Merck Pulls Funding from Boy Scouts of America Over Anti-Gay Policies

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Merck chairman and CEO Kenneth C. Frazier was honored in June with the “Good Scout” Award by Philadelphia’s Cradle of Liberty Boy Scout Council. Frazier grew up in North Philadelphia and credits scouting as instrumental in his life. Now Frazier, the first African American to head a major pharmaceutical company, is turning his back on the organization until it reverses its discriminatory policies.

Now Frazier and Merck, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, have joined the growing wave of corporate leaders taking a stand against discrimination towards gay scouts and leaders in the Boy Scouts of America. 

As GLAAD notes of the corporate backlash to the Boy Scouts’ anti-LGBT stance, Merck joins Intel and UPS with the following statement: “The BSA’s policy of exclusion based on sexual orientation directly conflicts with the Merck Foundation’s giving guidelines.  The Foundation re-evaluated funding for the BSA when the organization restated its policy that excludes members on the basis of sexual orientation.  Merck Foundation has notified the BSA of this decision.” 

Boy Scouts of America director of public relations, Deron Smith, provided the following statement to brandchannel: “Scouting believes that good people can personally disagree on this topic and still work together to accomplish the common good. While not national sponsors, these companies have positively impacted America’s youth through support of Scouting in local communities. We respect their right to express their own opinions.”[more]

Last week another scout, Zach Wahls, launched a Change.org petition calling on Verizon to suspend funding to the BSA. Wahls, an Eagle Scout and founder of Scouts for Equality, responded to Merck’s announcement: “I am thrilled that Merck & Company — a Fortune 100 pharmaceutical giant — has announced its foundation arm is immediately withdrawing funding from the Boy Scouts of America until the program ends its anti-gay membership policy. Now it’s Verizon’s turn to join the growing list of political and corporate leaders urging the Boy Scouts of America to save the organization from itself.”

Wahl’s Scouts for Equality was founded to challenge BSA’s ban on openly gay individuals since 1991, and despite 63,347 signatures, Verizon has not yet responded, despite claiming on their website that the Verizon Foundation funds only those organizations which “serve the community without discrimination,” including sexual orientation. Verizon gave more than $315,000 in grants to the Boy Scouts in 2010, despite their anti-gay policies.

President Obama, honorary president of the Boy Scouts of America, has publicly opposed the Boy Scouts of America’s anti-gay policy. The CEOs of AT&T and Ernst & Young have called for an end to the Boy Scouts’ anti-gay policies and AT&T’s CEO, Randall Stephenson, and Ernst & Young’s CEO, James Turley, both sit on the national board of the Boy Scouts of America.

“These companies are helping to bring change to the Boy Scouts of America by speaking out against the discriminatory policy and in support of the young people who are harmed by it. The Boy Scouts of America should take the health of their organization into account and focus making scouting open to all, rather than working to keep an outdated and unpopular ban in place,” stated GLAAD President Herndon Graddick. 

“Those of us here at Scouts for Equality have not made the decision to petition corporate sponsors lightly. It pains us to see the BSA losing corporate support, but we remain convinced that the short term harm of reduced funding is a much smaller price to pay than the long term harm of maintaining the policy,” added Wahls.

Change.org has become the world’s largest petition platform with more than 20 million users in 196 countries using their tools to bring change.

“Corporate America gets it better than most: policies that discriminate aren’t simply wrong, they’re bad for business and they’re hurting the scouting community,” stated Wahls. “You would think that after all the Boy Scouts have lost as a result of this policy, they would understand that.”

Is the Boy Scouts brand tarnished by its anti-gay policy, or should politics stay out of scouting? Share your thoughts below.

[Image via Facebook/Boy Scouts of America]

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