CHAMPAIGN – Caterpillar Inc. is no longer giving money to the Boy Scouts because the organization discriminates against homosexuals, a spokeswoman for the Illinois-based heavy equipment manufacturer confirmed Thursday.
The company’s move wasn’t directly tied to the recent Boy Scouts decision to continue to bar homosexual adults from roles within the organization while allowing openly gay children to be scouts. Instead, spokeswoman Rachel Potts said, the company decided to cut off funding while reviewing a request for $25,000 that came in last year from a local group in Illinois.
That decision was never announced publicly or communicated to the Boy Scouts of America, only to the local group, she said. But she added that the Boy Scouts’ policy that continues to bar homosexual adults from working in the organization is “discriminatory.”
Caterpillar has made donations in the past to the Boy Scouts of America, and the company’s charitable arm, the Caterpillar Foundation, has donated money to local scouting groups in areas where it has factories and other facilities, Potts said. She declined to provide a dollar figure.
“We have inclusive policies here at Caterpillar Inc., and the foundation abides by those,” she said. “We just don’t feel that our two organizations align.”
“However,” she added, “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.”
A Boy Scouts spokesman called the decision a disappointment.
“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,” public relations director Deron Smith said in an emailed statement. “Our focus continues to be on working together to deliver the foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training.”
The decision by Caterpillar was first reported Wednesday by The Journal Star in Peoria, the central Illinois city where the company is based.
The local organization that was turned down, Potts said, is the Peoria-based W.D. Boyce Council. It includes scout groups across a large part of central Illinois.
Council Executive Director George Clay did not return a call Thursday from The Associated Press.
Since the Boy Scouts’ decision last month to allow openly homosexual children to be scouts, a number of churches around the country – which often sponsor local scout troops – have cut ties with the group.
But prohibitions against both gay scouts and adult leaders have long driven protests against the Boy Scouts. Last year, several companies withdrew financial support, including Intel Corporation and United Parcel Service.
The leader of a group of former Eagle Scouts that has pushed for a change in those policies said the pressure that the donation withdrawal could have on Boy Scouts was important. But Zach Wahls, executive director of Iowa City, Iowa-based Scouts for Equality, believes Caterpillar’s decision reflects a broader shift in attitudes beyond scouting.
“This isn’t a crazy, progressive company that’s super liberal,” said Wahls, who grew up in Iowa and Wisconsin, and whose parents are lesbians. “[Caterpillar is] very much a middle-American company and I think this indicates where middle America is moving on this issue.”