Corporations Giving Big Money to Boy Scouts Despite Antigay Policy
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.
The Intel Foundation also has a volunteer matching program that donates funds to a charity based an employee’s volunteer hours. That program has a similar policy. It says that the foundation disqualifies “organizations that discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, veteran, or disability statuses” from the grant program.
Yet, according to tax documents, the Intel Foundation gave about $700,000 to Boy Scout chapters in 2010. Those donations came exclusively through the employee volunteer matching program.
Of that, more than $320,000 went to Boy Scout troops and councils connected to the Mormon Church. TAI contacted two of the regional councils overseeing those Boy Scout troops, but those inquiries were not returned.
The LDS Church became formally affiliated with the Boy Scouts in 1913. According to figures on the Boy Scouts of America website, as of 2011, there were nearly 38,000 scouting units sponsored by the Latter Day Saints. That’s nearly 34 percent of all units nationwide.
And the LDS Church, which opposes “homosexual behavior,” holds sway with the Boy Scouts of America.
In a brief filed in the landmark case of Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, a lawyer for the LDS Church warned that the church would leave the scouts if gays were allowed to be scout leaders.
"If the appointment of scout leaders cannot be limited to those who live and affirm the sexual standards of BSA and its religious sponsors, the Scouting Movement as now constituted will cease to exist, “ wrote Von G. Keetch on behalf of the LDS Church and several other religious organizations in 2000 (PDF). “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — the largest single sponsor of Scouting units in the United States — would withdraw from Scouting if it were compelled to accept openly homosexual Scout leaders.”
When asked about the Intel’s funding policies, Intel Foundation executive director Wendy Ramage-Hawkins told TAI via email: “All organizations seeking financial support from the Intel Foundation are required to affirm their compliance with Intel's non-discrimination corporate donation policy. Organizations that cannot affirm their compliance will not receive funding from the Intel Foundation.”
Intel wouldn’t say whether or not it would continue to fund the Boy Scouts.
“We will know if and when they affirm our non-discrimination policy and request our support,” Ramage-Hawkins said.
She later clarified that the Intel Foundation will be asking for a statement of agreement with their nondiscrimination policy in the next grant cycle but had not done so in the past.
“We have not previously asked for affirmation, so this will be the first time the question is raised,” she said.
“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.”
In July, a 19-year-old who had previously attained the rank of Eagle Scout in the Pony Express Council in Missouri reportedly was removed from his job at a Boy Scout camp after coming out as gay. The US Bancorp Foundation gave that council $650 in 2010.
Another Boy Scout employee was fired in late-July in California, prompting 10 of his co-workers to resign in protest. The Golden Empire Council fired Eagle Scout Tim Griffin, who was one of the most senior employees at Camp Winton. Griffin and his fellow employees claim he was fired because he is gay. A spokesperson for the council told local media that he was let go over a dress code violation and his “mannerisms and behavior,” not because of his sexual orientation.
Intel gave $10,000 to the Golden Empire Council in 2010. That same year, Bank of America gave $931, Verizon gave $3,543, Monsanto gave $281, and Nationwide Insurance and Pfizer each gave $200.
In the fall of 2010, the Circle Ten Council of the Boy Scouts of America in Texas told the gay father of a Cub Scout that he could not be a member of the leadership team of his 9-year old son’s pack.
Several corporate foundations have given to the Circle Ten Council. In 2010, Verizon gave $4,440, Bank of America gave $3,940, Abbott gave $225, and Pfizer gave $140.
A Louisville scout leader, Greg Bourke, was asked to resign in August from his son’s troop after the Lincoln Heritage Council learned he was gay, according to the Courrier-Journal.
Bank of America gave the Lincoln Heritage Council $1,100 in 2010.
The Northern Star Council has an “inclusive leadership program” he said.
In an interview with South Florida Gay News, York said they haven’t seen any reprimand from the national Boy Scouts of America.
“We’re trying hard not to be in conflict with national. We’re continuing an approach which has worked in our community. This focus on sexual orientation is really outside the scope of our mission,” he said. “I’m sure that there is something [national] could do about it, but fortunately we haven’t found out what yet.”
Minnesota’s biggest corporate donors to the Boy Scouts have given much of their funding to the inclusive Northern Star Council.
General Mills, based in Minneapolis, gave $34,000 to different scout chapters through their corporate foundation in fiscal year 2010. The vast majority, $30,000, went to the Northern Star Council. In fiscal year 2009, General Mills gave $42,000 to the Scouts; again the majority of that, $40,000, went to the Northern Star Council.
“As a longstanding practice, organizations we support must sign an affirmation of nondiscrimination as a standard part of our grant making process,” the General Mills Foundation told TAI in a statement.
In 2010, the 3M Foundation gave about $279,000 to various BSA chapters across the country; nearly $265,000 of that went to the Northern Star Council.
The Medtronic Foundation gave $52,000 to the Boy Scouts of America during its fiscal year ending April 30, 2010. About $27,000 of that went directly to the Northern Star Council, and another $13,000 went to individual scout troops within the Northern Star Council.
In the past, Medtronic has been sharply critical of the national Boy Scouts’ exclusionary policy. In 2000, the foundation announced that its $1 million United Way contribution for the year would be directed away from the Boy Scouts of America.
"It is important that the gift reflects ... the values of our company and our commitment to nondiscrimination," Penny Hunt, former head of the foundation, told the Associated Press at the time.
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