Jim Carney

The Boy Scouts could lose funding from the United Way of Greater Cleveland over the group’s policy to ban homosexual leaders.

The United Way in Cuyahoga County announced Tuesday that it has added sexual orientation to its Equal Opportunity and Diversity Policy. The organization, which gave more than $97,000 to the Boy Scouts of America, Greater Cleveland Council this year, could suspend funding to the agency next year because of the conflict with the new policy.

The United Way of Summit County said Tuesday that as part of its review of affiliated agencies, it too will be looking at “policies regarding eligibility for United Way funding, including non-discrimination policies.”

The United Way of Summit County awarded the Boy Scouts of America, Great Trail Council $158,517 this year. It is in the middle of its $11.6 million annual campaign drive.

Michael Gaffney, vice president of marketing and communications for the United Way in Summit County, said the Boy Scouts funding would not change until 2014 as it is part of a multiyear funding cycle.

“No agency funding is in jeopardy at this time unless something unforeseen occurs; the next multiyear funding cycle is scheduled to begin April 1, 2014,” Gaffney said.

Gaffney said it would be inappropriate for his United Way to comment on the chapter’s Cleveland decision.

He said his agency’s policies “transcend a single agency relationship, and require consistency, fairness and agreement with applicable federal, state and local laws.”

The Boy Scouts of America this summer, after a two-year study, reaffirmed its policy to not allow homosexual members in its organization.

“The vast majority of parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisors, and at the appropriate time and in the right setting,” said Bob Mazzuca, chief Scout executive, Boy Scouts of America, in a news release this summer. “While a majority of our membership agrees with our policy, we fully understand that no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society.”

The Boy Scouts National Executive Board at the time also released a statement.

“Scouting believes that good people can personally disagree on this topic and still work together to achieve the life-changing benefits to youth through scouting,” the board said. “While not all Board members may personally agree with this policy, and may choose a different direction for their own organizations, BSA leadership agrees this is the best policy for the organization and supports it for the BSA.”

The Boy Scouts of America, Greater Cleveland Council issued a news release expressing disappointment in the United Way’s decision.

The group said it has had nearly a 100-year partnership with the United Way in Cleveland.

“Together we have succeeded in annually bringing a values and character based program to over 16,000 youth of Cuyahoga and Northern Summit Counties,” the release said.

Barry A. Norris, Scout executive in Cleveland, said funding for its inner-city program will be impacted — affecting about 1,500 low-income youth.

Norris said he fully anticipates that the program will not be funded next year, but believes supporters of scouting will step up to the plate to make up for money not allocated by the United Way.

“I think there are a lot of good scouting friends and most agree with our position,” he said.

Bill Kitson, United Way of Greater Cleveland president and CEO who started working at the organization in June, has said he was approached by a couple of board members, who are CEOs of companies, who asked him why the United Way was supporting an organization that discriminates. The Cleveland United Way is in the midst of a $41 million campaign drive.

Based on his review of organizations that receive money from the group, the Boy Scouts is the only one that discriminates, Kitson said. He anticipates that many United Ways will change policies as his organization has.

“I believe as communities become more enlightened, it will become more difficult for the Boy Scouts to continue to discriminate,” he said.

Mike Jones, Scout executive of the Boy Scouts’ Great Trail Council based in Akron, said he could not comment on the Cleveland United Way’s decision because he had not read the group’s policy change.

Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or at jcarney@thebeaconjournal.com.