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Boy Scouts open ranks to gay youth on Jan. 1

By David Crary & Nomaan Merchant

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 11:04 a.m. HST, Dec 28, 2013

The Boy Scouts of America will accept openly gay youths starting on New Year's Day, a historic change that has prompted the BSA to ponder a host of potential complications — ranging from policies on tentmates and showers to whether Scouts can march in gay pride parades.

Yet despite their be-prepared approach, BSA leaders are rooting for the change to be a non-event, comparable to another New Year's Day in 2000 when widespread fears of digital-clock chaos to start the new millennium proved unfounded.

"My hope is there will be the same effect this Jan. 1 as the Y2K scare," said Brad Haddock, a BSA national executive board member who chairs the policy implementation committee. "It's business as usual, nothing happens and we move forward."

Some churches are dropping their sponsorship of Scout units because of the new policy and some families are switching to a new conservative alternative called Trail Life USA. But massive defections haven't materialized and most major sponsors, including the Roman Catholic and Mormon churches, are maintaining ties.

"There hasn't been a whole lot of fallout," said Haddock, a lawyer from Wichita, Kan. "If a church said they wouldn't work with us, we'd have a church right down the street say, 'We'll take the troop.'"

The new policy was approved in May, with support from 60 percent of the 1,400 voting members of the BSA's National Council. The vote followed bitter nationwide debate, and was accompanied by an announcement that the BSA would continue to exclude openly gay adults from leadership positions.

Under the new membership policy, youths can no longer be barred from the Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts or coed Venturers program solely on the basis of sexual orientation. However, gay Scouts will face some limitations.

"Any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting," says one BSA document. "No member may use Scouting to promote or advance any social or political position or agenda, including on the matter of sexual orientation."

Trying to anticipate potential friction, the BSA has distributed extensive explanations and question-and-answer documents related to the policy.

Some examples:

— Could a Scout march in uniform in a gay-pride parade? No, says the BSA. "Each youth member is free as an individual to express his or her thoughts or take action on political or social issues but must not use Scouting's official uniforms and insignia when doing so."

— How publicly active could a gay Scout be, in terms of gay-rights advocacy? The BSA's reply: "While a youth member may acknowledge his or her sexual preference, that acknowledgment may not reach the level of distraction, which may include advocacy, promotion, or the distribution of information of a sexual nature."

A frequently-asked-questions document anticipates that some objections might surface from parents — or Scouts themselves — in cases where a unit includes an openly gay boy.

Regarding shower and toilet facilities, the BSA says it is encouraging units to provide greater individual privacy, including moving away from the tradition of group showers.

"The adult leaders have the discretion to arrange private showering times and locations," the BSA says.

Sleeping arrangements also are addressed, with specific decisions left to unit leaders.

"If a Scout or parent of a Scout makes a request to not tent with another Scout, their wishes should be honored," says the BSA.

Haddock says "isolated pockets" of problems are likely to surface, but overall he expects adult leaders will have the skills to defuse potential conflicts.

There are about 1 million adult leaders and 2.6 million youth members in Scouting in the U.S. Of the roughly 110,000 Scoutunits, 70 percent are sponsored by religious organizations, including several conservative denominations that had long supported the BSA's exclusion of gay youth and gay adults.

Among the major sponsors, the Southern Baptist Convention made clear its disappointment with the new youth policy, but left the decision on whether to cut ties up to local churches. An SBC spokesman, Sing Oldham, said it was not known how many churches have done so.

The biggest sponsor of Scout units — the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — commended the BSA for a "thoughtful, good-faith effort" to address a challenging issue, and said it would stay engaged in Scouting.

John Gailey of the Utah National Parks Council, the nation's largest council, said its youth membership had increased from 74,148 in December 2012 to 75,863 this month.

Like the Mormons, the Roman Catholic Church has generally accepted the new policy. Many parishes will continue to sponsor Scout units, though a few have considered cutting ties.

The National Catholic Committee on Scouting posted a question-and-answer document on its website, delving into the intersection of Scouting policy and Catholic teaching.

"The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that individuals who disclose a same-sex attraction are to be treated with the same dignity due all human beings ... and also teaches that engaging in sexual activity outside of marriage is always immoral," says the Q-and-A, concluding that the new BSA policy does not contradict Catholic teaching.

The ultimate decision on whether parishes would maintain or cut ties with the BSA was left to individual bishops. Several expressed cautious support for continuing in Scouting.

"As the new policy currently stands, I see no reason to prohibit our parishes from sponsoring Boy Scout troops," said Rev. Kevin Rhoades, bishop of Indiana's Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese. "At the same time, it is critical that we be vigilant on how this new policy is interpreted and implemented."

One likely target of such scrutiny will be former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, scheduled to take over in the spring as the BSA's next president. As leader of the Pentagon, Gates helped change the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy banning openly gay soldiers, and gay-rights groups hope he will try to end the BSA's ban on gay adult leaders.

The new youth policy was approved during a BSA meeting in May in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb of Grapevine, near the Scouts' national headquarters in Irving, Texas.

Texas has a long heritage of Scouting, with tens of thousands of youth members and many families claiming generations of Eagle Scouts. Among them is Gov. Rick Perry, who achieved Scouting's highest rank growing up in the small town of Paint Creek.

The membership debate was closely followed by local Scouts on both sides; some carried signs and held rallies outside the meeting place. But in subsequent months, the debate has quieted.

Bill Helfand, scoutmaster of Troop 55 in Houston, said membership in his troop has remained steady at about 225 boys.

"We never considered sexual orientation, and I don't think many troops really did," Helfand said. "I don't know whether we had Scouts who are homosexual. I don't inquire ... It's not a matter of concern."

Helfand said the membership debate, while closely covered in the media, did not extend into his meetings with leaders and parents, besides occasional discussion of the policy at camp-outs. He says he hasn't talked to any Scout about his sexual orientation and doesn't intend to.

"I know that this is something that people felt was a momentous turning point for Scouting," Helfand said. "Everybody I know has made Scouting available to every boy who wants it, and that's what we continue to do."

However, some Texas parents and leaders have decided to switch to Trail Life USA, an alternative which declares itself "a Christian adventure, character, and leadership program for young men." Among them is Ron Orr, a business consultant from the Fort Worth area who is signing up local units for the group.

So far, he said he has 25 groups "pre-chartered" for a Jan. 1 launch date in the territory covered by the BSA's Circle Ten and Longhorn councils. That's modest compared to the 39,000 Scouts served by the Circle Ten council alone.

Orr is part of a family with four generations of Eagle Scouts. His older son recently earned his Eagle rank and his younger son was on the verge of doing likewise. But Orr said he could not stand by after the policy change.

"As Christians, from a scriptural basis, we love all folks, but the scripture is very clear that being homosexual is a sin," Orr said. "We've got to be able to hold a strong line and set a consistent example for our young men."

Orr said his decision to cut ties with the BSA rested in part on the Scout Oath, which includes the admonition to remain "morally straight."

Scott Scarborough of Lubbock, Texas, is helping Orr recruit Trail Life members in the Texas Panhandle, a mostly rural, conservative region. Scarborough said he offered to let his 14-year-old son stay in Boy Scouts and achieve his Eagle rank, but the boy elected to join him in Trail Life.

Orr and Scarborough said they didn't consider themselves rivals to the Boy Scouts, though they've chosen a different path.

"Our tradition comes out of Boy Scouts," Scarborough said. "We'll never not honor that heritage."


BSA's FAQs: http://bit.ly/199nefd

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RingRing wrote:
Next thing you know, they'll let women vote. What is this world coming to?
on December 28,2013 | 10:20AM
1local wrote:
legalize sodomy...
on December 28,2013 | 10:24AM
DowntownGreen wrote:
Already done....for a LONG time.
on December 28,2013 | 12:56PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
So openly gay scouts are OK but openly gay scout leaders are not OK. How does one reconcile the idea of a leader as a role model with that policy? Oh well, I still can't figure how that whole group showers stuff works when some of the kids are attracted sexually to some of the other kids. Things that make you go hmmmmm.
on December 28,2013 | 10:27AM
serious wrote:
In the military we had men who would not shower with all of us--ganged up and soaped them down--but that was in the '50's. Now, just wait for the gay lawyers lining up to file suits for their gay scouts. But, that's nothing when the gay marriage suits start---Thank's Mr Obama--unless you are a gay NBA player!!!
on December 28,2013 | 12:03PM
Kalaheo1 wrote:
No offense, but ganging up on a guy, forcefully stripping him and soaping him up and washing him is about the gayest thing I've ever heard of.
on December 28,2013 | 12:45PM
DowntownGreen wrote:
Right? LOL!
on December 28,2013 | 12:56PM
serious wrote:
Yeah, it sounds offensive, I'll willingly admit. But, at the time, we all lived in the barracks, double bunks and if a guy didn't wash or shower you could smell him. Should I talk about dry shaving one?? The military is a one for all--we work and fight together and the weakest link in a chain, etc. You go into combat and one depend on each other.
on December 28,2013 | 03:47PM
Anonymous wrote:
So you're finally coming out?
on December 28,2013 | 05:20PM
thepartyfirst wrote:
Why are they forcing gay life styles on the youth?
on December 28,2013 | 11:25AM
Anonymous wrote:
Why would you force a heterosexual lifestyle on a gay youth?
on December 28,2013 | 06:13PM
false wrote:
letting the fox in the hen house...
on December 28,2013 | 11:44AM
Anonymous wrote:
Because there's never been gay scouts before? Foolish.
on December 28,2013 | 06:14PM
false wrote:
Boy scout's, Girl scout's. How bout Gay scout's? No?
on December 28,2013 | 11:46AM
false wrote:
on December 28,2013 | 11:48AM
AniMatsuri wrote:
Not one mention in the article about the attacks the scouts were under when it was found out some scout leaders sexually abused their charges in the past. It won't be to long before there is a push for the BSA to allow homosexual leaders as well. Am I the only one who sees were this is going?
on December 28,2013 | 03:00PM
First-Responder wrote:
I used to love the BSA. My dad was a scout, I was a scout (and Wood Badge Scouter) and both of my sons are scouts, one an Eagle Scout. I was also a generous contributor - no more. BSA caved into political and economic pressure and abandoned the values my family believe in. I don't hate gays, I just think they're pushing their way into places where they are unwelcome. I'm glad all this happened after our years of scouting came to an end. What would Baden Powell think if he were alive? Sad really.
on December 28,2013 | 03:44PM
hawaiiwalter wrote:
It's almost universally accepted that Lord Baden Powell was gay. Read the 2012 article in the New York Times and you might learn something. People like you display their ignorance when they attempt to discuss something they know nothing about. I piity you. We had gay guys in our scout troop and nobody cared.
on December 28,2013 | 04:05PM
First-Responder wrote:
on December 28,2013 | 04:27PM
Pacej001 wrote:
It's not universally accepted that Baden Powell was homosexual.

"Baden Powell met his future wife, Olave St Clair Soames, on the ocean liner, Arcadian, in 1912. She was 23, he was 55. The marriage gained a lot of media publicity due to the high profile nature of Baden Powell. They were married in secret and later had three children.

"Some biographers, such as Tim Jeal, have argued Baden Powell was a repressed homosexual being attracted to young men and boys, although never acting out on his tendencies. Other biographers such as William Hillcourt found no evidence of this."

Maybe you'll better luck tarring the man as a fascist.

"Baden Powell also held some pro fascist sympathies. He read Mein Kampf in 1939 and said there were some good ideas in it. He also admired the Italian dictator Mussolini. It is said his fascism was rooted in a steep anti communist bias. His scouting movement was also black listed by Hitler and the Nazi party as a 'dangerous spy organization'"

Scouting for boys begins at age 11, much too early for them to have to or need to deal with aberrant sexual behavior. Integrating homosexual kids into scout troops makes no more sense than integrating girl and boy scout troops into one.

Lost in all this is what is best for the kids.

on December 28,2013 | 05:16PM
Anonymous wrote:
The kids might learn not to discriminate? Yeah, that's just awful. They can just read the homophobic posts in the SA Forums to learn how to overcome it.
on December 28,2013 | 05:22PM
blackmurano wrote:
A few years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Boy Scouts of American can ban open homosexual scouts from their organization. A victory for an organization that teaches moral values to young boys. But the homosexual activist kept on attacking the boy scouts despite the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. This perversion activist put pressure on land owners not to let the Boy scouts use their land or building. It occurred throughout America. It was only this year, the Boy scouts of America succumb to this Perversion activist and allowed homosexual kids into a moral institution that will now be tainted with the sewage of perversion. Although there are thousands of scouts belonging to Christians churches has removed themselves from Boy Scouts of American. American morality has totally collapse.
on December 28,2013 | 06:46PM
Anonymous wrote:
Your attitude represents some of the worst types of perversion; intolerance, hubris, and just plain ignorance.
on December 28,2013 | 06:52PM
Cricket_Amos wrote:
There is no such thing as a gay youth. Kids become what we choose to call homosexuals through the influences of society, genetics, personal histories and even what will get them the most attention. Many who think they are gay now would not be in a different context. Consider prisons and what that does to "sexual orientation". Words and categories like "gay sexual orientation" are simple minded abstractions that do not even begin to taken into account the infinity of differences between individuals.
on December 28,2013 | 08:49PM
Anonymous wrote:
Thanks Wally. Typical bull.
on December 28,2013 | 09:05PM
false wrote:
I don't think you'll see any changes… there are gay scouts now and there were gay scouts back in the '50s when I was in scouting. Most young people don't want to draw attention to themselves, they want to fit in and be a part of the group. The rules and regulations regarding youth protection apply to all scouts… youth and adult. No, I don't see any problems.
on December 28,2013 | 08:59PM
Kahu Matu wrote:
Is there any worried here about pedophelia? Those individuals who are so concentrated on sex and variant forms may prey on unsuspecting youth. No place is safe any longer.
on December 28,2013 | 09:15PM
Anonymous wrote:
No more so than putting adult males with young girls.


But you should just keep right on going spouting your fear-mongering.

on December 28,2013 | 09:27PM
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