Skip to comments.Philadelphia Council Flouts Scouts' Antigay Stance
Posted on 05/29/2003 6:26:27 AM PDT by South Hawthorne
Defying the national Boy Scouts policy of refusing membership to gays, the board of the Scouts' largest Philadelphia-area council has unanimously voted not to discriminate against homosexuals.
The decision puts the local council at odds with the national organization, which holds that homosexuality is inconsistent with the traditional moral values espoused in the Scout Oath and Law.
But the Cradle of Liberty Council, the nation's third largest - serving 87,000 youths in Philadelphia, Delaware and Montgomery Counties - this month added "sexual orientation" to its policy of nondiscrimination.
The conflict between the national and local organizations is sure to spark discussion at the National Convention of the Boy Scouts of America, which begins today at the Convention Center and continues through Saturday.
"We disagree with the national stance, and we're not comfortable with the stated national policy," said David H. Lipson Jr., board chairman of the Cradle of Liberty Council. "That's why we're working on a solution that works for everyone."
No one at the national office of the Boy Scouts of America in Texas could be reached for comment late yesterday.
In June 2000, a divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in the case of a New Jersey assistant scoutmaster who was expelled for being gay, that the Boy Scouts had the right to bar homosexuals as troop leaders.
The national Boy Scouts of America issued a statement saying it viewed the decision as a victory.
Lipson said that national policy hurt fund-raising and cost jobs locally. The Pew Charitable Trusts, among others, reduced its contribution, he said, though he did not say how much it had given to the local Boy Scouts.
No one at Pew was available to comment.
Although the United Way did not cut funding, it took heat from gay-rights activists and others. The agency funded a development program organized by the Boy Scouts that operated in public schools and was open to anyone. Even the limited funding caused problems.
"The reality is, we did get some pressure from other groups who said, 'This program may not discriminate, but this organization does,' " said Christine James-Brown, president of the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania.
The United Way served as a catalyst. Two years ago, the agency's representatives - along with local Boy Scout executives and community leaders, including gay and lesbian activists - began to meet to discuss the issue.
The statement issued this month by the Cradle of Liberty Council was a result of those discussions.
David L. Cohen, a Comcast executive who was chairman of the local United Way from May 1998 to 2001, was a participant. Cohen said that Philadelphia leaders decided they did not want to accept a policy that they did not agree with and that was harming the programs intended for area youths.
"We were not prepared to allow our kids to be casualties on the battlefield of adults who should know better," Cohen said.
James-Brown said the local United Way campaign spent a lot of time trying to understand the national policy.
"In the very beginning, people knew very little about why the national had that policy," James-Brown said. "There was anger about the policy. I think people set that aside and said, 'Let's try to make it work in this community.' "
Lipson said he did not want the gay-discrimination controversy to overshadow the many good programs the Boy Scouts offer.
"We'd like to move the discussion to standards for sexual conduct rather than sexual orientation," Lipson said.
Philadelphia's is not the first regional council to flout the controversial policies of the national Boy Scouts organization, or to have suffered consequences from the national policy.
In July 2001, the Boston Minuteman Council approved a bylaw that challenged the national council's policy. The rule effectively allows gay youths to be scouts and gay men to serve as scout leaders as long as they do not openly reveal or discuss their sexual orientation.
In December 2001, United Way boards in Ventura and Los Angeles Counties in California cut off funding to the local Boy Scout councils because of the national policy about gays.
A local BSA Council is run by the Council's Executive Board. The Board is made up of local businesspeople, community leaders, and usually a few Scouters. Representatives of each organization (churches, VFW Posts, PTA/PTOs, etc.) that sponsors Scout units (Packs, Troops, Crews, Ships) elect the Board members at the Council's annual meeting. These elections are rarely contested; they're usually a slate presented by the previous Board that's elected unanimously. The sponsoring organization representatives are generally not too attentive to this process.
The Council is a not-for-profit corporation; the Executive Board is it's Board of Directors. It's granted a charter (renewable annually) by National Council to operate the BSA program in a particular geographic area. The Council is repsonsible for supporting the sponsoring organizations, signing up new ones, raising money for and supporting Council-wide programs and properties (like the Council's summer camp and headquarters building), etc. To this end the board hires a Council (or Scout) Executive (think Council CEO) and various executive and support staff under him or her. The executives are trained and approved by National, but they are hired and paid by the local Councils.
Units (and their sponsoring organizations) recruit unit leaders. As of April, National conducts a simple background check, to see if you've got any felonies or child-abuse related offenses on your record. But it's the sponsoring organizations who are responsible for determining that a unit leader has the proper character, morality, and patience to work with children, parents, and the unit's other Scouters. The local Council will only get involved if the Scouter becomes publicly infamous for some reason.
A unit and it's sponsor can refuse to register either a Scout or a Scouter for any reason it chooses. A church can require that a Scouter be of it's faith. A VFW Post can decide that it's Troop is getting too big. A PTA can decide that if the parent won't get involved as a volunteer, the kid can't join. Personal hygeine can figure in. A divorced person, or someone living with someone they're not married to, can be judged as being immoral and unfit. A gay or lesbian can only become a unit leader if the sponsor allows it. And if they're not publicly out and make no reference or act to reveal it, especially in a Scouting setting, the Council is unlikely to know, or to do anything about it, given "Don't ask, don't tell".
Regardless of either the morality or fitness of the person who's the unit leader or the tenets of the sponsoring organization, parents would be well advised to get personally involved with their son or daughter's BSA unit. I don't care what you think you know. You never know.
As far as "morally straight" goes, there are numerous sponsoring organizations of units in the BSA that believe that homosexuality per se is not in and of itself immoral. That would include some churches, and numerous secular organizations (who sponsor units containing roughly about half of all Scouts).
What's likely to happen here is that National will ask the Executive Board President (notice that the Scout Executive is nowhere to be heard from; I seriously doubt if he or she asked for this) to explain himself. They'll want to know if this is another variant of "Don't ask, don't tell", or if this means that the Council will accept out homosexuals who will make their orientation and their connection to Scouting public. If that's so, National will look to see if the whole Board agrees with this. If the Board persists, National will threaten to refuse to renew their charter.
What happens next is theoretical, as it hasn't gotten beyond that yet. But they may well solicit another group of concerned citizens, one that will uphold National policy, to apply for a charter and award it to them. Either that, or merge the Council to one that's contiguous to it that is orthodox.
The Boy Scouts of America sued to have members and leaders who are avowed homosexuals kicked out of the organization.
The Boy Scouts of America makes no effort to discover the sexual orientation of any member or leader. Scouting's message is compromised when members or leaders present themselves as role models whose actions are inconsistent with the standards set in the Scout Oath and Law.
and, elsewhere on that page,
We believe an avowed homosexual is not a role model for the values espoused in the Scout Oath and Law.
The BSA always refers to "avowed homosexuals" as being not welcome in the BSA, not simply "homsexuals". They obviously think there's a difference.
The BSA has a "Don't ask, don't tell" policy. The most famous example of this is the case of the Camp Yagoog staffer. He was asked by the camp director (or his assistant, I can't remember) if he was gay. The young man told him (truthfully), "Yes". The camp director fired him. The young man appealed to National. National directed that the young man, who had admitted that he was a homosexual, be re-hired and paid back wages, as the camp director has violated "Don't ask, don't tell." If you search the web on "Camp Yagoog gay", you'll find this.
"Don't ask, don't tell" is no fable, it's National policy that they've upheld.
That's a non sequitir. What's Dale got to do with whether or not a sponsoring organization may or may not believe that homosexuality is immoral? For example, the UU's certainly don't have a problem with it. The Episcopal Church has come out as opposing National's policy on this. Some Reform Judaism synagogues feel the same way. I think the United Church of Christ is also of this opinion. Dale has nothing to do with that, although his sponsor's opinion didn't do him any good when he granted a newspaper interview and referenced his homosexuality in it.
Um, you sure about that? I was unaware that E-Board member is a registered position. You certainly don't have to have registration as a Scouter otherwise to be elected to the Board.
Given that the Executive Board in question is going against national they can be sent letters and sent packing.
That may be. I think that the procedure, though, is as I outlined. National is unlikely to take action against individual Board members; they'd look to the Board to do that themselves. With a whole Board in defiance, I believe they'll take action against the Board as a whole.
Only you will never know about it, because chances are the pro-homosexual media won't report it.
No, you are working on a solution that works only for a small amount of people, at the expense of the kids. Sick bastrads.
Anybody by chance have some contact info so we could follow Congressman Billybob's suggestion of Freeping the National Boy Scouts and asking them to revoke these sickos' charter?
If they do report it, the slant will be that it's intergenerational sex (NAMBLA's latest gimmick) that the children consented to, therefore it's none of our business what they do in the pup tent.
I think it's only a matter of time before Paulie "the huge-foreheaded RAT ba$tard" Begalia will be preaching to the dumbed-downed publik skooled masses that watch the CNN, that those of us who think that perverts who prey upon children are evil and should be forever removed from society are pedaphilephobic bigots.
Just an FYI to Delaware Valley Freepers, Mr. Lipson is the Publisher of Philadelphia Magazine.My initial thought was that scout parents should hold Lipson responsible when a troop leader, young boy "incident" occurs.
Interesting. I was unaware of that. Thanks.
All that I've said is true. The question is will it be done?
Well, as I've said before, I'm thinking they'll examine the issue with the Board itself for a couple of iterations, and then if the whole board is in defiance they'll just pull the Council's charter and either look for a new group of citizens to constitute a new Council or merge it into another. When the charter laspses, so would the registrations of the Board members.
For just this reason, National does not make any e-mail addresses public. The noise to signal ratio would be astronomically high.
Actually, if you do a News search in Google you'll find that sexual assaults by Scouters on youth get prominent play in the media.
Legally, the liability (after the perpetrator, of course) lies with the sponsoring organization that signed up the leader and didn't either check him or her out or didn't adequately supervise the leader.
This is the reason why the PTA has advised it's local chapters not to sponsor Scout units. The National PTA asked National Council to accept that liability and to indemnify the National PTA, and National Council refused.
The interesting thing is that National itself explicitly states that this is not what they are concerned about, and is not why they ban homosexuals. They ban homosexuals because they (read, the majority of their sponsors) believe that homosexuality demonstrates an immoral character, not that homosexuals pose an especial or increased risk for being pedophiles. See here:
The Boy Scouts of America has chosen to exclude avowed homosexuals from the ranks of its members and leaders because of a fear of pedophilia.
The BSA does not equate homosexuality and pedophilia, but neither avowed homosexuals nor pedophiles are appropriate role models for Scouting youth.
"Morally straight" is not so black/white an issue as many would like to think. For example, most conservatives view a physician that performs abortions as a serial killer. However, should a sponsoring organization register one as a Scoutmaster or Den Leader, neither the local Council nor National Council would flag them as unacceptable. Yet which do you think most conservatives would view as more immoral?