Some Boy Scout Troops [and their church sponsors] Disregard Ban on Gays

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    Jul 27, 2012 8:38 PM GMT
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443343704577551162306364148.html?mod=ITP_pageone_1

    By SUMATHI REDDY

    While gay-rights advocates and their supporters criticized last week's announcement that the Boy Scouts of America would continue to exclude gays, some troops have ignored the ban for years.

    Every year when it comes time to renew its charter, Troop 729 in New York City crosses out a promise to abide by the Boy Scouts' policies because it doesn't agree with the long-standing prohibition on openly gay members and leaders.

    "We just don't practice discrimination in our group," said Scoutmaster Antonio Camacho. He said the troop's stance was backed by its sponsor, the Fort Washington Collegiate Church.

    Mr. Camacho said the practice, which it has maintained for more than a decade, has resulted in an unexpected benefit: increased fundraising.

    BSA spokesman Deron Smith said he wasn't aware of Troop 729's policies. "However, Scouting has one policy that applies to all troops and councils. Any time we're aware of any inconsistency in the administration of a Scouting policy we work with the local council to reiterate the policy and ensure its compliance with the local leaders," he said by email.

    Mr. Smith said the BSA has revoked council charters in the past but very rarely. He confirmed that the national group declined to renew the charters of a number of Cub Scout packs in Oak Park, Ill., in 2001 because their nondiscrimination policy, which included sexual orientation, clashed with the BSA one.

    Since the organization includes 2.7 million youth and 1.1 million adults, Mr. Smith said it recognizes that its sexual-orientation policy doesn't accommodate everyone's views. "Most of our youth members are under the age of 12, and the majority of the parents we serve do not believe Scouting is the right forum for same-sex attraction to be introduced, discussed or demonstrated in any way," he wrote.

    Peter Crowley, a scoutmaster in the liberal college town of Amherst, Mass., said that for at least the past eight years during which he has been involved in scouting the ad hoc rule has been nondiscrimination based on sexual orientation.

    But after learning about the national group's reaffirmation of its ban, Mr. Crowley decided it was time to publicly spell out his troop's policy. So last week the troop's parents wrote a letter to local papers avowing their acceptance of gays and lesbians.

    Mr. Crowley said he was concerned that by not making a public statement the troop could be turning away potential gay and straight participants. "The policy is out of line with our community standards," he said. "It actually would make it more difficult for us to have access to things in the community that are important to us."

    "We want to reassure you, our friends, neighbors and colleagues, that the local Boy Scouts, Troop 500 in Amherst, does not support BSA's policy prohibiting the participation of gay adults or youths," says the letter, which is expected to appear this week. "We do not and never will discriminate on the basis of race, religion, or sexual orientation."

    A backlash against the BSA policy reaffirmation resulted in some Eagle Scouts returning their medals this week. Meanwhile, Jennifer Tyrrell, a den leader in Ohio who says she was dismissed because she is a lesbian, submitted a petition last week to the BSA calling for her reinstatement. Her petition on Change.org has more than 325,800 signatures.

    The Boys Scouts Boston Minuteman Council adopted a nondiscrimination policy 10 years ago that includes sexual orientation, said Sean Martin, a council spokesman. Mr. Martin said he didn't know of any gay or lesbian leaders or scout members in the council.

    Mr. Martin said the BSA has long been aware of Boston's policy and there have been no repercussions. Mr. Smith, the BSA spokesman, said he had no information about the Boston group's practice.

    Many troops are reluctant to talk about their policies on gays to avoid potential conflict with the national organization. "We've had gay leaders," though they weren't scoutmasters, said an assistant scoutmaster of another New York City troop who didn't want to be identified.

    The Northern Star Council, representing more than 75,000 youth in Minnesota and western Wisconsin, according to its website, came out publicly last week saying it will continue its "inclusive leadership selection."

    Kent York, the council's director of marketing and communications, declined to comment further, referring to its website, which states that the council doesn't discriminate "with regard to ethnicity, religion, gender, disability, and/or sexual orientation…."

    The BSA said it currently is working with the Northern Star Council to "clarify" its policy.

    Louis Hoffman, a committee chairman of Troop 1 in Minnesota, said that "whether a person is a gay person or a lesbian person isn't relevant to their ability to be a good scout or a good scout leader." He said a former pack in which he was involved had an open lesbian serve as a liaison between the Lutheran church that sponsored the pack and the pack itself.
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    Jul 27, 2012 10:10 PM GMT
    It will be interesting to see if the BSA throws the councils and packs with non-discriminatory policies out of BSA. I liked where the one council stated that discrimination would be contrary to the values of the community. That kind of pulls the rug out from under the BSA's justification for keeping the policy.

    Thanks for sharing that article.
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    Jul 27, 2012 10:18 PM GMT
    Caslon20000 saidI will be interesting to see if the BSA throws the councils and packs with non-discriminatory policies out of BSA. I liked where the one council stated that discrimination would be contrary to the values of the community. That kind of pulls the rug out from under the BSA's justification for keeping the policy.

    Thanks for sharing that article.

    Thanks for the comment. I hope it shows blanket opinions about all Boy Scout groups and all churches are sometimes unfair.
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    Jul 27, 2012 10:24 PM GMT
    Did you just rip an article, in its entirety, from a subscription site and repost on another website?

    :-/
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    Jul 27, 2012 10:27 PM GMT
    MadExistence saidDid you just rip an article, in its entirety, from a subscription site and repost on another website?

    :-/

    Fair use, etc. Been extensively discussed in the past.