Tag Archives: national council

Scout leaders focus on jamboree not gay vote

Two months after a vote that accepted openly gay boys as Scouts, officials for the Boy Scouts of America say they’ve put the issue aside and are focused on their 10-day national Jamboree.

Some 30,000 Scouts and their leaders arrived Monday at the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in southern West Virginia. Thousands more staff and volunteers have been at the 1,000-acre site since last week.

Months of divisive debate led to May’s vote by the BSA’s National Council to allow gay Scouts to participate while keeping a ban on gay adults. The policy change is effective next January.

“We don’t see any changes in the way we do things at the jamboree at all,” Wayne Brock, the BSA’s chief executive, told The Associated Press. “We don’t see where it would have any kind of impact.”

With much negative attention directed toward the Boy Scouts in recent months, Brock said the hope is that the Jamboree proves to be a positive event. Although there already has been some controversy over an eligibility requirement for the camp: To attend, Scouts and their leaders have to meet standards for the Body Mass Index and other health factors. So youthwhose BMI is 40 or above were banned.

Regarding the gay policy, BSA national president Wayne Perry said Scouting leaders have been too active to reflect much on the decision.

“We’ve debated this issue, but we’ve moved on,” Perry said.

As Scouts get settled into their tents on six base camps and dive into the dozens of amenities that include whitewater rafting, mountain and BMX biking, and rock climbing, national BSA spokesman Deron Smith said the organization is unaware of any openly gay Scouts attending the Jamboree, noting “we do not proactively inquire about the sexuality of Scouts, or leaders.”

But Pascal Tessier, 16, of Kensington, Md., an openly gay scout who isn’t attending the Jamboree because of prior commitments, said some of his gay friends who are Scouts are attending.

“I don’t think they’re too worried about anything happening there,” he said. “They’ve already been accepted. But they’re also not making a big deal about it. They’re regular Scouts.”

Tessier believes it’s inevitable that Scouts will discuss the BSA’s decision at the Jamboree.

“Not officially, but by themselves,” he said.

Scout officials said they’re unaware of any scheduled protests at the Jamboree. Rich Ferraro of GLAAD, formerly known as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said the media watchdog group has no planned events around the Jamboree and is continuing work to end the Scouts’ ban on gay adults.

“The Boy Scouts took an important first step, but there’s still a long way to go,” Ferraro said.

Earlier this year, GLAAD led a successful campaign to get two musical acts – Carly Rae Jepsen and Train – to drop their planned appearances at the summer event. Jamboree officials have not announced the act for a July 20 concert.

John Paterson and John Bode from the Pikes Peak Council in Colorado Springs, Colo., helped bring 50 Scouts to West Virginia on Monday.

Paterson is at his seventh Jamboree. And it will be his last because of the vote to allow gay Scouts and the push to include gay adults and others.

“It will effectively change Scouting forever. It has,” Paterson said. “And not just because of what the ramifications are. Eagle Scouts will be in next, and then gay leaders. It’s a ripple effect. It will happen. It may take three years. I think it will happen pretty quickly.”

Paterson said the parents of one of his Scouts also said they’re dropping out of the organization over the vote.

Bode, who previous attended a Jamboree as a youth in 1977, said he’ll stick with the Scouts – for now. He has younger boys in Scouting, so he’d like to see them continue into Eagle Scouts.

Eagle Scout Zach Wahls, an activist raised by lesbian mothers in Iowa, is executive director of Scouts for Equality, a group he started last summer whose membership has grown to more than 15,000.

Wahls said despite the policy change, “99 things out of 100 will continue to be the same for the Boy Scouts of America. And I think it’s important for everybody to remember that. As far as our expectations, we hope it’s a great Jamboree.”

John Stemberger, a conservative activist and former Scout from Florida who led a group opposing the policy change, said he expects to see openly gay activism at the Jamboree. He questioned how leaders will handle the issue of tenting of “boys who openly announce their attraction to other boys.”

Stemberger founded a national coalition of parents, Scoutmasters, Eagle Scouts, donors and other BSA members working to create an alternative program to the Boy Scouts.

“For many of our members, this will be the last scouting event they attend before resigning from the BSA,” he wrote in an email.

At an annual meeting in Houston last month, the Southern Baptist Convention approved a resolution expressing its opposition to the new policy allowing gay Scouts, but it didn’t explicitly call for churches to drop all ties with the organization.

“In terms of the Jamboree and summer activities … really at this point nothing has changed,” said Roger Oldham, a spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention. “Nobody should have concerns about (openly gay Scouts) at this year’s Jamboree because the membership policy has not changed.”

Will Boy Scouts accept gay youth? Vote is imminent

With its ranks deeply divided, the Boy Scouts of America is asking its local leaders from across the country to decide whether its membership policy should be overhauled so that openly gay boys can participate in Scout units.

The proposal to be put before the roughly 1,400 voting members of the BSA’s National Council on Thursday, at a meeting in Grapevine, Texas, would retain the Scouts’ long-standing ban on gays serving in adult leadership positions.

Nonetheless, some conservatives within and outside the BSA community have denounced the proposal, saying the Scouts’ traditions would be undermined by the presence of openly gay youth. There have been warnings of mass defections if the ban is even partially lifted.

From the other flank, gay-rights supporters and some Scout leaders from politically liberal areas have welcomed the proposed change as a positive first step, but are calling on the BSA to go further and lift the ban on gay adults as well.

The Scouts’ national spokesman, Deron Smith, said the policy toward gays had become “the most complex and challenging issue” facing the BSA at a time when it is struggling to stem a steady drop in membership.

“Ultimately we can’t anticipate how people will vote but we do know that the result will not match everyone’s personal preference,” Smith said in an email.

In January, the BSA floated a plan to give sponsors of local Scout units the option of admitting gays as both youth members and adult leaders or continuing to exclude them. However, it changed course, in part because of surveys sent out starting in February to members of the Scouting community.

Of the more than 200,000 leaders, parents and youth members who responded, 61 percent supported the current policy of excluding gays, while 34 percent opposed it.

Those findings contrasted with a Washington Post-ABC News national poll earlier this month. It said 63 percent of respondents favored letting openly gay youth be Scouts, and 56 percent favored lifting the ban on gay adults.

Over the past several weeks, numerous public events have been staged by advocacy groups on different sides of the debate.

A group called Scouts for Equality has organized rallies in several cities aimed at urging local BSA councils to support an end to the ban on gay youth. Rallies opposing any easing of the ban, for youth or adults, have been organized by a group called OnMyHonor.net, which claims the pending proposal “requires open homosexuality in the Boy Scouts.”

Both groups plan to have their leaders and supporters on hand in Grapevine as the vote takes place.

Among those heading to Grapevine to lobby for an easing of the ban are Tracie Felker and her 16-year-old son, Pascal Tessier, who, though openly gay, is on track to become an Eagle Scout as a member of Boy Scout Troop 52 in Chevy Chase, Md.

“We are absolutely dedicated to restoring integrity to Boy Scouting and reinvigorating the program,” Felker said. “That can only be done by removing the stain of discrimination.”

Passions also run deep on the other side, as evidenced by a live online event titled “Stand With Scouts Sunday” presented May 5 by the conservative Family Research Council. The council opposes lifting the ban on gay youth, saying such a change “will dramatically alter the culture and moral landscape of America.”

Among the participants was Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who lauded the Scouts’ tradition of character-building.

“For pop culture to come in and try to tear that up because this happens to be the flavor of the month … that is just not appropriate,” Perry said. “Frankly I hope the American people stand up and say, `Not on my watch.'”

Also appearing on the webcast was Jeremy Miller, a Scout leader from Ohio who said the proposed change “will open the door to boy-on-boy sexual contact, bullying and older Scouts being predators on younger scouts.”

The BSA’s national leadership has rejected such warnings as ill-founded. “The BSA makes no connection between the sexual abuse or victimization of a child and homosexuality,” a new background document says. “The BSA takes strong exception to this assertion.”

Of the more than 100,000 Scouting units in the U.S., 70 percent are chartered by religious institutions. While these sponsors include liberal churches opposed to any ban on gays, some of the largest sponsors are relatively conservative denominations that have supported the broad ban – notably the Roman Catholic Church and Southern Baptist churches.

Knowing these churches oppose scouting roles for gay adults, the BSA leadership hopes they will be willing to back the easing of the ban on gay youth. As part of this effort, the BSA is emphasizing that sexual conduct by any Scout – straight or gay – would be considered unacceptable.

“We are unaware of any major religious chartered organization that believes a youth member simply stating he or she is attracted to the same sex, but not engaging in sexual activity, should make him or her unwelcome in their congregation,” the Scouts say in their new background document.

Southern Baptist leaders were outspoken earlier this year in opposing the tentative plan to let Scout units decide for themselves if they wanted to accept gays as adult leaders.

Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, said the new proposal “is more acceptable to those who hold a biblical form of morality,” but he nonetheless favors its defeat.

“A No vote keeps the current policy in place, an outcome we would overwhelmingly support,” Page told Baptist Press, the SBC’s official news agency.

Baptist Press reported that the Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., was considering ending a nearly 75-year sponsorship of a Boy Scout troop if the policy change prevails. The church’s senior pastor, Ernest Easley, echoed warnings from other Southern Baptist leaders that any BSA accommodation of gays might prompt defections and trigger an expansion of the SBC’s own youth group for boys, the Royal Ambassadors. According to BSA figures, Baptist churches sponsor Scout units with about 108,000 youth members.

Leaders of some smaller conservative denominations – including the Assemblies of God and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod – have signed a statement opposing the proposal to accept gay youth.

Some larger sponsors have either endorsed the proposal, or – in the case of the United Methodist Church and Catholic Church – declined to specify a position. The National Catholic Committee on Scouting issued a statement describing the membership debate as “difficult and sensitive” but stopping short of any explicit recommendation for how Catholic delegates to the BSA meeting should vote.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced in April that it supports the new proposal, saying the BSA made a good-faith effort to address a complex issue. The Mormons sponsor more Scout units than any other organization, serving about 430,000 of the 2.6 million youth in Scouting.

The United Methodists are the second-largest sponsor, serving about 363,000 youth members; the Catholic Church is No. 3, with a youth membership of about 273,000.

Several regional Scout councils already have declared their position on the membership proposal.

In Tennessee, the Nashville-based Middle Tennessee Council and Jackson-based West Tennessee Area Council said they oppose the proposed change and support the current broad ban on gay youth and adults.

“We are continuing to uphold the standards, beliefs and traditions Scouting has held for over 100 years,” said Lee Beaman, board president of the Middle Tennessee Council, which says it serves 35,000 youth and adults.

The day after that announcement, Bill Moser, a longtime Scout leader in Clarksville, Tenn., announced his resignation, saying he couldn’t support a policy that would force openly gay youth out of Scouting when they turned 18.

The Greater New York Councils, which serve about 43,000 Scouts in New York City, is supporting the proposal to accept gay youths, calling it “a positive step forward.” It is among the councils urging the Scouts to also accept gays as adult leaders.

The Los Angeles Area Council said it follows a nondiscrimination policy that extends to sexual orientation and it proposed that the BSA adopt a similar policy nationwide, opening its ranks to openly gay adults as well as youth.

However, the BSA leadership says no such alternative proposals will be put to a vote at the Grapevine meeting – only the single proposal to lift the ban on gay youth.

If the proposal is approved, the new policy would take effect on Jan. 1, 2014. A task force already has been created to oversee its implementation.

On the Web…

Boy Scouts: HTTP://WWW.SCOUTING.ORG/

Mormon Church approves of Boy Scouts proposal to end gay youth ban

The Mormon church has given its blessing to the Boy Scouts of America on its latest proposal to lift the gay ban for youth members but continue to exclude gays as adult leaders.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints posted a statement on its website saying it is satisfied with the proposal, which the Boy Scouts announced last week and will submit to its National Council at a meeting in Texas the week of May 20.

The Salt Lake City-based church said it is satisfied that the Boy Scouts of America has made a “thoughtful, good-faith effort to address issues that, as they have said, remain `among the most complex and challenging issues facing the BSA and society today.'”

It added the proposal recognizes that “Scouting exists to serve and benefit youth rather than Scout leaders, a single standard of moral purity for youth in the program, and a renewed emphasis for Scouts to honor their duty to God.”

The reaction from the LDS church comes six days after the Boy Scouts of America made its major announcement. The Mormon church has more Scouting troops than any other religious denomination in the country so there was widespread interest in what it would say about the proposal.

The LDS church still teaches its members that marriage is between a man and a woman and that same-sex relationships are sinful. In December, however, the church launched a website encouraging members to be more compassionate in discussions about homosexuality. The website says Mormons should be loving and respectful toward gays and lesbians, while appealing to gay and lesbian Mormons to stay in the church.

It marked the most significant outreach yet to gays and lesbians by the Mormon church, which has about 14 million members worldwide.

The Boy Scouts of America issued a statement on April 25 saying the organization is deeply appreciative of its long-standing relationship with the Mormon church and pleased to hear it is satisfied with the proposal. Scouting is successful because of strong relationships with chartered organizations like the Mormon church, the Boy Scouts’ statement said.

The latest proposal from the Boy Scouts of America is a compromise on the divisive issue; the organization earlier floated the idea of completely lifting the ban on gays. Gay-rights groups, which had demanded that the ban be removed, have criticized the latest proposal as inadequate.

In making its announcement last week, Boy Scouts of America estimated that easing the ban on gay adults could cause widespread defections that cost the organization 100,000 to 350,000 members.

Utah likely was included in that estimate.

The Boy Scouts’ Great Salt Lake Council is one of biggest in country, with 5,500 troops and 73,400 youth. Almost all of those troops are sponsored by the Mormon church.

In a survey the council sent to its members, four out of five Scout leaders and parents said they’re opposed to lifting the ban on gays. About 4,700 adults responded to the survey, which the council shared with the Boy Scouts. Nearly half of the respondents said they would quit the Boy Scouts if the ban on gays is lifted.

The Great Salt Lake Council has not yet weighed in on the latest proposal. Members are going to meet to discuss it at their May 8 meeting before coming out with any opinion, said Rick Barnes, executive of the Boy Scouts’ Great Salt Lake Council.

Boy Scouts unveil proposed “nondiscrimination” resolution

The Boy Scouts of America executive committee on April 19 unveiled a proposed a resolution that would establish a nondiscrimination policy and end the national ban on gay Scouts.

However, the resolution would lead the Scouts to keep discriminatory practices in place for gay and lesbian parents, Scout leaders and job applicants.

The resolution proposes “no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone” and is national. Earlier this year, the BSA suggested that it might adopt a policy allowing individual Scouting organizations to decide whether to ban gay Scouts.

The resolution will be voted on by about 1,400 leaders of the Boy Scouts of America during the National Council Meeting set for May 22-24. 

Responding the BSA’s announcement, Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group, said, “It is good news that BSA leadership is open to ending the ban on gay Scouts, but this resolution must go further. Parents and adults of good moral character, regardless of sexual orientation, should be able to volunteer their time to mentor the next generation of Americans. What message does this resolution send to the gay Eagle Scout who, as an adult, wants to continue a lifetime of scouting by becoming a troop leader?”

HRC said the Scouts’ proposed resolution leaves unanswered the issue of employment discrimination. The BSA’s current application for employment explicitly states that gay people need not apply: “The Boy Scouts of America will not employ atheists, agnostics, known or avowed homosexuals.”

Jennifer Tyrrell, the lesbian mom who was ousted as the leader of her son’s Scouting group and an activist for changing the policy, also responded to the proposed resolution: “One year after sending a letter ousting me as my son’s leader, the Boy Scouts are once again forcing me to look my children in the eyes and tell them that our family isn’t good enough. My heart goes out to the young adults in Scouting who would be able to continue as scouts if this is passed, but then be thrown out when they reach the age to become leaders.”

At GLAAD, which has worked closely with Tyrrell and others seeking to overturn the BSA ban, VP Rich Ferraro said, “Yet again, the Boy Scouts of America has failed its members, corporate sponsors, donors and the millions of Americans who agree that the time to end discrimination in Scouting is now.

“By refusing to consider an end to its ban on gay and lesbian parents, the Boy Scouts have missed an opportunity to exercise leadership and usher the organization back to relevancy. We’re living in a culture where, until every young person and parent have the same opportunity to serve, the Boy Scouts will continue to see a decline in both membership and donations.”

Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and founder of the organization Scouts for Equality, called today’s news an important first step.

“This is a crucial step and Scouts for Equality will work to encourage members of the national council to vote to approve the resolution,” he said. “But we will continue to fight to push discrimination out of Scouting once and for all. For families like mine, the BSA’s ban on gay leaders will continue to prevent many great and loving parents from sharing the joys of Scouting with their children. But today, this is about the kids, and we are glad that the Boy Scouts of America is taking this historic step forward.”

On the Web… 

HRC has launched a petition and is asking its supporters to encourage local Scouting groups to support a policy that prohibits discrimination against both gay Scouts and gay adults who seek to work for the organization or serve as volunteers.

The petition is at www.hrc.org/BSA.