Boy Scouts Set to Reverse Policy on Gay Membership
BY JOHN CHAPPELL
Gay Boy Scouts and Scout leaders wouldn't have to hide their sexuality if a new policy removes a longstanding Boy Scouts of America ban on gays.
A national policy change expected later this month will hit local Scout troops and Cub Scout packs differently, depending on their sponsoring organizations.
It could hit Moore County even more directly. Troops come from all over for summer stays at Camp Durant and Camp Reeve, parts of the sprawling Occoneechee Scout Reservation between Robbins and Carthage.
"Currently, the BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation," said Deron Smith, director of public relations for the National Council. "This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization's mission, principles or religious beliefs. BSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families."
Girl Scouts don't have a similar anti-gay policy, or any policy at all on sexual preferences.
"For more than 100 years, Scouting's focus has been on working together to deliver the nation's foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training," Smith said, in a statement posted online. "Scouting has always been in an ongoing dialogue with the Scouting family to determine what is in the best interest of the organization and the young people we serve."
While there may be considerable back channel talk about the change privately, there was little to be heard about it last week during the Court of Honor and dinner of Troop 223 at Brownson Memorial Presbyterian Church in Southern Pines.
Scouts and Scouters there mostly talked about the recent camping trip to Fort Fisher and an upcoming 20-mile overnight hike in the Uwharries.
"We will wait and see what the national organization will do," said Lee Leonard, who chairs the church's committee.
Nicholas Long, the professional District Executive Scout who serves the county, said the council's executive, John Akerman, is handling any questions about how Occoneechee will deal with changes, if any.
The proposal would only remove language from national policy and application forms. It has always been up to any sponsor - church, civic club or other organization - to approve or disapprove applications. That wouldn't change, even if the national executive board makes this about-face on sexual orientation.
In England, birthplace of the Boy Scouts, policies changed long ago to one of welcome. British Scout Association guidelines are supportive of individual members regardless of their sexual orientation.
Contact John Chappell at (910) 783-5841 or jfchappell @gmail.com.
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