U.S. corporation Caterpillar Inc. has decided to stop funding the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) for its policy banning gay adults from serving as scout leaders, though it insists the decision is not tied to the youth organization's vote on the policy in May.
"We have inclusive policies here at Caterpillar Inc., and the foundation abides by those," said spokeswoman Rachel Potts on Thursday, according to The Associated Press. "We just don't feel that our two organizations align."
"However, 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 non-discrimination policies are."
Caterpillar Inc. is a manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines and locomotives. It has made several donations to BSA though the Caterpillar Foundation, its philanthropic arm, though official figures have not been disclosed.
In a major decision in May, the Boy Scouts' National Council voted to adopt an amendment to its 100-year-old membership policy that lifted a ban on gay youths from participating in the organization – though gay adults still cannot serve as leaders. Sixty-one percent of the delegates voted for this change, while 39 percent remained opposed.
BSA's decision has been criticized by conservative groups that have argued that the organization has compromised its commitment to traditional family values. Several churches, including the Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Ky., have said that they can no longer host troops.
"We want everyone, including ourselves, to live by biblical standards," Tim Hester, the church's executive pastor, explained. "Truly for us it's a logical decision … We cannot be distracted from the mission God has called us to."
The Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution on Wednesday that expresses disappointment in the membership policy change, and while the denomination will not require churches to cut ties with the Boy Scouts, it asks them to "prayerfully assess their continued relationship" with the youth organization and "work toward a reversal of this new membership policy."
"I would argue that we didn't put this on the agenda, the Boy Scouts put this on the agenda. This was something to which we had to respond as a convention. Many were expecting a caustic response to the BSA but that didn't happen," said Dr. Russell Moore, new president of the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
For Caterpillar's part, it insists that its decision was not based on BSA's change in membership policy, but was made after a review of a $25,000 funding request that came in last year from a local group in Illinois, where the corporation is based.
Potts clarified that the decision to end funding was never publicly announced, but only shared with the local BSA group.
"Although, we are disappointed in this decision we believe Caterpillar is a great company and appreciate all it has done for the youth in local communities," BSA public relations director Deron Smith responded to the news. "Our focus continues to be on working together to deliver the foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training."