The nation's third-largest Boy Scout council has lost a $100,000 grant because of its refusal to let gays be members or leaders. Pew Charitable Trusts rescinded the grant it had awarded to Philadelphia's Cradle of Liberty Council, though it has been funding the group for decades. "It's a very difficult decision because we've been funding the local chapter for well over 50 years, but the board feels very strongly that this was an action we had to take," Pew president Rebecca Rimel said Monday. "We feel that all of our partners should be inclusive in their approach and should exercise tolerance and understanding."
After deciding last month that it would not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, the Cradle of Liberty Council bowed to pressure from the national organization this month. The national office had threatened to revoke Cradle of Liberty's charter and dismiss its directors if the council maintained a gay-inclusive policy. The new policy stipulates that the council, which serves Philadelphia and two suburban counties, will not ask individuals applying for membership or leadership positions about their sexual orientation but that it will not allow anyone who acknowledges being gay to become a member or leader. The board of the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania was scheduled to meet Wednesday to decide whether it wants to continue giving the Cradle of Liberty Council $400,000 a year in light of its antigay stance.
Pew's board decided to stop funding the council in December 2001 because of its discriminatory policy but moved forward with the $100,000 grant this month because the council had announced that it would no longer adhere to the national organization's position of excluding gays. "We wanted to show our support for the leadership the board was showing," Rimel said. But once she learned that the council had ousted an 18-year-old scout who had publicly acknowledged being gay, she moved to withhold the money.
Pew is not the first foundation to stop funding the council over the issue. William T. Dwyer III, executive director of the Cradle of Liberty Council, said the William Penn Foundation stopped funding the council in 1996 and that the Philadelphia Foundation followed suit two years ago. Both decisions were because of the council's exclusion of gays, Dwyer said. "It hurts kids that need it most," Dwyer said. "We've laid off staff and ceased several other programs. The toll is high."