New York City
Scott Sherman, in “Target Ford” [June 5], quotes several people who theorize about why the Ford Foundation changed its grant letter in 2003. As surprising as it may seem, the truth is simple and straightforward. We were disgusted by the vicious anti-Semitic activity at the United Nations Conference on Racism, at Durban. While Ford grantees were not responsible for the worst of this activity, the behavior and language of a few was disturbing and unacceptable to us. In response, we took a range of actions, including cessation of funding.
The language that we subsequently added to our grant letter is an explicit expression of our values–values that were implicit in our grant-making but which, after Durban, clearly needed to be explicitly articulated. Our letter has prompted useful conversations in some of the complex regions in which we work. Our values remain clear: We will not fund those who promote or engage in violence, terrorism, bigotry or the destruction of any state.
To date, only a handful of organizations have chosen not to sign our letter. Since 2004, when we revised the grant letter, approximately 4,500 have been signed by grantees who are moving forward with their work. All of the universities Sherman mentions have either signed or now applied for funds.
We continue to work in many trouble spots around the world, always seeking to promote civil society, human rights and achievement, and peaceful solutions to conflict. To suggest, as Sherman does, that the foundation has backed away from these ambitions ignores our funding for the courageous individuals and institutions worldwide who invest their energy and their faith in our shared values.
MARTA L. TELLADO
Vice president for communications,
The Ford Foundation
Scott Sherman presents a very distorted picture of my actions vis-à-vis the Ford Foundation’s efforts to develop a policy reflecting its commitment to progressive philanthropy and against racism. Because of my work to protect civil liberties, including leading House opposition to the Patriot Act and warrantless wiretapping, I have at times been accused of being soft on terrorism. Being accused of promoting censorship of progressive scholarship and advocacy is, however, a first. It is also untrue.
The policy that the Ford Foundation ultimately adopted requires that grant recipients not “promote or engage in violence, terrorism, bigotry or the destruction of any state.” When did it become inappropriate for a private foundation, especially one with Ford’s progressive track record, to refuse to fund those activities?
The government must be neutral toward different points of view. Private foundations, however, need not be. They exist to advance their own values. Sherman approvingly notes Ford’s “commitment to human rights, poverty reduction and racial justice” and that in response to right-wing attacks, it “defiantly stepped up its funding of a wide range of antipoverty and social justice groups.” Yet he seems to suggest that Ford’s historic commitment to these values should not extend to combating anti-Semitism in the same way it has to combating racism, homophobia or other forms of bigotry. Thankfully, Ford has taken a different view.