Pressure from corporate sponsors may be the critical factor in a decision by the Boy Scouts of America to change policy to include homosexual scouts, volunteers and leaders.
When a representative from BSA met with Frank Page, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, to discuss the proposed change, Page was told that BSA is "wilting under pressure from some of their corporate sponsors ...," Page explained in a statement to The Christian Post.
The Human Rights Campaign, a pro-gay rights advocacy organization, told BSA's corporate sponsors that it would downgrade their "non-discrimination ratings" if they continued to give money to BSA, according to NBC News.
According to a review of corporate giving to BSA in 2010 conducted last September by The American Independent, 23 of the top 50 corporate foundations gave at least $10,000 to BSA. Those sponsors included Bank of America, Intel, UPS, U.S. Bank, Verizon and Wells Fargo. The largest donation in 2010, $700,000, came from Intel. Some donations were directly from the company. Other donations were through matching funds programs in which company employees choose the charity and the company would match a certain amount for every dollar given by the employee.
The New Jersey Star Ledger reported today, in an editorial supporting the Scouts' decision, that Intel announced last September it would stop donations to the Scouts unless it stopped excluding gays. A month later, pharmaceutical giant Merck followed suit. UPS announced last month that it would no longer give to BSA because of its ban on gay scouts, volunteers and leaders.
The BSA website lists some of their current corporate sponsors, including AT&T, Bass Pro Shops and ExxonMobil.
BSA's national board includes two corporate CEOs -- Randall Stephenson of AT&T and James Turley of Ernst & Young -- who have said they will try to end the ban on gay scouts, volunteers and leaders. Stephenson is supposed to be the board's next chairman.
BSA announced last July that, after conducting a two-year review, it would continue its ban on gay scouts, volunteers and leaders. At the time, the Scouts said that continuing the ban was "absolutely the best policy for the Boy Scouts."
Last week, though, The Christian Post learned that BSA was considering reversing this decision at its executive meeting in Irving, Texas, next week. The new policy would allow each Boy Scout chapter to decide whether or not to allow gay scouts, volunteers or leaders.