Following loss of Disney support, Boy Scouts must reform to regain its mission
In 2015, the Walt Disney Company will pull all of its funding to the Boy Scouts of America because of the BSA policy that bans gay and lesbian leaders. BSA passed a change to allow gay youths to join Scouting that took effect Jan. 1, 2014.
The BSA stated that the decision was made to keep it unclouded by a single, divisive and unresolved societal issue.
It has been more than a decade since the Supreme Court ruled that the organization had the right to ban gay youths and leaders in 2000. The new policy is a step in the right direction but was not enough to land a solid delivery. Even though gay youths were allowed to be part of the Boy Scouts, gay leaders are still banned.
While Disney does not directly fund or donate to the Boy Scouts, donations supporting the organization are made by volunteer work done by employees through Disney’s VoluntEARS program. VoluntEARS is a program that allows Disney employees to participate in volunteer work in exchange for donations made to the charities of their choice. After the notice, employees will no longer be able to submit funds to the BSA. In 2010, more than $4.8 million was raised via 548,000 volunteering hours through the VoluntEARS program, according to a Disney press release.
According to CNN, the charitable giving guidelines outlined by Disney state that a group becomes ineligible to receive funding if the group “discriminates in the provision of services unlawfully or in a matter inconsistent with Disney’s policies on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, age, marital status, mental or physical ability or sexual orientation.”
Disney’s decision takes a strong stance on equality, because both organizations target youth. When you think of Disney or the Boy Scouts, you think of childhood, and Disney’s decision to disassociate from the BSA sends a message to young people.
Disney is the poster company for all-accepting, family-friendly entertainment. A massive company like that deals a lot of damage when it will no longer support you. For the Boy Scouts, that support is much needed. Membership in the Boy Scouts has declined roughly 20 percent since 1999, with 2.7 million young people participating nationwide.
United Way of Greater Cleveland also pulled funding for the Boy Scouts in 2013 because the BSA ban violated the United Way equal opportunity and diversity policy.
The BSA needs to get with the times. We are in an era where it is considered absolutely unacceptable to support discrimination of any kind. We’ve already made headway on gender and racial discrimination — the hot issue right now is sexual orientation discrimination. The Boy Scouts is a program that builds character and trains young people in the responsibilities of participating in citizenship and developing personal fitness.
If the BSA hopes to continue its mission of helping youths to build a more conscientious, responsible and productive society, it should accept that any discrimination sends a harmful message to all young people. There’s no doubt that eventually the BSA will have to lift the ban, especially if the more-than-a-century-old organization hopes to continue to thrive. If change doesn’t come soon enough, it will be left behind.
Senior staff columnist Gemrick Curtom is a public relations junior and may be reached at [email protected]