By Rick Dandes
The Daily Item
SUNBURY — The Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way board voted Tuesday to withhold $11,000 in discretionary funding to the Susquehanna Council of Boy Scouts of America after the national Scouting organization voted last month to allow openly gay youths as members, but not openly gay adults.
“Are we upset by their decision to withhold funds?” asked John Brennan, executive of the Susquehanna Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
“Yes, we are.”
But Brennan hoped that any decision made by the national organization would not detract from the good, overall character-building work done by his regional group of Scout leaders.
Keri Albright, president and CEO of the Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way, said: “We applaud the Boy Scout organization for including gay youth. But without any rationale, they’ve excluded gay adults.”
United Way, she said, has a diversity and inclusion policy, meaning resources will support and fund partners that provide programs to individuals regardless of sexual orientation, among other factors.
The majority of the United Way board did not think the Susquehanna Council’s policy met United Way’s standards and mission, Albright said.
“It’s a reality that some discrimination is still lawful, including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way has been distributing donations that began in March specifically designated to the Susquehanna Council, and will continue to do so, until those designations are paid in full, Albright said.
United Way will also continue to honor designations specifically to the Boys Scouts in future campaigns, and Brennan hopes individuals will donate to his local chapter in that fashion. The application process reopens annually.
“People ask us, ‘Why stop funding the Boy Scouts now?’” said Eric Rowe, United Way board chairman. “We’ve long funded the local council on the belief — and through conversations — that they don’t discriminate. But when asked if they would state that publicly, they declined. As a board, we’re also thinking about the young Scout with a gay parent who wants to be a volunteer leader. The message that’s being sent to that kid now is that his dad is not OK if he’s gay, perpetuating a stereotype that United Way can’t support.”
Said Albright: “The Boy Scouts undeniably have a long history of positively affecting both youth and adults, so this decision is less about other organizations and more about how Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way will lead in the communities we serve.
“We fund programs that reflect the value and practice of welcoming people of diverse backgrounds. We’re not straight adults or gay adults. We’re adults.”