Last edited: February 14, 2005

The United Way Turns Ideologue

The Providence Journal-Bulletin, August 8, 2000
75 Fountain St., Providence, RI 02902
Fax 401-277-7346

By David R. Carlin

ON JULY 21, the Journal published an essay co-authored by Dennis Murphy, president and executive director of the United Way, and Sean Coffey, chairman of its board of directors ("The United Way’s policy of inclusion"). The essay offered a rationale for a new United Way policy requiring recipients of United Way largess to abstain from discrimination, including discrimination based on sexual orientation. In plain English, the United Way will no longer support the Boy Scouts unless the Scouts drop their traditional anti-homosexuality stance. Until the Scouts admit openly gay members, accept openly gay troop leaders, hire openly gay camp counselors and executives — until that blessed day, they’ll get no more handouts from the United Way. Murphy and Coffey justify this policy in terms of "inclusion" and "diversity" and "tolerance." Rhode Island, after all, was founded on the principle of tolerance by Roger Williams.

The writers might have done better to skip the reference to Roger Williams and his fellow founding fathers, for a check of the early records of the colony reveals that the founders were anything but inclusive when it came to homosexuality. In 1647, with Roger Williams present, the Rhode Island legislature adopted the following statute:

"Touching Whoremongers. First of Sodomie, which is forbidden by this present Assemblie threwout the whole Colonie, and by Sundry Statutes of England. 25 Hen. viii. 6; 5 Eliz. xvii. It is a vile affection, whereby men given up thereto, leave the natural use of woman, and burne in their lusts, one toward another; and so men with men worke that which is unseemly, as that Doctor of the Gentiles in his letter to the Romans once spake, i.27; The Penaltie concluded by that State [England] under whose authoritie we are, is Felonie of death, without remedye. See 5 Eliz. 17."

So far from having an "inclusive" and "tolerant" attitude toward homosexuality, then, the founding fathers of our state actually favored punishing such "diversity" by the death penalty!

Okay, then, let’s leave Roger Williams out of the picture. I’m sure Murphy and Coffey would contend that the case for inclusion, including gay inclusion, stands on solid ground regardless of what Roger Williams might have to say about it were he to return from the dead. What Murphy and Coffey fail to do in their essay is to acknowledge that there is a great ideological debate going on in the United States today — and that the United Way, instead of remaining neutral (which would seem to be the fitting thing for an organization dependent on community-wide support), has taken sides in that debate. In short, the United Way has turned ideologue.

The debate I refer to is that between advocates of a New Morality and defenders of an Old Morality. As the New Morality folks see things, the great principle of morality is personal freedom, provided one’s exercise of freedom does not infringe on another’s exercise. Hence they support abortion, homosexuality (including gay marriage), no-fault divorce, pornography, assisted suicide, etc. The Old Morality opposes all these things.

What the United Way is doing, then, is siding with the New Morality party against the Old Morality party. But since the old Morality is really nothing other than traditional Christian morality, it follows that the United Way is declaring itself the ideological enemy of traditional Christianity. Now, this is a free country, and if the United Way wants to join the culture war against traditional Christianity, fine. But it shouldn’t pretend to do so in the name of "inclusion," since its ideological posture demonstrates an attitude of rank intolerance toward men and women holding traditional Christian beliefs and values.

In effect, the United Way is demanding that the Boy Scouts commit institutional suicide. For can anyone doubt that Scout membership will drop precipitously once overt gays occupy leadership positions?

Politically correct propaganda tells us that adult gays have no sexual interest in adolescent boys. In the real world, however, hardly anyone believes this. How many parents are so committed to "tolerance" that they will trust their 13-year-old son on an overnight camping trip with a gay adult?

But its new policy may also do grave damage to the United Way itself. For if the United Way has turned ideologue, it may reasonably be expected that those on the other side of the ideological divide — Old Morality Catholics and Protestants — will no longer contribute to the United Way.

David R. Carlin is a professor of sociology and philosophy at the Community College of Rhode Island and a former Rhode Island state senator.

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