests related to the ban on gays and lesbians.

The U.S. Bancorp Foundation’s website states: “The U.S. Bancorp Foundation charitable contributions program will not provide funding for ... organizations whose practices are not in keeping with the company's equal opportunity policy.”

According to U.S. Bank’s employee handbook (PDF):

“U.S. Bank prohibits both discrimination against and harassment of any employee or applicant, and ensures that all personnel practices are administered on individual merit and capability without regard to race, religion, color, age, sex, national origin or ancestry, sexual orientation including gender expression or identity, genetic information, disability, veteran status, or other factors identified and protected by law. These practices include, but are not limited to, recruitment, advertising, selection, performance management, compensation, training, placement, transfer, demotion, promotion, disciplinary action and termination.”

The Verizon Foundation bars funding for organizations that discriminate. According to the Verizon Foundation’s grant guidelines, in order to be “eligible for funding consideration, organizations must ... serve the community without discrimination on the basis of age, color, citizenship, disability, disabled veteran status, gender, race, religion, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, military service or status or Vietnam-era veteran status.”

But Verizon gave roughly $318,000 in 2010 to various Boy Scout entities.

Several other corporate foundations provided grants and funding to the Boy Scouts despite having a non-discrimination policy. GE Foundation gave about $68,000 in matching contributions to the Boy Scouts, but also has a policy (PDF) warning potential grantees that they will be ineligible if they “do not comply with GE’s non-discrimination policy,” which includes sexual orientation.  

The Eli Lilly and Company Foundation, the charitable arm of Eli Lilly and Company pharmaceuticals, gave a $100,000 grant to the Boy Scouts’ Crossroads of America Council in Indiana in 2010 as part of a $500,000 grant agreement. Lilly contributed another $30,500 to the Crossroads council and other local troops and councils in a volunteer matching program. According to Indianapolis Star columnist Ruth Holladay, the Crossroads of America Council excluded a gay parent from leadership activities in 2005 and acknowledged it adhered to the national policy. The council’s spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

Yet, Eli Lilly’s website states that “organizations that discriminate on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, age or religion” are “not supported by the Lilly Foundation as a matter of general policy.”

Many companies did not respond to requests for information specific to their foundations, including whether they had policies that prohibit funding groups that discriminate. However, all the corporations whose foundations gave to the Boy Scouts did have employment policies that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Among those were the Pfizer Foundation, which gave about $191,000 to the Boy Scouts, and the foundation of Valero Energy, an oil refinery company in Texas, which gave roughly $189,000.

Large financial services companies also gave to the Boy Scouts in 2010. The Wells Fargo Foundation gave close to $227,000, and the Bank of America Charitable Foundation gave about $240,000 to various Boy Scout entities.

(Wells Fargo, which merged with Wachovia in 2008, also administered the Wachovia-Wells Fargo Foundation, and that foundation gave an additional $288,000 to Boy Scout entities in 2010. According to that foundation’s tax documents, it has distributed 99 percent of its assets and will cease operations at the end of 2012.)

Both Wells Fargo and Bank of America had withdrawn funding for the Boy Scouts in the past.

According to an Associated Press report, Wells Fargo stopped funding the Boy Scouts in 1992 because the Boy Scouts’ policy conflicted with Wells Fargo’s non-discrimination policy.

That appears to have changed when Wells Fargo merged with Norwest Corp. in 1998, and area managers were charged with making funding decisions.

"Norwest saw a need to decentralize decision-making, and it was agreed to let local bank presidents decide if they want to donate to the Boy Scouts," said spokesman Larry Haeg, according to a Washington Times article published in 2000.

According to Wells Fargo spokesman Jim Nawrocki, that is the current policy of Wells Fargo. “Our position is that local leaders are in the best position to know the specific needs of their community,” he told TAI in an email.

Bank of America found itself the target of dueling boycotts in the summer of 1992. An anti-gay group, the American Family Association, led the initial boycott after the bank pledged to withhold funding to the Boy Scouts because of its policy banning gays.

The AFA said that Bank of America, along with Wells Fargo and Levis Strauss, was “aggressively promoting the homosexual lifestyle.” In a July 1992 press statement (PDF), AFA head Don Wildmon said, “The fact that they would penalize the Boy Scouts because they would not endorse homosexuality shows that they no longer want or desire the business of the overwhelming majority of Americans.”

Republican members of Congress circulated a letter to the Bank of America urging them to restore funding.

Bank of America relented and promised to continue funding the Boy Scouts, according to press reports at the time. That move sparked a new round of boycotts, this time by the LGBT community, but the bank stayed firm in its decision. Bank of America did not respond to repeated requests for information regarding its current policy.

Other corporate foundations giving at least $10,000 to the Boy Scouts in 2010 included the Abbott Fund at about $37,000, the Caterpillar Foundation at $25,000, Illinois Tool Works Foundation gave roughly $22,000, the Dow Chemical Company Foundation at $12,000, the Nationwide Insurance Foundation at about $46,000, the Monsanto Fund at about $55,000, the PNC Foundation at about $49,000, and the Allstate Fund at $21,000. The Emerson Charitable Trust, the philanthropic arm of Emerson Electric, gave $533,000 during its fiscal year ending September 30, 2010.

Attempts were made to contact each foundation, but many went unreturned. Some foundations said they would wait until the next grant cycle to determine if the Boy Scouts qualify for funding.

Fred Solomon, vice president of corporate communications for the PNC Financial Services Group, told TAI via email: “The PNC Foundation provides support based on the strength of a group's proposal and its alignment with the foundation's priorities. Without a specific funding proposal before it, the foundation would not speculate on the potential for future support.”

Kathleen Manning, public relations manager for the Monsanto Fund, said in an email statement, “No preemptive decisions to fund the group have been made and if we receive a grant request from the Boy Scouts of America again we will evaluate it at that time.”

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