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United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania Takes Action On Funding Local Boy Scout Councils
Volunteer Board of Directors decides to discontinue funding for two local Boy Scout Councils

PHILADELPHIA, PA – United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania's (UWSEPA) Board of Directors announced today that it has discontinued funding for the Cradle of Liberty (which serves Philadelphia, Montgomery and Delaware counties) and Chester County Councils Learning for Life programs because they do not comply with UWSEPA's nondiscrimination policy. UWSEPA's policy and practice are not to discriminate in the provision of services on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, ancestry, age or handicap. Our policy reflects the values of inclusiveness, diversity and equal opportunity for all.

Two years ago, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Boy Scouts could apply membership standards that would exclude from leadership positions individuals who declare themselves to be homosexual. Since that decision, UWSEPA has restricted its funding to the Councils' Learning for Life programs which are not subject to the national membership policy.
Both Councils assured UWSEPA that allocated funds would be used only to support Learning for Life programs. In addition, both Councils submitted written statements to UWSEPA confirming that their programs met the terms of UWSEPA's policy on non-discrimination. Further, Cradle of Liberty Council assured UWSEPA that, in practice, it did not discriminate in any of its programs and also agreed to enter into a dialogue with the community on the issue of how to harmonize the local practice with the national policy.

In May, 2003, the Board of the Cradle of Liberty Council approved a nondiscrimination policy, which was the outcome of two years of meetings with the community and UWSEPA. The Cradle of Liberty then quickly retracted the new policy, reconfirmed its intention to follow the national policy, and shortly thereafter expelled a scout for announcing he was gay. These events prompted UWSEPA's volunteer Board of Directors to form a task force to review its current policy on funding both the Cradle of Liberty Council's and the Chester County Council's Learning for Life programs.

The task force spent a significant amount of time studying the issue and met with both the Cradle of Liberty and the Chester County Councils. From these meetings, the task force confirmed that the Cradle of Liberty Council and the Chester County Councils are not in compliance with UWSEPA's policy of nondiscrimination. The task force also determined that there was not sufficient organizational separation between the Learning for Life program and the overall Boy Scouts organizations to be assured that UWSEPA dollars would only be used for Learning for Life programs.

At the recommendation of the task force, UWSEPA Board of Directors approved the following recommendations with a substantial majority:

  • Give the Cradle of Liberty and Chester County Councils notice that UWSEPA will suspend the Councils' membership status until they can comply in full with UWSEPA's nondiscrimination policy.
  • Immediately discontinue funding for the Cradle of Liberty and Chester County Councils' Learning for Life programs. Continue to set aside the current Learning for Life allocations until December 31, 2003. If the Councils are able to comply with UWSEPA's nondiscrimination policy, they will be able to access these funds.
  • Going forward, if the Scout Councils are not eligible, for a two year period UWSEPA will set aside an appropriate amount of money for youth development programs serving children in Philadelphia, Montgomery, Delaware and Chester Counties. If the Boy Scout Councils are able to comply with UWSEPA's nondiscrimination policy, they may reapply for these funds.
  • Offer to convene meetings of key community leaders and the Cradle of Liberty and Chester County Councils to seek a solution that would reflect the diversity of our community within Boy Scouts membership policies.

"We have been meeting with the Cradle of Liberty Council and members of the community for over two years to try to find a way to resolve this issue," said Christine James-Brown, President and CEO of United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania. "We were all so proud of the progress we made, the Cradle of Liberty Council worked very hard to reconcile the national policy with the needs of a very diverse community. We hope that the Cradle of Liberty Council decision to rescind its policy of nondiscrimination is a short term setback and that we will be able to fund scouting services in the future."

"This decision is one of the most difficult ever made by the UWSEPA Board of Directors. We value the programs offered by the Boy Scouts and want to support quality programs for children and youth," said James Gately, the new Chairman of UWSEPA's Board of Directors. "We look forward to the day when we can resume full partnership and funding for scouting services. The UWSEPA Board voted to suspend funding because it believes strongly in the UWSEPA values of diversity, inclusiveness, and equal opportunity."

United Way continues to offer the Donor Choice program to ensure that donors can direct their contributions to a specific agency of their choice. Donors who would like to donate directly to the Cradle of Liberty Council or the Chester County Council of the Boy Scouts of America and the Learning for Life program can opt for the Donor Choice program.

"We want to make sure that we are providing quality programs for children in the region," Christine James-Brown said. "That is why the Board decided to set the money aside, to guarantee that money is available for either the Learning for Life program or a similar youth development initiative. We need to serve children in a way that is inclusive."

United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania leads, inspires and mobilizes donors and volunteers to help provide solutions to essential health and human service issues and improve the quality of people's lives in the community.


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