Caterpillar Stops Funding Boy Scouts Over Gay Ban

"Discriminatory" policy doesn't align with manufacturer's foundation. Will other companies follow suit?

By Chris Hoenig

Caterpillar, one of DiversityInc's 25 Noteworthy Companies, has stopped giving grants from its charitable foundation to the Boy Scouts of America.

Caterpillar spokeswoman Rachel Potts said the decision was made while reviewing a $25,000 grant application from a local scout group in the company's home state of Illinois. And while Potts says the move isn't directly tied to the Boy Scouts' half-hearted decision to allow openly gay scouts but continue banning LGBT scout leaders, she does call the policy "discriminatory."

"We have inclusive policies here at Caterpillar, Inc., and the foundation abides by those. We just don't feel that our two organizations align," Potts said. "If there's a change in the Boy Scouts' policies, we would certainly consider a change in the future grants, if there was a change that aligned with what our nondiscrimination policies are."

Caterpillar joins a growing list of companies that have cut off funding to the BSA because of the ban. Late last year, Merck & Co. (No. 12 in the DiversityInc Top 50) also suspended donations to the BSA after giving at least $40,000 to the national organization and local councils. "We cannot continue to provide support to an organization with a policy that is contrary to one of our core beliefs," Brian Grill, Executive Vice President of the Merck Foundation, said at the time. "We're confident that this decision is aligned with our high ethical giving standards and strong core beliefs, and reinforces our longstanding commitment to policies that prevent against discrimination."

Additionally, two Boy Scouts board members have spoken out on the issue: Ernst & Young (No. 4) Chairman and CEO Jim Turley became the first board member and corporate leader to publicly urge the BSA to change its policy, and AT&T (No. 13) Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson also issued a public statement promoting diversity and inclusion. Both companies earned 100 percent scores on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index.

Corporate funding isn't the only way the revised policy could hurt the BSA financially. The new policy is not enough for California lawmakers, who are seeking to strip the organization's tax-exempt status because of its remaining antigay discriminatory policies. The California State Senate passed a bill, SB-323, that would begin taxing the Boy Scouts, by a 27-9 margin that marks the first time an LGBT bill has passed the California State Senate with a two-thirds majority.

"They are out of line with the values of California and should be ineligible for a tax benefit paid for by all Californians," said State Senator Ricardo Lara, who introduced the bill. "While it is a step in the right direction, continuing a ban on LGBT adults is based on absurd assumptions and stereotypes that perpetuate hate and homophobia. What does this mean, that up until 17 you're fine to be in the Boy Scouts but on midnight of your 18th birthday you turn into a pedophile or a predator? What kind of warped message does this send?"

SB-323 targets all youth-serving organizations, including the Boy Scouts and Little League, and aims to punish discrimination based on race, sexual orientation, nationality, gender identity and religion or religious affiliation. People and corporations would still be able to make tax-deductible donations, but the organizations would have to pay a variety of taxes on contributions and any sales-tax-applicable transactions.

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