- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Boy Scouts of America said Tuesday it would keep its policy that does not “grant membership” to open or avowed homosexuals or persons who engage in behavior that would become “a distraction to the mission” of the century-old organization for boys, teens and men.

Critics immediately denounced the decision, saying a “secret” committee of 11 people shouldn’t have the final say in an issue like this. But Boy Scouting officials are letting it be known that, after two years of discussions, the policy is going to stand.

“After careful consideration of a resolution asking the Boy Scouts of America to reconsider its long-standing membership standards policy, today the organization affirmed its current policy, stating that it remains in the best interest of Scouting,” leaders said.

There will be “no further action taken on the resolution,” added the organization, referring to a resolution submitted in March by a voting member of the Boy Scouts that asked it to revise its policy disallowing openly gay youth and adults to participate in the Boy Scouts.

The unanimous decision to keep the current membership rules was reached after nearly two years of examination by an hoc panel of volunteers and professional leaders with a diversity of perspectives and opinions, leaders said.

The committee’s work and conclusion is that “this policy reflects the beliefs and perspectives of the BSA’s members, thereby allowing Scouting to remain focused on its mission and the work it is doing to serve more youth.”

“The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers, and at the appropriate time and in the right setting,” said Bob Mazzuca, the organization’s chief Boy Scout executive. “While a majority of our membership agrees with our policy, we fully understand that no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society,” he said.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said Tuesday that the Boy Scouts’ decision “is a missed opportunity of colossal proportions.”

“With the country moving toward inclusion,” Mr. Griffin said, “the leaders of the Boy Scouts of America have instead sent a message to young people that only some of them are valued. These adults could have taught the next generation of leaders the value of respect, yet they’ve chosen to teach division and intolerance.”

Supporters of an Ohio lesbian mother seeking to be reinstated as a den leader said they would deliver some 314,000 signatures on behalf of her and other gay youth and adults Wednesday at Boy Scouts headquarters in Irving, Texas.

“A secret committee of 11 people can’t ignore the hundreds of thousands of people around the country — including thousands of Eagle Scouts, Scout families and former Scouts — that want the ban on gay Scouts and Scout leaders removed,” said Jennifer Tyrrell, who pulled her 7-year-old son out of Cub Scouts after she was dropped as a den leader in April.

“The very first value of the Scout Law is that a Scout is trustworthy. There is absolutely nothing trustworthy about unelected and unnamed committee members who are unwilling to take responsibility for their actions,” said Zach Walhs, an Eagle Scout and founder of Scouts for Equality.

Separately, on Sunday, Eric Jones, 19, lost his job as a counselor at a Missouri Boy Scout camp after he told the camp director he was gay.

The camp director “said I was deserving to be there, but he had to follow the policy of BSA,” Mr. Jones told the New York Daily News. The newspaper also noted that Mr. Jones’ conversation with the camp director “was filmed and will be featured” in a upcoming documentary on discrimination against gays, called “Second Class Citizens.”

In response to the policy announcement, the executive committee of the BSA National Executive Board said, “Scouting believes that good people can personally disagree on this topic and still work together to achieve the life-changing benefits to youth through Scouting.

“While not all board members may personally agree with this policy, and may choose a different direction for their own organizations, BSA leadership agrees this is the best policy for the organization and supports it for the BSA.”

Two board members — James Turley, who will step down in 2013 from his position as chief executive of Ernst & Young, and AT&T Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson — have called for a change in the policy.

The Boy Scouts have already successfully defended their right to make their own gay policy before the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2000, in a 5-4 decision, the justices rejected a claim by a gay assistant scoutmaster that the policy was discriminatory and instead sided with the Boy Scouts’ free-speech and free-association rights.

The Boy Scouts of America, founded in 1910, reported that in 2011, its 2.7 million youth members and 1 million adult volunteers performed nearly 12 million hours of service, worth $206 million.

• Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.

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