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Pew Foundation pulls Grant

Pew pulls Boy Scout council's grant

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By Miriam Hill and Linda K. Harris
Jun. 25, 2003
Philadelhpia Inquirer

The Pew Charitable Trusts has killed a $100,000 grant to the region's largest Boy Scout council because of its policy of discriminating against homosexuals.

"It's a very difficult decision because we've been funding the local chapter for well over 50 years, but the board feels very strongly that this was an action we had to take," Pew president Rebecca Rimel said Monday. "We feel that all of our partners should be inclusive in their approach and should exercise tolerance and understanding."

Pew's decision comes as another charitable organization begins weighing whether to continue funding the local Cradle of Liberty Council.

The board of the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, which yearly gives the Cradle of Liberty Council more than $400,000, is scheduled to meet today to review whether it wants to continue making those grants.

Pew's board of directors initially ended 50 years of funding Cradle of Liberty Council in December 2001 after reviewing the national Boy Scouts policy of barring gay members or leaders.

But in late May, the Cradle of Liberty - the nation's third-largest council, serving 87,000 youths in Philadelphia, Delaware and Montgomery Counties - said it would defy the national policy and accept gay Scouts.

As a result, Pew's board on June 11 decided to grant the Cradle of Liberty Council $100,000 to fund a program that promotes scouting in inner-city neighborhoods.

"We wanted to show our support for the leadership that the board was showing" on the homosexuality issue, Rimel said. Pew is one of the largest and most influential charitable foundations in the country.

The next day, Rimel said, she was surprised to learn that Cradle of Liberty had ousted Gregory Lattera, an 18-year-old Life Scout from South Philadelphia who had publicly announced he was gay.

Cradle of Liberty officials later explained that they rescinded their policy of nondiscrimination against homosexuals after being threatened by the national council. The Texas-based national organization had threatened to revoke Cradle of Liberty's charter and dismiss its directors.

Because Pew's board had made the grant in recognition of the open policy, Rimel immediately moved to withhold the money.

The William Penn Foundation had stopped funding Cradle of Liberty in 1996, and the Philadelphia Foundation followed suit two years ago because of the antigay policy, said William T. Dwyer III, the local council's executive director.

The cuts have put enormous pressure on Cradle of Liberty, Dwyer said.

"It hurts kids that need it most," Dwyer said. "We've laid off staff and ceased several other programs. The toll is high."

As charitable organizations have withdrawn funding, Cradle of Liberty has taken heat over its policy regarding homosexuals.

Dwyer said he had received thousands of e-mails, phone calls and letters on both sides of the issue. He said about 80 percent of the comments, many of them emotional and vitriolic, attacked the local council for trying to foment change.

"I am writing to let you know how disappointed and disgusted I am with your organization... . Homosexuality is wrong, it is sin... . This will only lead to further downfall of this nation and its citizens," one letter-writer from Arizona said.

Meanwhile, some community leaders have said they were concerned that the national policy would destroy the local council.

At the June 17 Hospitality Industry Luncheon, a fund-raiser for the Boy Scouts, A. Bruce Crawley, guest of honor and chairman of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, told a crowd of about 300 that "it's hard to excuse or fully comprehend a national policy that appears to be based on a simplistic, negative stereotyping of those with homosexual preferences."

He said local fund-raising ability had been threatened and eventually could make the local chapters substantially ineffective.

Christine James-Brown, president of the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, said her organization does not tolerate exclusion. In the past, it had gotten around that issue by funding only the Boy Scouts Learning for Life program, which is classroom-based and does not discriminate.

But since the flip-flop by the local council, directors of the local United Way have decided to review the issue, James-Brown said. "They felt very seriously about the issue," James-Brown said. "They're very concerned."
 

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