The Advocate July/Aug 2022
Subscribe To
The Advocate
Scroll To Top

Corporations Giving Big Money to Boy Scouts Despite Antigay Policy


Boyscout Corporatex400
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.”

Boyscout Corporatex400
Enforcing the policy
Specific Boy Scout councils that have benefited from donations from these corporate foundations in the past have reportedly kicked out gay scouts and volunteers.

The Cradle of Liberty Council in Philadelphia voted in May 2003 to end its participation in the national policy of discrimination based on sexual orientation. But just weeks later, the council kicked out a scout named Greg Lattera after he told media outlets that he was an openly gay boy scout.

"He decided to hold a press conference to come out as a member of the gay community," William T. Dwyer, the chief executive of the council, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Our staff knew he was gay and never made a big deal about it. He decided to make a big deal about it. The "don't ask, don't tell" policy is pretty clear."

The Inquirer noted that the council’s policy had “no mention of 'don't ask, don't tell.'”

By that summer, the council had adopted a policy that stated: "Applications for leadership and membership do not inquire into sexual orientation. However, an individual who declares himself to be a homosexual would not be permitted to join Scouting.”

News outlets cited threats by the national Boy Scouts of America to revoke the council’s charter if it did not revert to the national policy on gays and scouting.

The council lost hundreds of thousands in grant funding from the United Way, Pew Charitable Trusts, and William Penn Foundation after it dismissed Lattera and changed the policy. The incident also spurred the Philadelphia City Council to review a 1928 agreement that lent the Boy Scout council city land for $1 a year. In 2006, the city raised the rent from $1 to a market rate of $200,000 on the Boy Scouts after the council failed to state that it would not discriminate based on sexual orientation. The Boy Scouts sued and won the right to remain in the building. In 2010, a jury sided with the Boy Scouts on free speech grounds.

Several corporate foundations donated to the Cradle of Liberty Council in 2010. Bank of America gave $1500; Verizon gave $250; and PNC gave $150. UPS appears to have given $5000 - the foundation’s tax form indicated a donation to “Boy Scouts - Cradle of” but the rest was cut off.

Other Boy Scout councils have also kicked out scouts in recent years while taking in funds from corporate foundations.

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.

Boyscout Corporatex400
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.

Pages

From our Sponsors

READER COMMENTS ()
    Watch Now: Pride Today
    Trending Stories & News

    Get the latest updates about monkeypox. Click here.