The local United Way suspended funding to the Boy Scouts of America after a member of its board complained that the the Scouts' oath of duty "to God and country" discriminates against atheists.
A Sept. 15 letter from the Genoa-Kingston United Way board to the Boy Scouts read in part:"It is the opinion of the board that there is sufficient reason to question the Boy Scouts' compliance with the United Way Charter, which prohibits support of agencies that discriminate on the basis of religion."
Joan Hendricks, a member of the charitable board who is also a member of American Atheists Inc., objected to the proposed funding. She declined to comment Friday.
Scout officials said they have appealed the suspension but that the loss of $1,250 from the Genoa-Kingston United Way would not curtail Scouting activities in the area. Genoa is about 50 miles west of Chicago.
Dennis Cook, spokesman for the Scouts' Two Rivers Council Inc. in St. Charles, Ill., said about $225,000 of the Two Rivers Council's annual operating budget of $800,000 comes from United Way agencies, each of which makes its own funding decisions.
No other United Way agencies have threatened to withdraw grants, he said.
The council oversees 278 Boy Scout, Cub Scout and Explorers organizations in northern Illinois, including two Scout troops and a cub pack in Genoa and Kingston, he said.
"Being a member of the Boy Scouts of America is not a right, it's a privilege," Cook said.
"For the last 80 years our position has included a duty to God. Not now or at any time have we made an attempt to define God. We believe that is a private decision," he added.
Scout officials said the oath is an integral part of the organization. Local United Way officials said the decision to withhold funding may be overturned.