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Local United Way decides to not continue funding local Boy Scouts

By DON SHIPMAN

It has been a few weeks since the Boy Scouts of America took an historic stand and voted to allow openly gay youths into the ranks of their organization.

It is a new step forward for equality, but the scouts are still not allowing opening gay adults to participate as scout leaders.

Now, that decision nationally is affecting funding for local troops.

In a bold move, the United Way of the Valley and Greater Utica Area made the decision to not move forward with funding programs that are governed by the Boy Scouts.


"Allowing opening gay youth into the Boy Scouts is a great step in the right direction," said Brenda Episcopo, United Way Executive Director. "But it's still not fully inclusive, therefore they are not eligible for funding."

The local United Way recently updated its diversity and anti-discrimination policy, one that now includes sexual orientation.

The new policy disqualifies the Boy Scouts and other organizations that exclude groups of people in any protected classes from applying for funding.

During the past funding cycle, which is two years, the local scouts received $60,000 for their Scout Reach efforts, which includes the Learning for Life program.

That program operates out of local schools, but falls under the Boy Scouts' program umbrella.

The executive director of the local scouts, Michael Donaghue claims it does not have sexual orientation membership standards. He also says that without United Ways dollars, they're now re-assessing their ability to deliver that program.

The local United Way points out that the program in question may operate in the schools, but it is still governed by the Boy Scouts of America, which does discriminate.

"United Way stewards donor dollars into effective programs that are inclusive for everybody," said Episcopo. "It's really as simple as that."

We reached out to the Michael Donaghue of the local Boy Scouts, who agreed to do an interview, but at the very last minute backed out and refused attempts to reschedule.

Instead he offered the statement below.


Boy Scouts Statement:

"We are grateful for the support the United Way of the Valley & the Greater Utica Area has provided over the years and are saddened by their decision to no longer provide funding. With it we were able to partner with the Utica City and Rome City schools to impact the lives of thousands of at-risk boys and girls through our ScoutReach and Learning for Life programs.

The cut in funding comes at a particularly bad time as we planned to expand the program into Herkimer schools and offer the Learning for Life curriculum (a character-building, values-based leadership training to help reinforce common core standards learning) to 2,500 students in under-served, underprivileged areas. This program, which operates out of the schools, does not have sexual orientation membership standards.

While we realize people have differing opinions about our membership policy, we can all agree that kids are better off when they are in Scouting. For over a hundred years we have been a youth serving organization and The Revolutionary Trails Council will continue to focus on serving all kids in our community.

At this point we are re-assessing our ability to continue to deliver this program. Anyone interested in helping us keep this program in schools can donate directly to our organization at www.scoutingcny.org,and www.facebook.com/scoutingcny, or by calling 735.4437."



United Way Statement:

"We understand that United Way of the Valley & Greater Utica Area is strong as an organization and central to our community because of the respect, dignity and value we give to all individuals and because we aspire to involve people from all segments of our community in every aspect of our work. We believe that to fully understand a problem, it is important to actively listen to community members who are impacted.

United Way of the Valley and Greater Utica Area prohibits discrimination on the basis of age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, sex, disability, pre-disposing genetic characteristics, marital status or domestic violence victim status. (Policy updated December 2012 to include additional state and federally recognized protected classes).

United Way of the Greater Utica Area requires any organization that receives funding to adhere to this policy in the provision of funded services.

As a recipient of United Way funding, any organization will not and does not exclude, deny benefits to or otherwise discriminate against any person on the basis of age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, sex, disability, pre-disposing genetic characteristics, marital status or domestic violence victim status in its admission to, participation in or receipt of services, benefits and/or employment, whether carried out directly or through a contracted entity.

During the most recent funding period (July 1, 2011-June 30, 2013) United Way funded Revolutionary Trails programs at $30,000 per year as one of several funders for ScoutReach programming, which hosts Learning for Life efforts based in Utica, NY. Continued funding is not guaranteed and agencies must re-apply for funding with every new cycle.

Due to decreases in United Way's annual fundraising campaign, increase demand from existing funded programs and numerous applications from new programs, funding levels for existing programs are likely to decline in the new funding cycle (July 1, 2013-June 30, 2015).

Following the update of United Way of the Valley and Greater Utica Area's Diversity and Non-Discrimination Policy in December 2012, we held discussions with Revolutionary Trails Council, Boy Scouts of America in regards to the Boy Scouts of America ban on openly gay men serving as volunteer le­aders for Boy Scout Programs. It was disclosed by Revolutionary Trails Council Executive, Michael Donaghue, and three members of their board of directors that even within the Leaders for Life Program, boys are registered as scouts and therefore openly gay men cannot register and serve as volunteer leaders, their full-fledged volunteer opportunity.

Our compliance committee has reviewed this matter and has deemed this program ineligible for funding through United Way's allocations process, due to non-compliance with our diversity and non-discrimination policy.

United Way will continue to process and pass through any and all designations that donors explicitly designate to the Boy Scouts.

Furthermore, we encourage and support the local Boy Scouts to continue efforts for a national (and therefore local) lifting of the ban on openly gay men serving as volunteers and leaders in the Boy Scouts."

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