The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

March 21, 2013

United Way and diversity


---- — It is great news that the Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way is waiting for the Boy Scouts to change their formal policy banning gays from leadership positions before it releases funding to the local scouts. The United Way has a national policy that it does not support discriminatory policies in any recipient organization and the local chapter is following suit. Good for them.

Some other letter writers have said that since the Supreme Court does not include gays as a protected category where employment is concerned, that excluding gays from the Boy Scouts is not discrimination. However, national laws do extend protections to gays in a variety of ways. For example, openly and violently attacking a gay person can be categorized as a hate crime. The controversy over gay marriage shows that many people believe gays should have civil rights that are the same as straight people have. That the Supreme Court will not extend equal protection in hiring to gays simply means the most definitive standard of equal protection is not yet extended to this group.

I am puzzled by those who say the policy choice of the United Way represents bullying of another nonprofit organization. Any donor can designate their United Way gift should go to the Boy Scouts and it will be given to the organization. Like any other nonprofit organization, the Boy Scouts will consider how it wants to market its activities and services to its core constituencies. Its leaders will make a judgment about how it can most effectively attract resources.

Perhaps the Boy Scouts have decided anti-gay donors are more numerous than donors to the United Way. The United Way, meanwhile, is making its own judgment about who donates to them and how they can best attract donor dollars. This is not bullying, it's simply the fundraising market at work. I am likely to increase my contribution to the United Way because of the local board decision.

One of the main things alumni of the place I work tell us is that they regret not having more exposure to people who are different from themselves while they were young. Like it or not, when young people go into the work place they must be culturally competent, being open and accepting of people living in different religious traditions or who come from different racial or ethnic backgrounds or who have made different personal lifestyle choices. If they lack these skills they simply won't be as successful in adult life as people who have them. Boy Scouts is an excellent organization that for generations has prepared young people to be thoughtful, skilled, moral, and caring adults. Teaching young people to be comfortable with diversity ought to be a core value for Boy Scouts. We should encourage them in every way we can to be guided by values of tolerance and openness.

Carl Milofsky, Lewisburg