The two-time Oscar-winning director has announced he's resigning from his position on the advisory board with the Boy Scouts of America because of the organization's policy banning gays.
"The last few years in scouting have deeply saddened me to see the Boy Scouts of America actively and publicly participating in discrimination. It's a real shame," says Spielberg in a statement.
The filmmaker, a member of the Boy Scouts' advisory board for more than 10 years, did not specifically name the discrimination of gays as the reason for his departure, but his statement left little doubt why he was leaving.
"I thought the Boy Scouts stood for equal opportunity and I have consistently spoken out publicly and privately against intolerance and discrimination based on ethnic, religious, racial and sexual orientation."
Spielberg, who as a kid obtained the organization's highest honor, Eagle Scout, says he would consider a return to the panel if the Boy Scouts change their ways. "Once scouting opens its doors to all who desire the same experience that so fully enriched me as a young person, I will be happy to reconsider a role on the advisory board," he says.
The Boy Scouts of America has come under heavy fire from gay and lesbian activists wanting to end the organization's discriminatory membership policies. However, a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Scouts' right to ban homosexuals from joining the group, saying the Scouts' have a right as a private institution to set its own standards for membership.
Spielberg's longtime publicist, Marvin Levy, says the filmmaker's role on the advisory board was purely an informal one, but when people started seeing his name attached to the group, they assumed he supported the Boy Scout's policies. Levy stated the director is against any organization that discriminates against gays or any other group.
"Steven hoped the policy would change," says Levy. "[Spielberg]'s the single biggest booster [of the Boy Scouts] you could imagine...it even gave him a start on his career."
Before bagging on the Boy Scouts, Spielberg had donated money to fund camps, helped to write the guidelines for a cinematography merit badge and was honored by the Scouts several years ago at the group's quadrennial jamboree. He is also featured prominently in promotional material for the group.
Meanwhile, Joey Robinson, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts' Los Angeles council, tells Reuters the famous director has a right to his opinion, but that his organization also has a constitutional right to set its own membership policies.
Says Robinson: "This is America. Everybody has a right to voice their opinion and we respect his right."