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The Times
  • Rick Holmes: Who speaks for the Scouts?

  • First it was the Eagle Scouts turning in their badges in protest. Now it’s the den mothers who are speaking out against the anti-gay policy of the Boy Scouts of America.

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  • First it was the Eagle Scouts turning in their badges in protest. Now it’s the den mothers who are speaking out against the anti-gay policy of the Boy Scouts of America.
    And celebrities, of course. And the companies and agencies who provide funding for local troops. Even some Scout councils, the pillars of the national organization, are adopting their own policies to underline the principle that Scouting really is for everyone.
    Months after the national council of the BSA declared from its Dallas headquarters that gays and lesbians are prohibited from joining or volunteering in Scouting, the dissent from within isn’t fading away. It’s growing.
    The moms and dads of Cub Scout Pack 12 in Framingham, Mass., have joined the fray, signing a letter to the Knox Trail Council objecting to the national policy and declaring they “do not and never will discriminate on the basis of race, religion or sexual orientation.”
    The grassroots uprising sprouted earlier this year, when Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout from Iowa raised by two lesbian moms, launched Scouts for Equality. More than 500,000 people have signed his online petition protesting the exclusion of gays from Scouting. By Wahls’ count, 293 Eagles have returned their badges, including me.
    Film director Steven Spielberg just quit his position on the Boy Scouts’ advisory board. 
    “The last few years in Scouting have deeply saddened me to see the Boy Scouts of America actively and publicly participating in discrimination. It’s a real shame,” Spielberg said.
    George Takei – better known as Lt. Sulu from the original Star Trek – wore his Boy Scout uniform to ride in New York’s Pride Parade with Jennifer Tyrrell, the Ohio mom and den mother kicked out of Scouting last spring because she’s gay.
    The BSA can survive without the blessings of gay actors and Hollywood directors. But its source of funding is another matter.
    This week, after more than 31,500 people signed a petition at www.change.org, computer giant Intel announced that further support of Scouting violated its policy against discrimination. According to published accounts, Intel donated $700,000 to Scout councils and troops in 2010.
    Much of the money funneled to Scout councils comes through the United Way, collected through workplace donations, and United Ways have their own non-discrimination policies that are coming into play.
    So this week, the Cleveland, Ohio, United Way announced it wouldn’t fund Boy Scouts anymore. The Harrisburg, Pa., United Way gave the Scouts an ultimatum. The national council is having meetings on the policy this fall, its chairman said, and if it doesn’t change the policy, Scout troops in South Central Pennsylvania won’t be getting any more United Way funds.
    Some Scout councils are breaking publicly with the national organization over the policy. The Northern Star Council in Minneapolis/St. Paul recently published a statement that it welcomes everyone to Scouting. The Boston Minuteman Council reaffirmed its position, first voiced in 2001, that youth and volunteers are served “without regard to color, race, religion, ethnic background, sexual orientation or economic status.”
    Page 2 of 2 - In most places, though, the disagreement among leaders of the century-old organization has played out in quiet conversations out of public view.
    Sooner or later, the barriers to LGBT Scouts and volunteers will fall, just as similar barriers elsewhere have fallen. Meanwhile, I find it encouraging that, across the country, good people are having serious discussions about the values behind the words in the Scout Oath; about what it means to “do my duty to God and my country,” and to be “physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”
    Scouting’s top brass in Dallas don’t speak for all who recite that oath.
     
    Rick Holmes, opinion editor for the Daily News, blogs at Holmes & Co. He can be reached at rholmes@wickedlocal.com.
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