Phone lines to United Way agencies in Utah were tied up Monday morning by people worried about a United Way office that suspended funding to the Boy Scouts of America because they "discriminate against atheists."
An Associated Press story in Saturday's Deseret News told of a United Way Board in Genoa, Ill., that suspended funding to the local Boy Scouts of America organization. The action came after Joan Hendricks, a member of the United Way charitable board and the American Atheists Inc., complained that the Scouts' oath of duty "to God and country" discriminates against atheists."People don't realize that every local United Way is very autonomous," said Charles Johnson, director of the United Way of the Great Salt Lake Area.
"Boy Scouts are a major portion of our program. We fund so many of their programs that years ago we moved them into multiyear funding, with a separate agreement."
A panel is looking at the Boy Scout programs, merely as a "way to reacquaint ourselves with all their programs," Johnson said. There is no intention of cutting funding to the group.
Leaders at the Utah County United Way are concerned that area residents don't understand the structure of its organization.
What happened in Genoa, a small town of 5,000, will not affect the direction and bylaws of the United Way in Utah County and what organizations are funded, according to Bill Hulterstrom, director.
"The strength of United Way is that the money we raise in our own community stays here to fight our own problems," Hulterstrom said.
United Way Board President Ralph Nelson said, "People are often confused about the relationship between their local United Way and the other 2,200 United Ways around the country.
"One of the strengths of United Way is that each is independent and is completely autonomous of one another. Each local United Way has its own board members, its own bylaws, and its own standards," Nelson said.
Johnson said that local people sit on the allocation panels and make decisions that reflect the community's values. And in Utah, the Boy Scouts are highly valued, he said.