US: Mexican food chain cancels sponsorship of key Boy Scouts fundraising event

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Mexican food chain Chipotle, has pulled its funding of a Boy Scouts of America event in Utah, after admitting that, due to the organisation’s anti-gay policy, Chipotle was in breach of its corporate non-discrimination policy.

Chipotle confirmed to ThinkProgress that it had pulled its funding from the Utah Scout-O-Rama, the annual fundraising gala for the Great Salt Lake Council, the biggest council for the BSA in the US.

In July 2012, after a two year review, the Boy Scouts of America announced it would retain its ban on gay members, volunteers and staff.

Reports suggest that the BSA has been secretly convening a committee to look at whether to change or get rid of the ban.

Back in February, the Boy Scouts of American delayed a vote on whether or not to lift the ban, until May “due to the complexity of the issue”. 

In an email, Chipotle confirmed: “By way of follow up, we have terminated our sponsorship of this event.

“As I mentioned yesterday, community support decisions like this are made in a decentralized way and this one was inconsistent with our own policy. We believed that terminating the sponsorship and remaining consistent with our policy was the right thing to do, and we have reinforced our policy with the team that makes these decisions to try to prevent similar issues in the future.”

Reports suggest that the company had previously dropped its support of the event from $70,000 (£46,000) to $8,000 (£5,250), after realising that the anti-gay policy clashed with the nondiscrimination policy.

Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold, told ThinkProgress earlier in the week that their sponsorship did not signal an endorsement, but more to “reach” out to community groups.

He said: “We have built our brand largely by reaching out to people on a grassroots level and have done that working with a variety of community groups around the country, including school groups, youth sports, pride events, music festivals, food events and farmers’ markets, among many others.

“Our intention in doing that isn’t to endorse the policies of those groups, but rather to reach individuals (in this case the scouts themselves) through groups that are important in a given community. These decisions are made by a team of people around the country with the intention of connecting our restaurants with people in those communities.”

He went on to concede that the group’s policy banning gay volunteers, members and staff, contradicted its own policy on discrimination.

He said: “That being said, this decision is not consistent with our own values, and we have used this opportunity to reinforce those values with the team that makes those decisions for us.”

Chipotle’s nondiscrimination policy states that the company “will not support organizations that discriminate against a person or a group on the basis of age, political affiliation, race, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation or religious belief.”

Last week both Carly Rae Jepsen and San Francisco band Train pulled out of headlining at the Scouts annual jamboree, because of its ongoing ban on allowing gay members, volunteers and staff.

A rally recently delivered a petition with 1.4 million signatures pushing for the Boy Scouts of America to drop its ban. 

Back in January, President Barack Obama said that he thought gay people should be allowed in the Boy Scouts of America, and that “nobody should be barred” from the experience of being a scout.

The Boy Scouts have already lost funding from several large corporate donors, including UPS, back in November, who had given over $150,000 (£95,000) to the BSA, and Intel, another of the scouts’ largest donors, ceased funding back in September.