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 3:27 PM ET

Bucking the policy
Not all scout troops and councils are abiding by the national Boy Scouts’ policy.

After the Boy Scouts of America announced they were keeping the ban on gay scouts, several Boy Scout affiliates announced their opposition.

In July, an Amherst, Mass., troop sent a letter to the local papers announcing its intention to allow gay scouts.
"We want to reassure you, our friends, neighbors and colleagues, that local Boy Scouts Troop 500 in Amherst does not support BSA's policy," the letter states. "Troop 500 invites the participation of all interested 11-to-17-year-old boys and their parents or guardians without regard to sexual orientation."

In August, a separate Massachusetts Cub Scout pack announced it would allow gays to be members and adopted a “Policy of Acceptance” that states the pack will “openly reject the national policy put forth by Boy Scouts of America barring gay boys from membership and gay or lesbian adults from serving as leaders.”

Also in August, a California Cub Scout pack publicly opposed the national policy, and another troop in New York City told the Wall Street Journal that it would not discriminate against gays.

A handful of regional councils located in liberal parts of the country have also rejected the policy.  

The Minuteman Council in Boston added sexual orientation to its nondiscrimination policy several years ago. Originally, the council’s 2001 policy allowed gays to serve in the Boy Scouts as long as they weren’t open about it. When the Boy Scouts affirmed the current policy, the council issued a statement disclosing its current nondiscrimination policy that includes openly gay scouts and leaders.

The Connecticut Rivers Council has routinely signed a statement with the United Way declaring that it will not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, according to a WTXX-TV report.

Corporate donations to those councils and troops appear to have been fairly small. In Minnesota, however, an inclusive scout council has received the bulk of funding from three of the top 50 corporate foundations.

The Northern Star Council, which covers the Twin Cities and western Wisconsin, has been inclusive for more than a decade. A spokesman for the council told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the announcement by the national Boy Scouts would not cause that to change.

"We're a reflection of the community," spokesman Kent York told the paper. "Our commitment has been to reach out to all young people and have a positive influence."

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.



The Advocate partnered with The American Independent to bring you this story. The American Independent is a progressive nonprofit news organization committed to impact journalism.

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