New United Way policy could cut Boy Scouts’ funding

By LESLIE MORIARTY

Herald Writer

EVERETT — The United Way of Snohomish County has adopted a policy to not fund groups that discriminate against any minority, including gays, a move that could cost the local Boy Scouts more than $127,000 a year.

By a 15-2 vote, the United Way board adopted a new nondiscrimination policy Tuesday that means no money will be contributed to any community organization or group that excludes anyone.

"The board affirmed today its values around discrimination," said Brent Stewart, president of the local United Way. "This vote was not a vote about the Boy Scouts, nor was it directed at any specific organization.

"Rather, it was a vote to say that the United Way supports everybody in the community having the right to participate in all groups and organizations."

Nonetheless, Duane Rhodes, scout executive with the Mount Baker Council, which includes Snohomish County, said the decision disappointed him.

"I am disappointed that the Snohomish County United Way would decide there is no place … for those faith-based, traditional family values that scouting upholds," Rhodes said.

The issue arose after the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed June 28 that the Boy Scouts have the right to bar homosexuals from membership and leadership.

Following that, the Mount Baker Council issued a written statement saying: "We believe avowed homosexuals do not provide a role model for Scouts that is consistent with the Scout Oath and Law. This is maintaining our moral standard, not practicing prejudice."

That set the question in motion of whether Scouts were discriminating and whether the United Way wanted to fund them.

Tuesday’s move won’t mean an immediate cutoff of United Way funds to the Scouts, or any other group now funded by Snohomish County United Way.

The local United Way operates on a fiscal year that ends June 30. The current allotted funding expires June 30, 2001.

But the next time each group, including the Scouts, will have to certify they have a nondiscrimination policy when requesting funds, Stewart said.

"Chances are they (the Scouts) won’t do that," said Mark Todd, United Way communications spokesman.

The local Scouts are receiving $127,849 from the United Way through June 30, 2001, Todd said. The council still may be funded in the subsequent yearlong cycle, because groups are being allowed a one-year grace period, he said.

Rhodes, who also serves on the local United Way executive directors board, said the Snohomish County United Way funding represents about 15 percent of the scouts’ operating budget in the county.

He noted that the Boy Scouts’ policy of not admitting gays "is a national policy, and all of the 320 local councils across the country are obligated to follow it."

He said the Mount Baker board would meet this week to discuss a response to the United Way move.

"I don’t think there is even the smallest chance that they will change," or deviate from the national anti-gay policy, he said.

While United Way executives say that the move is not aimed at the Scouts, Rhodes thinks differently.

He said the question was asked after the vote Tuesday whether the action meant that funding for places such as the Battered Women’s Task Force would now be in jeopardy because it serves only women and not men.

"The answer that was given is that it is a ‘targeted service,’" Rhodes said. "We were told that that is not discrimination.

"I’m not sure that’s the case. I think that ‘targeted services’ is just a euphemism to allow the United Way to serve the population it wants to serve and not serve the population is doesn’t want to serve."

Scouting groups are facing a similar funding cutoff in King County, where the United Way has a similar nondiscrimination policy.

A small number of other United Ways around the country are reducing or eliminating contributions to the Boy Scouts, said Philip Jones, a spokesman for United Way of America.

Jones emphasized that local United Way organizations set their own nondiscrimination policies.

Meanwhile, Scout Master Bob Hayman of Marysville said he hopes this gives the Mount Baker Council time to reconsider and adopt its own nondiscriminatory policy. He has supported scouting for years and supports tolerance.

"I hope the Scouts will change," he said. "It’s not a matter of funding. It’s a matter of being tolerant of all walks of life."

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