A United Way chapter, fearing a fund-raising backlash, reversed its decision to end funding to a Boy Scouts group because of protests from atheists over the Scout oath, officials said Saturday.
Atheists blasted the decision and said they'd continue the fight. They oppose a Scout's oath to do his duty "to God and my country."The Genoa-Kingston United Way chapter reversed itself by an 8-1 vote late Friday and will resume its $1,250 contribution to the Boy Scouts of America-Two Rivers Council.
"There was an overwhelming response from our donor base that they wanted the Boy Scouts funded," United Way board chairman Jim Ferris said at a news conference. "There was some concern that our ability to collect may be hurt by the previous board decision."
Robert Sherman, a spokesman for the northern Illinois chapter of American Atheists Inc., based in Austin, Texas, said the United Way group violated its promise not to support an organization that practices religious discrimination. "They are soliciting money from atheists and others under a promise that these funds would be used for human-care services without discrimination," Sherman said.
"There is an impression that society will tolerate the violation of atheists' rights," he said.
The Genoa-Kingston United Way group, based about 60 miles northwest of Chicago, voted to halt the Boy Scout funding Aug. 29. The Boy Scout council is based in the small north Chicago suburb of St. Charles.
A pending federal lawsuit filed in Chicago challenges the requirement that Boy Scouts take the oath.
"The charge of discrimination that the atheists are raising is in the courts right now for a decision," United Way of America spokesman Tony De Christofaro said in an interview from Alexander, Va.
"That is why (local officials) reinstated the allocation," he said.
The Boy Scouts receive more than $80 million a year from United Way agencies across the country, Christofaro said.
Atheists hope to block any future United Way grants to the Scouts with legal action and plan a federal lawsuit seeking to revoke the Boy Scouts' national charter, granted by Congress, he said.