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Religious Tolerance logo

Denial of funding to the Boy Scouts of America (BSA): Year 2000 to now

Part 1: Denial of funding by United Way agencies

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The United Way:

The United Way is a group 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:

bulletIt 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.
bulletIt benefits the public who would otherwise be faced with many dozens of requests for support each year.
bulletIt 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, gender identity, and other grounds. An increasing number of United Way agencies have pulled their funding for the Boy Scouts of America in their community because of the BSA's policies of discrimination on the basis of religion and sexual orientation. These included the United Ways of:

bulletCA: Santa Cruz Count, Bay Area, and Silicon Valley

bulletCT: Greater New Haven

bulletFL: 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 Miami Herald in 2001-JUL, after dialoging with the United Way and a local gay-positive group, the Scouts decided to:

bullet Abandon seeking of public funding,

bulletAbandon recruitment in public schools,

bulletDevelop 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.

bulletMA: 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.

bulletNJ: Somerset County

bulletIn 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 the national BSA policies.

bulletIn 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
bulletRI: Southeastern New England.

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By early 2002, a number of Boy Scout councils had taken action to defy their national body's policy 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 at the time:

bulletOn 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.


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 that covers:

"... 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 homosexual orientation, they would automatically 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, mentioned 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

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This topic continues in Part 2

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References used:

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:
  7. Zach Wahls, "Intel: Stop funding discrimination!,", at:
  8. Camille Beredjick, "UPS quits funding Boy Scouts over anti-gay policy,", 2012-NOV-13, at:
  9. "Merck Foundation Severs Boy Scouts Funding Over Anti-Gay Policy," Huffington Post, 2012-DEC-10, at:
  10. Rich Ferrato, "Merck Foundation suspends funding to Boy Scouts of America until ban on gay scouts and leaders ends," Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, 2012-DEC-10, at:

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

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Copyright © 1999 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Originally published on 1999-AUG-9 
Latest updated: 2012-DEC-10
Author: B.A. Robinson

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