When Keri Albright says something is "the most divisive issue for us," alarm bells sound. They do so because one of the things the United Way does better than anyone is raise funds for worthy organizations. When it faces something divisive, that means the backbone of its mission -- raising money -- is now hanging in the balance.
Last week Albright, the head of the Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way, said her group voted to take a stand. Since the United Way follows long-standing policy that it will not fund agencies which discriminate based on many issues, including sexual orientation, the local chapter decided to withhold parts of its funding to Boy Scouts of America.
The BSA, dragging its feet on a final decision on allowing avowed gay scouts and leaders into its ranks, is now one such organization whose funding is being measured.
Money donated to the United Way designated specifically for the Boy Scouts in the Susquehanna Valley will continue to flow to the group. However, by a unanimous vote of the board of directors, the GSVUW will now hold discretionary spending to the Scouts in an escrow fund until the national organization comes to a final decision later this spring.
It is a wise and appropriate measure at this time. It is a reasonable compromise at a time when reasonable compromises are difficult to come by in the United States.
While the local United Way's decision has garnered headlines, this is far from a local issue. It is one that has local consequences.
Locally, the talk of gay scouts or leaders in a non-issue. Scouts don't talk about it because no local scouts are being excluded.
But word that the local United Way has decided to withhold funds will certainly create discussion. Remember, however, the funds for scouting are still there and if the national organization agrees to end its archaic and exclusionary practice, the funds being held will be released.
Right now the national Boy Scout council is reviewing its policy on the matter. Its delay on a final decision, which was on the table a few weeks ago, has caused headaches at the local level.
This is all part of the process of reviewing the policy. The scouting community is taking its time to come to a final decision. You can't fault the United Way for doing the same.