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The BSA and its funding sources

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The United Way:

The United Way is a collection of autonomous local agencies that organize individual funding drives in their communities -- typically on a yearly basis. Each United Way then funds individual local agencies with the money that they have collected. This arrangement has a number of advantages:

bullet It helps the individual agencies. Without United Way funding, each would have to dissipate a great deal of their resources to organize a separate funding drive. 
bullet It benefits the public who would otherwise be faced with many dozens of requests for support each year. 
bullet It reduces overhead costs. One funding drive costs less to organize than perhaps 80 individual drives in a community. Thus, a larger percentage of the donations end up in the hands of the agencies.

There is a growing movement within the United Way to deny funding to agencies that discriminate in the provision of services, employment practices or board membership selection on the basis of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. An increasing number of United Way agencies have pulled their funding for the Boy Scouts of America in their community because of their policies of discrimination on the basis of religion and sexual orientation. These included the United Ways of:

bullet CA: Santa Cruz Count, Bay Area, and Silicon Valley
bullet CT: Greater New Haven
bullet FL: Broward County, including the city of Ft. Lauderdale: They pulled $130,000 in funding for 42,000 boys because the South Florida Boy Scouts would not sign a non-discrimination policy. According to a report in the Maimi Herald in 2001-JUL, after dialoging with the United Way and a local gay-positive group, the Scouts decided to:
bullet abandon seeking after public funding,
bullet abandon recruitment in public schools,
bullet develop a training program for its leaders to help them deal more sensitively with gay youth.
bullet sue any group that uses the Boy Scout's name to further its political agenda. According to Jeffrie Herrmann, executive director of the South Florida Boy Scouts Council, some conservative Christian groups were trying  "to confuse the public by using our name to gain support for their causes. We are not involved in these petition drives." 1

An anonymous donor donated $200,000 so that the local Scouts could continue their policies of discrimination intact.

bullet MA: The United Way of Massachusetts Bay dialoged with the Boston Minuteman [Boy Scouts] Council and reached agreement in 2001-JUL that the Council would adopt a policy of nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. 1
bullet ME: Greater Portland
bullet NJ: Somerset County
bullet MN:
bullet In an attempt to forestall the cancellation of funding, the Four Lakes Boy Scouts Council made available a new Scout patch called "Respect for all." To qualify for the patch, scouts had to learn about different family structures, including gay and lesbian families. They also issued a resolution stating that they disagreed with the anti-gay discrimination policy of the national BSA. However, the Council continues to follow that national BSA policies.
bullet In 2001-NOV, the Gamehaven and Gateway Boy Scouts Councils reached an agreement with the United Way of the Greater Winona Area to violate national BSA policy and to "not discriminate regarding someone’s sexual orientation." 1
bullet RI: Southeastern New England.

By early 2002, a number of Boy Scout councils had taken action to defy their national body and lessen discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Some have quietly signed pledges with their local United Way to comply with the latter's non-discrimination policies. Others have drafted their own non-discrimination policies.

Other councils, appear to have adopted a "don't ask - don't tell" policy, similar to that of the U.S. Armed Forces:

bullet On 2001-DEC-17, the Associated Press reported that the Green Mountain Boy Scouts Council in Vermont council had adopted a policy that "unlike national rules, permits gay Scouts and Scout leaders." Green Mountain Council Executive Director Jerry Lupien denied the report.
bullet In 2001, Boy Scouts of America's Milwaukee County Council Boy Scouts officials signed the United Way of Greater Milwaukee's non-discrimination policy, but only after having first crossed out the sexual orientation phrase. In 2002, they signed the full statement: "any program or agency that discriminates in the provision of services on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, handicap, sex, or sexual orientation." The Council had recently adopted the "don't ask - don't tell" policy.
Michael Childers, Scout executive for the Council, said that they have been able to harmonize the apparently conflicting rules of the BSA and United Way because they do not ask members or leaders whether they are homosexual. However, if they found out that a youth member or a leader had a sexual orientation, they would auotmatically eject him from the organization. When asked whether that wouldn't violate the United Way policy, he said: "It's not like we're trying to discover it or make it an issue." Neil Albrecht, executive director of the Milwaukee Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Transgender Community Center, said that Childer's said that the comments were "discouraging and disheartening." Albrecht said: "It should be alarming to the United Way. I would question the sincerity [of signing the United Way policy]." Gregg Shields, national spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America, said "The national policy is that the Boy Scouts of America have always stood for and taught traditional American family values and an avowed homosexual is not a role model for those values, and accordingly we don't extend leadership to homosexuals. We don't force these values on anyone. We are a volunteer organization." He neglected to mention that the anti-gay policy of discrimination extends beyond the BSA leadership to youth members as well. 5

In mid-2004, Hans Zeiber, a student at Hillsdale College, prepared a list of United Way organizations which have de-funded their local Boy Scouts chapters because of discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or religion. They are sorted alphabetically by their location:

United Way of Alachua county, Gainesville, FL
United Way of Allegan County, Allegan, MI
United Way of Austin, Texas
United Way of the Bay Area, San Francisco, CA
United Way of Bronxville Eastchester Tuckahoe, Bronxville, NY
United Way of Broward County, Fort Lauderdale, FL
United Way of California Capital Region, Sacramento, CA
United Way of Capital Area, Hartford, CT
United Way of Chicago, Chicago, IL
United Way of the Columbia-Willamette, Portland, OR
United Way of Dane County, Madison, WI
United Way of Dunn County, Menomonie, WI
United Way of Essex and West Hudson, Newark. NJ
United Way Evanston, Chicago, IL
United Way of Fox Cities, Inc., Menasha, WI
United Way of Greater Duluth, Inc. Duluth, MN
United Way of Greater Fall River, MA
United Way of the Greater Winona Area, Winona, MN
United Way of Greenwich, Connecticut
Hampshire Community United Way, Northhampton, MA
Heart of Florida United Way, Orlando, FL
United Way of Jackson County, Medford, OR
United Way of King County, Seattle, WA
United Way of Massachusetts Bay, Boston, MA
United Way of Metropolitan, Dallas, TX
United Way of Miami-Dade, FL
Monadnock United Way of Keene, NH
United Way of Monmouth County, Farmingdale, NJ
United Way of Monroe County, Bloomington, IN
United Way of Monterey Bay, CA
United Way of Morris County, Morristown, NJ
United Way of Moscow/Latah County, Moscow, ID
United Way of New Haven, CT
United Way of Norwalk and Wilton, Norwalk, CT
United Way of Northern Fairfield County, Danbury, CT
United Way of Northwestern Michigan, Traverse City, MI
United Way Inc., Palm Beach Community Chest, Palm Beach and Minalapan, FL
United Way of Pierce County, Tacoma, WA
United Way of Portland, ME
United Way of Santa Barbara County, Santa Barbara, CA
United Way of Santa Clara County, CA
United Way of Santa Cruz County, Capitola, CA
United Way of Santa Fe, NM
United Way of Silicon Valley, Santa Clara, CA
United Way of Snohomish County, Everett, WA
United Way of Somerset County, NJ
United Way of Sonoma-Mendocino-Lake Counties, Santa Rosa, CA
United Way of Southeast New England, Providence, RI
United Way Southeastern Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
United Way of Thurston County, Olympia, WA
United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona, Tucson
United Way of Ulster County, Kingston, NY
United Way of Ventura County, Ventura, CA
United Way of Westport-Weston, Westport, CT
United Way of Westchester and Putnam, Inc. White Plains, NY
United Way of Whatcom County, Bellingham, WA

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State and municipal governments:

Berkeley, CA, had allowed non-profit organizations to berth their boats without charge at the municipal marina. In 1997, the city restricted the free use of the marina to groups that did not discriminate against minorities. In 1998, they revoked a subsidy previously given to the Sea Scouts -- a branch of the Boy Scouts. City officials informed the Berkeley Sea Scouts that their $1,500 a month subsidy for their three boats would be restored if it broke ties with the Boy Scouts or disavowed the policy against gays and Atheists. The Sea Scouts refused and launched a court case -- Evans v. City of Berkeley, 06-40. A lower court ruled that the city could treat the Sea Scouts differently from other non-profits because of the Scouts' membership policies. In 2006-MAR, the California Supreme Court let the decision stand. They determined that municipal governments are under no obligation to extend benefits to organizations that discriminate. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case. 6

The ReligionToday News Summary reported on 2000-AUG-30 that: "Some support for the Boy Scouts is eroding. In the two months since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Boy Scouts of America has a constitutional right to exclude homosexuals, Chicago, San Francisco, and San Jose, Calif., have told local Scout troops that they can no longer use parks and schools...Large companies including Chase Manhattan Bank and Textron Inc., have withdrawn hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding, and numerous United Ways have cut off funds amounting to millions of dollars a year."

The Connecticut state government "banned contributions to the Scouts by state employees through a state-run charity." The Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities is evaluating whether to allow the BSA to continue to use public campgrounds, public schools, and other state-owned buildings. In 2004, a court rejected an appeal by the BSA to reinstate their status. 6

The city of Fort Lauderdale, FL, voted in 2000-SEP to discontinue a grant to the local Boy Scouts. They would have given $4,000 to the BSA Learning for Life program which benefits public school children in high crime areas. At a support rally for the BSA, Larry Thompson, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Fort Lauderdale presented a check for $10,200 to the Scouts to offset the loss of municipal funding. In the same area of Florida, Broward County approved a $92,884 grant for the Scouts, but require them to sign a contract which includes a non-discrimination clause. This they cannot sign because one of the prohibited grounds for discrimination is sexual orientation. Also, Miami-Dade schools have postponed a Scout recruitment drive. "Miami Beach City Commission on [2000] Sept. 13 voted unanimously to preliminarily approve a new ordinance that would prevent the Boy Scouts from using city facilities for free." 2

In Michigan, the city councils of Ann Arbor and Detroit banned payroll deductions from city employees to the Scouts and prohibited police and fire departments from sponsoring scout troops. This was required by the cities' human rights ordinances.

According to the Associated Press:

"On a separate matter, federal judges in two other court cases that are being appealed have ruled that government aid to the group is unconstitutional because the Boy Scouts of America requires members to swear an oath of duty to God."

" 'The issue of governments seeking to punish organizations for exercising their First Amendment rights is a recurring one. There will be other opportunities for the Supreme Court to affirm First Amendment protections for organizations dealing with government agencies,' George Davidson, the longtime attorney for the Scouts, said in a statement." 6

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Some of the largest contributors to the BSA are withdrawing their economic support. "At least three blue-chip  sponsors -- including Chase Manhattan Corp. and Knight Ridder Inc. -- are pulling hundreds of thousands dollars in support...the  companies have come to a sobering conclusion: the Scouts' visible rules don't comply with many of the companies' own diversity  guidelines. So for corporate America, the case has  brought to the surface a difficult dilemma: Can companies fund an apple-pie organization like the Scouts without  alienating gay customers, not to mention gay employees?" Merrill Lynch & Co. are reviewing its policy. Jim Finn, a spokesman for Chase Manhattan, commented: "With the Supreme Court's decision, it's hard to justify the funding. Diversity is an important issue for our company and our employees, and the ruling doesn't square with our own feeling about fairness. Gregg Shields, spokesman for the BSA responded: "We are pleased that these companies chose to fund the Boy Scouts and are sad to hear that they no longer will...we ask that people respect our private beliefs as much as we respect theirs." American Airlines, AT&T and General Electric have decided to continue their contributions. "Many of the companies point out that they recognize the issue is complex. But they say any withdrawal of support could  end up jeopardizing the very people they intend to help -- kids." 3 (Chase Manhattan later restored support when large religious organizations began closing their accounts.)

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Fundamentalist Christian groups:

According to ReligionToday news summary for 2000-SEP-18, Focus on the Family,
Family Research Council, and the Center for Reclaiming America "say they will try to stop local governments and other longtime financial supporters from turning their backs on the group over its ban on homosexuals." Focus on the Family is taking an aggressive stance against the situation in Florida. 4 They recommend that listeners complain to the Fort Lauderdale City commissioners, and the Broward County commissioners. They ask that those listeners who live in the rest of the country threaten to boycott the city and county. 

The language used by Fundamentalist organizations often stresses that the BSA organization itself is being targeted. Violent terms like "attack" and "assault" are used. For example, the Focus on the Family article refers to:

bullet "Florida Boy Scouts Under Attack!"
bullet "...growing wave of assaults against the Boy Scouts nationwide."

Other reports in the media stress that it is the homosexual and religious discrimination policies of the Boy Scouts that are being criticized, not the organization itself. They tend to use less violent terms, indicating that the conflict is over ideas, and is not a physical confrontation.

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Related essays on this site:

bullet Menu: Boy Scouts of America
bullet Homosexuality and bisexuality
bullet Different religions, different beliefs

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The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Candi Cushman, "Who's Selling Out the Scouts?," Citizen, at:
  2. "Florida Boy Scouts under attack," Focus on the Family, at:
  3. Daniel Costello, "Some backers pull Boy Scouts' funding after high courts ruling on gay scouts," Wall Street Journal, 2000-AUG-24
  4. "Florida Boy Scouts under attack," Focus on the Family, at:
  5. Jessica McBride, "Scouts use 'Don't ask, don't tell'; Approach allows council to sign United Way anti-bias policy," Journal Sentinel Online (Milwaukee, WI), at:
  6. Mark Sherman, "Boy Scouts face setback in Supreme Court," Associated Press, 2006-OCT-16, at:

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Site navigation: Home page > Religious intolerance > Boy Scouts > here

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Copyright © 1999 to 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Originally published on 1999-AUG-9 
Latest updated: 2006-OCT-17
Author: B.A. Robinson

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