Group to Scouts: Admit gays or lose funding

Some Boy Scouts councils will have a hole in its budget this year because United Way funds have been withheld in the wake of the decision by the Boy Scouts of America to continue its membership ban on openly homosexual adults.

Lycoming County United Way officials, however, say the decision will not impact them.

The board of the Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way voted Tuesday to withhold discretionary funds totaling $11,300 previously pledged to the Susquehanna Council of Boy Scouts of America.

The Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way serves Northumberland, Snyder and Union counties; the Boy Scouts’ Susquehanna Council serves those three as well as Lycoming and Clinton counties.

“We applaud the Boy Scout organization for including gay youth, but without any rationale, they’ve excluded gay adults,” Keri Albright, president of the Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way, said in a news release. “We fund programs that reflect the value and practice of welcoming people of diverse backgrounds. We’re not straight adults or gay adults. We’re adults. There is strength in unity and that’s what we’re promoting.”

Eric Rowe, chairman of the Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way board, said the voting majority there was “thinking about the young Scout with a gay parent who wants to be a volunteer leader. The message that’s being sent to that kid now is that his dad is not OK if he’s gay, perpetuating a stereotype that United Way can’t support.”

The funding was earmarked to be used in training all adult volunteers and new youth enrollees in the Scouts, along with half of the more than 1,200 youth now enrolled across the region in Boy Scouts.

Susquehanna Council Scout Executive John Brennan said that “at this early hour to determine what programs are directly impacted is very difficult.”

“Are we disappointed that we are no longer going to be one of the programs funded by the United Way? Yes we are,” Brennan said. “The focus of the United Way is to make the community a better community and Boy Scouts of America through character development, citizenship training and fitness programs is an integral part.”

Scott Lowery, executive director of the Lycoming County United Way, says that his chapter was not funding any Scout programs this year.

“That has nothing to do with this issue – each United Way establishes its own regulations as to who they may or may not fund,” Lowery said. “We fund programs, not agencies, and they had requested funding from (the United Way) to enable them to go out and hire an additional scout executive. That’s not a program to us and we said we just couldn’t fund that.”

For several years before, the Lycoming County United Way funded a Boy Scouts’ summer program at the Campbell Street Center, Lowery said.

Brennan says his organization “wants to continue working closely with the United Way” and that he hopes that “folks in community who want to support the Boy Scouts would do so, or still support us through the United Way.”