Friday, May 16, 2014

Open Letter to United Way of King County


To: Jon Fine, Executive Director, United Way of King County
via Jared Erlandson

Date: May 16 2014

Dear Mr. Fine,

Thank you for the outreach extended by Jared Erlandson on the question of the Boy Scouts of America, Inc. (BSA) and Chief Seattle Council Inc. (CSC) relationship and access to the United Way funding stream.

Perhaps you are aware of the recent events of overt discrimination that have been experienced by the community of Rainier Beach in recent weeks at the hands of the BSA in the revoking the charter to operate Troop 98 and Pack 98  (http://lmgtfy.com/?q=troop+98). You may also know that the Bylaws of the Chief Seattle Council make clear that the local council is a creature of National--that by virtue of its conveyance clauses it is unable and unwilling to act independently. This was demonstrated recently in on May 15 2014 in the press of statements on the part of Scout Exec Sharon Moulds (http://www.kirotv.com/news/news/seattle-boy-scout-council-seattle-may-be-ready-gay/nfxYW/).

Our concern is that United Way of King County should be free of taint on the grounds of religious or anti-gay discrimination. Currently United Way permits individuals to designate BSA and/or CSC as recipients of directed giving. Additionally, UWKC funds a “non-discriminating” program of CSC called “Learning for Life” sometimes also called “Exploring.”) (LFL). “Scoutreach” is another program of CSC/BSA and has the same discriminatory employment practices.

I would like to be clear on this point: LFL and Scoutreach employees are Council employees. Both are owned and operated by local BSA Councils. As they are Council/BSA employees, they are subject to BSA's membership standards -- which means there are no LGBT BSA employees in these programs, just as there are none in any other CSC or BSA program. As far as I know BSA is the only non-denominational youth organization that has such an explicit policy regarding LGBT employees.

BSA and CSC are not hate groups. But they are neglect groups. These organizations in their institutional policies neglect the needs of gay and lesbian youth as well as the needs of their adult members and employees (who of course are required to remain closeted). This neglect blights the lives of BSA and CSC members and employees. The actions of CSC and BSA legitimizes the discrimination of others. Just as UWKC does not fund hate-groups, so it should not fund neglect groups such as Chief Seattle Council and the Boy Scouts of America.

Just as UWKC would not facilitate nor fund a hate group nor their hate-lite program, so they should avoid funding or facilitating the funding of neglect groups such as CSC and BSA for the same reasons.

Last year UWKC funded LFL for at least $91,000 (http://www.uwkc.org/assets/files/financials/uwkc-grantee-list.pdf) -- not counting any additional directed funding through your organization’s channels to CSC or BSA. While this is down from over $600,000 in annual funding from the ‘90’s, continuing to fund these organizations is dilutive of your overall excellent commitment to transparency and negatively impacts the consistency of your message that you do not fund discriminators. In 1992 Clydean Zuckerman, vice president for marketing at United Way of King County said, "We're not going to move quickly to take sides. It's legally complex and very divisive." (http://www.qrd.org/qrd/orgs/gay.in.scouting/1992/banks.drop.funding). It was reported that UWKC firmed up it’s commitment to equality in in 2000 (http://web.kitsapsun.com/news/2000/november/110385903.html), but has yet to fully deliver on its promise.

We bring this matter to your attention because it is through working together that we can help BSA and CSC come to its senses and provide equitable and appropriate services to ALL youth.

Be aware we are working with the Seattle Foundation on this as well as the Seattle Public Schools, the City of Seattle Parks and Recreations Departments, as well as other major funders both corporate and individual to end this ugliness once and for all in our town. We would welcome knowing your plans to fully and transparently communicate to the citizens of Seattle your intention to end further funding of BSA and CSC. The clearest statement is wanted.

It may be that UWKC requires some time to come up with a statement. In the meantime perhaps a statement to the effect that “The United Way of King County is deeply concerned about recent actions of the Chief Seattle Council and the Boy Scouts of America and is reviewing actions we can take across all our programs to ensure there is no further violation of our own commitment to not fund non-religious discriminators.”

Certainly the status quo is inadequate to the challenge, Let me know how you prefer best to proceed in this.

Yours,


Geoffrey C. McGrath, MSW
RBUMC Youth Leader of Troop 98
Eagle Scout 1983