04/09/1998 AT 12:00 AM EDT
Steven Spielberg has taken a hike from an advisory board of the Boy Scouts of America, apparently because of the group's exclusion of 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," the mega-successful film director, 54, said in a statement that did not directly refer to the Scouts' controversial exclusion of "avowed homosexuals." Said Spielberg: "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." Speaking to Reuters, Joey Robinson, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts' L.A. council (on whose advisory board Spielberg has served), defended his organization's right to set its membership policies. He said he had not been informed of Spielberg's decision.