The York-area council of Boys Scouts of America, should it choose to adhere to its national organization's ban on gays, is likely to lose funding from the United Way of York County when its current partnership agreement expires.

Officials in the local United Way and York's branch of the Boy Scouts - the New Birth of Freedom Council - have in recent weeks been hashing out their organizations' conflicting policies.

While the national Boy Scouts organization has banned openly gay youth and adults, the United Way has a policy opposing discrimination based on sexual orientation.

But the two organizations have an agreement in place until 2016, binding them until its expiration even though the United Way is opposed to the Boy Scout policy, said Robert J. Woods, executive director of United Way of York County.

The United Way will give the Boy Scouts until the end of that agreement to either change its policy or find a way to compensate for the substantial hole that will be left in its budget, he said.

"Quite frankly, we can't do anything at this point in time," Woods said. "This does give them time and if they're not going to make revisions, then they need to do something to make up the amount of money they're receiving from the United Way. We are not just shutting the door on the Boy Scouts."

Woods said the current agreement doesn't include an anti-discrimination clause based on sexual orientation, but "given my own board's feelings on this issue," any new agreement reached in 2016 will include one.


"And it's not going to be ambiguous, it's going to be very specific," Woods said. "They would essentially not be able to sign the agreement, but what we're hoping for is that the national will change the policy by that time."

In the interim, funding to the Boy Scouts will continue under the current agreement, he said, and the council "has agreed to continue actively teaching tolerance, embrace acceptance and not inquire into the sexual orientation of the youth or adult volunteers applying for membership."

The funding: Last year, the United Way of York's community fund contributed about $165,000 to the local Boy Scouts. A separate fund, through which employees designated their donations to go directly to the local Scouts, totaled about $86,000, Woods said.

Funding levels aren't guaranteed until 2016, Woods said, as a review panel decides allocations based on available money. But he said it's unlikely the review panel will change Boy Scouts allocations for the duration of the agreement based on the discrimination issue.

The New Birth of Freedom Council covers about 11,400 Scouts in York, Dauphin, Cumberland, Franklin, Perry and Adams counties.

The York decision comes several weeks after the United Way of the Capital Region, which covers the Harrisburg area, voted to suspend its partnership with the scouting group starting Jan. 1 until it repeals the gay ban.

Ron Gardner, Scout executive with the local council, said the gay ban is a national decision and "we can't really pick and choose which national policies our council will follow or will not follow."

He declined to say whether he thinks the national council will change the policy, but Boy Scouts in York and beyond could lose a lot of money.

"We're talking not just about the loss of the allocation from United Way of York County, but also the $90,000 lost from United Way of the Capital Region," he said. "That's $260,000 total and that is not going to be easy to make up. I have nothing that I could tell you, in concrete, right now, on how we'll deal with it."

- Reach Christina Kauffman at