- The Washington Times - Friday, July 27, 2001

BOWLING GREEN, Va. — The scoutmasters, parents and volunteers gathered here for the 15th National Scout Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill say the Boy Scouts still stand for God, families and old-fashioned values — and that's not likely to change, despite criticism of the organization's prohibition on homosexual leaders.
"There's nothing wrong with having a club with rules," said Mike Ellis, leader of Troop 2006 from Albany, Ga.
Mr. Ellis became an Eagle Scout in 1971 and has been a leader for 22 years.
With 40,000 Scouts, leaders and volunteers, this year's jamboree may be the biggest gathering of Boy Scouts in the institution's 91-year history. It's the first since the U.S. Supreme Court decided last year that the Scouts were justified in ejecting assistant scoutmaster James Dale of New Jersey on the basis that he was a homosexual.
The political battles over that policy continue. Last month, the D.C. Human Rights Commission settled a discrimination suit by ordering the Boy Scouts to reinstate two homosexual Scout leaders who were dismissed in 1993. In other places, city and county governments have withdrawn their support, ending policies that allowed Scouts free use of meeting space.
But most troop leaders here agree that too much attention has been paid to politics recently and that scouting is still about teaching boys values they need to become self-sufficient young men — the type of values you learn outdoors. Many leaders were Scouts themselves. Most have sons who are Scouts. Scouting worked for them, and they freely acknowledge they want to keep things the way they are.
"The need to help boys along hasn't changed. Society may have changed, but kids still need to grow up with the right guides," says John Semerling, 42, of Unionville, Va. He became a Scout in 1966. "You have to stand for something. [In scouting], there's an oath, there's a promise, there's a law."
Amid the oppressive heat at the jamboree, Scouts from Louisiana meet and trade troop patches with their counterparts in New Hampshire. Scouts from Vermont, Pennsylvania, California and Alaska swim and fish. They camp in canvas tents so small the cots inside practically touch. They pack out their trash twice a day, take meals of pancakes and hamburgers together, attend religious services and raise and lower their state flags with solemn ceremony.
On Sunday, the president of the United States will address these boys.
Sure, things change. Modem ports are now stationed next to pay phones, the musical ring of a cell phone disrupts the wilderness obstacle course, and boys battle the heat with battery-operated hand fans.
There are other changes. Ed Beck, leader of Troop 306 from Avon, Ind., has noticed some sources of funding have dried up. The political battle has taken its toll, even in Avon.
But for he and his Scouts, the meetings, the flag ceremonies and the competitions are worth the effort.
For Mr. Beck, many of the values of being a Scout boil down to a question he asks each of the boys at their weekly meetings: What kind of a good turn did you do today?
"You'd be surprised," he says, about some of the responses he gets.
"On a troop level, it's very different than on a national level," he says of the political battles. "We're on the front lines. We don't worry about that stuff."
Bart Pond is in Mr. Ellis' troop. He's 14 and says he joined the Scouts because he likes to go rafting.
When it gets right down to it, many of the boys privately acknowledge they think the whole physically fit, mentally awake, morally straight thing is a bit old-fashioned. But that's OK. Many of the scoutmasters say they thought it was old-fashioned when they were Scouts, too.
"Every kid loves to go camping, loves to go out in the woods by the fire," Mr. Ellis says.
That's the draw of scouting, he says. Still, in his troop he leans heavily on the fundamentals — faith in God, love of country, respect for self and others.
He says he respects other people's lifestyles but is a little resentful they want to force them on the Boy Scouts.
"I may be an old-fashioned Southern boy, but that's something that's important to me," he said.
Jeff DeBruyne, 43, became an Eagle Scout in 1974. He's here with his son, a 16-year-old Life Scout. His wife and teen-age daughter have also come.
He says scouting teaches good citizenship and, after all, rules are rules.
He motions toward his daughter. She gets along great with the troop, he says, even participates in some activities.
"She'd be an Eagle Scout by now," he says. But, of course, girls can't be Boy Scouts.

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