Columbus--The United Way of Central Ohio has given final approval of a deal with the Simon Kenton Boy Scout Council to continue United Way funding of the Scouts, although the group doesn�t comply with their anti-bias policy.
A national Boy Scout rule, upheld by the Supreme Court, prohibits membership by gays and anyone who does not believe in God. The United Way of Central Ohio adopted a policy last year that it will not fund agencies that discriminate by sexual orientation.
Under the agreement approved by the United Way board on July 26, it will still give the Scouts the same level of funding, but for only two programs that don�t discriminate.
The Simon Kenton Council will then switch other money from those programs to the ones which do discriminate.
While the Scout deal appears to evade the purpose of its own rule, the United Way of Central Ohio is the only United Way in the state that has addressed the Boy Scout discrimination issue at all.
The new anti-bias policy covers employment, volunteer opportunities and services. All recipients of United Way money were required to sign a statement that they would comply.
The Boy Scouts attempted to exempt themselves from the measure�s intent earlier this year by attaching a �clarification� letter saying they �will not unlawfully discriminate.� However, no Ohio or federal law prohibits discrimination by sexual orientation.
The United Way countered with the new plan. It funds two Boy Scout programs instead of four and serves one third fewer young people, according to United Way spokesperson Sharon Keaney, but keeps the funding level constant.
For fiscal year 2005-06, the United Way will give $500,082 to two Boy Scout programs, Exploring and Learning for Life, which are school-based and do not prohibit gays.
This year, the Boy Scouts split its $512,448 United Way allocation between four programs, including traditional scouting and urban scouting, which prohibit gays.
Next year�s slightly lower figure is because of a 2.3 percent reduction to all United Way programs due to lower campaign results last year.
The Boy Scouts told the Columbus Dispatch that the United Way�s new funding scheme will enable them to internally shift money from other sources away from Exploring and Learning for Life, and into their other discriminating programs.
�That concern didn�t come up� among United Way board members, said Keaney.
Keaney said the vote was not unanimous, but that one dissenting member expressed belief that the mere act of voting on the proposal was still progress.
�The general consensus is that we are providing programs important in this community,� said Keaney, �and that by keeping this relationship [with the Boy Scouts] we keep the door open with them for later.�
�We believe it is better to work with them even if we don�t agree with where they are,� said Keaney, adding that the Boy Scouts could use the additional money to expand Exploring and Learning for Life.
Keaney said that the Boy Scouts unexpectedly didn�t get a quorum at their last board meeting, and could not approve the deal. They will do it at their next meeting August 16.
Asked if she could think of any reason why the Boy Scouts would turn the deal down, Keaney said, �No.�
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