Next year, the Capitol
Area Council of the Boy Scouts in Austin, Texas will lose nearly $160,000
in allocated funding from the United Way Capitol Area. On Thursday, November
13, the Boy Scouts and the United Way parted ways due to differences in the
two groups' non-discrimination policies.
In what was advertised as an amicable separation, the Austin United Way concluded
two years of Inclusiveness Committee meetings and focus groups by announcing
that the Boy Scouts of America's policies banning homosexual troop leaders
precludes it from being funded.
"We are one community, and we raise money from the entire community," Austin
United Way president Clarke Heidrick said. "We want to serve the entire community."
Thus, the Austin United Way has proceeded to cut off funding to its community's
most valuable and respected youth organization.
The Boy Scouts are not only important to Austin, Texas -- the Boy Scouts
have always been a vital partner with the United Way. In 1918, the Boy Scouts
of America was one of a dozen organizations that joined forces to found the
American Association for Community Organizations, the forerunner to the United
Way. For the past 75 years, the United Way and the Boy Scouts have been close-working
The Boy Scouts have come to rely heavily on funding from the United Way.
Since millions of American employers transfer employee charitable contributions
to the United Way, Boy Scouts of America has remained a popular recipient
for donor funds. In 1996, United Way chapters around the country pitched
in nearly $84 million for Boy Scouts programs like after-school activities,
camps, and merit badge courses.
Yet today, in nearly 70 communities across the country, United Way chapters
have excluded the Boy Scouts from their charity pools or are in the process
of altering policies to deny money to the Scouts. In major cities like Austin
where the Boy Scouts are especially indispensable to the character development
of disadvantaged children and the overall quality of life, funding is at
Without United Way funding, the Austin Capitol Area Boy Scout Council will
be forced to spend more time raising money from individual donors and less
time focusing on character development. In a letter to supporters of Scouting,
Austin Council Executive and CEO Thomas O. Varnell wrote that his administration
is forced to increase its 2004 Friends of Scouting fundraising goals by 29
As political correctness wreaks its havoc on America's communities, more
and more United Way chapters will be severing ties to the Boy Scouts. Americans
who contribute to their local United Way should be curious about how the
relationship between the United Way and the Boy Scouts affects their workplace
paycheck deductions or charitable giving.
The United Way insists that its 1,400 chapters are "independent" and "separately
incorporated," that it does not "dictate policy or funding decisions to local
United Ways." However, recent United Way of America internal memos and letters
suggest that the national headquarters of the United Way has taken an active,
strategic role in building pressure against the Boy Scouts.
American Civil Rights Union president Robert Carleson launched the Scouting
Legal Defense Fund (SLDF) in 2000 to ally with the Boy Scouts through legal
action and public education. The SLDF website at www.defendscouting.com
is the most comprehensive effort to expose United Way chapters that have
cut off funding to the Scouts. When Carleson contacted United Ways last year
to verify his information about specific United Way-Boy Scout relationships,
national United Way president Brian Gallagher immediately assumed the defensive,
warning Carleson to "reconsider your strategy and cease efforts to identify
or label United Way organizations."
Gallagher and his national staff formulated what he identified in a memo
to United Way local administrators around the nation as, "our initial strategy
to deal with this." Gallagher ordered that United Ways "not comply with [SLDF's]
request for information." Apparently there is a national "strategy" to "deal
with" issues involving the Boy Scouts.
the fact that Carleson was merely seeking to maintain accuracy in reporting
on local United Way chapters, Gallagher threatened "to take action to protect
the interests of our members if SLDF published "misrepresentations" about
local United Ways.
In a letter to the national Boy Scouts of America, Carleson warned of "discrimination
against the Scouts by local and possibly the headquarters of the United Way.
Their memo to their locals and their 'initial strategy' to put pressure on
you demonstrates to us that United Way headquarters is part of the problem."
United Way -- across the nation -- heightens its opposition to the Boy Scouts,
Americans who give to charities should be vigilant. The United Way, not the
Boy Scouts, should suffer the consequences of moral relativism.
Hans Zeiger is a Seattle Times
columnist and conservative activist. He is president of the Scout Honor Coalition
and a student at Hillsdale College in Michigan.