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Local News
05/24/13

Mormon Church Responds to Boy Scouts Policy Vote

SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints responded today to the Boy Scouts of America vote on its membership policy with the following statement:

For the past 100 years, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has enjoyed a strong relationship with Boy Scouts of America, based on our mutual interest in helping boys and young men understand and live their duty to God and develop upright moral behavior. As the Church moves forward in its association with the Boy Scouts of America, Church leaders will continue to seek the most effective ways to address the diverse needs of young people in the United States and throughout the world.

The Church’s long-established policy for participation in activities is stated in the basic instructional handbook used by lay leaders of the Church: “young men … who agree to abide by Church standards” are “welcomed warmly and encouraged to participate” (Handbook 2: Administering the Church [2010], 8.17.3). This policy applies to Church-sponsored Scout units. Sexual orientation has not previously been—and is not now—a disqualifying factor for boys who want to join Latter-day Saint Scout troops. Willingness to abide by standards of behavior continues to be our compelling interest.

These standards are outlined in the booklet For the Strength of Youth and include abstinence from sexual relationships. We remain firmly committed to upholding these standards and to protecting and strengthening boys and young men.

The Church appreciates BSA’s reaffirmation of its commitment to “duty to God,” which includes service to others and moral behavior—central principles of our teaching to young men. As in the past, the Church will work with BSA to harmonize what Scouting has to offer with the varying needs of our young men. We trust that BSA will implement and administer the approved policy in an appropriate and effective manner.

A letter signed by the First Presidency of the Church is being sent to all Latter-day Saint congregation leaders throughout the United States. The letter will include the reaffirmation of Church policies and standards referenced in today’s public statement.

Source.

Boy Scouts of America

New Birth of Freedom Council statement:

Four voting delegates from the New Birth of Freedom Council, which serves more than 11,300 youth in Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Perry and York Counties, participated inthe national meeting.

Reacting to the vote from the national meeting in Texas, Jeff Lobach, President of New Birth of Freedom Council’s volunteer Executive Board stated:

“Over the past several months, we heard from many passionate voices on both sides of this complex issue through phone calls, letters, e-mails, on-line surveys and in in-person meetings. It has been very clear that no single policy would accommodate all views on this topic.  Throughout this process we have maintained a focus on continuing to provide the positive, life changing benefits of Scouting to the youth of the six counties we serve.”

“While much of the feedback we received came before any specific resolution was proposed by the national organization, our Council conducted its own local survey of current adult leaders, many of who are parents of current Scouts, after the text of the resolution that was approved today was announced. In this survey, a clear majority of our 1,113 respondents supported the resolution.”

“Earlier this month, after an extensive and open dialogue on the resolution, our Council’s volunteer Executive Board recommended tht our four delegates to the national meeting support the proposal allowing youth to participate in Scouting without regard to sexual orientation, but directed each delegate to consider any new information presented at the national meeting and to vote their consciences on this issue.”

“All of us in Scouting can certainly agree that a young person is better off included in Scouting than denied its benefits.   With the distraction of the membership policy debate behind us we look forward to devoting all our energies to delivering the Scouting program to the youth in our community.  To accomplish this we will need the support of the community and all of our Scouting family.”

Scout Executive and CEO Ronald M. Gardner, Jr. agreed stating:

“The New Birth of Freedom Council’s focus remains to deliver the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training.  The information our Council provided on this issue helped provide perspective to the process, and we respect the integrity of the national decision making process. As the Scout Executive of the New Birth of Freedom Council, I hope this update to our policy will allow all kids who sincerely want to be a part of Scouting to experience this life changing program while remaining true to the long standing virtues of Scouting.”

“While people have different opinions about this policy, we can all agree that kids are better off when they are in Scouting.  We believe good people can disagree and still work together to accomplish great things for youth.  Going forward, we will work to stay focused on that which unites us.”

For more on New Birth of Freedom Council click here

Following Thursday’s vote by the Boy Scouts America to allow openly gay youths to participate, some longtime scouts in Central Pennsylvania say they want to leave the organization.

Nathan Tasker, 16, is part of Troop 107, which met Thursday in McSherrystown, Adams County. He said he had planned to become an Eagle Scout soon.

“I’m very close. I just have one thing left to do, but it’s still a decision that has to be made,” said Tasker of his decision to quit scouting. He called Thursday’s vote “disappointing” and said it “introduces sexuality into the picture. That never should have been a topic.”

Allison Mackey has four sons in scouting, including one who is an Eagle Scout. She said her kids also want to leave the organization.

“They’re clearly turning their backs on Godly and Christian principles,” Mackey said of the organization’s delegates who voted in favor of the policy change. “They should be focusing on canoeing merit badges and tenting. It shouldn’t be part of the Boy Scouts.”

Wayne Perry, president of the Boy Scouts of America, wrote an op-ed in USA Today before the vote was cast saying the policy change is the “right decision.”

“The change to the Boy Scouts of America’s membership policy is not the result of pressure from outside; it is the result of extensive dialogue within the Scouting family. Parents, adults in the Scouting community and teens alike tend to agree that youth should not be denied the benefits of Scouting. The resolution is not about adults; it is about what is best for young people,” wrote Perry. “Some have voiced concerns that this proposal could put children at risk of being abused. The BSA makes no connection between sexual abuse and homosexuality. The nation’s leading experts agree. The BSA has stringent polices that protect the safety and privacy of youth and has always worked to ensure that it is a supportive and safe environment.”

Ted Martin, executive director of Equality Pennsylvania, called the vote a “partial victory.”

“This is a compromise, really. And, I think what both sides are trying to do is please everybody. And, I think really what they’re going to do in the long run is please nobody,” said Martin. “There are people out there that have been involved in scouting, that are gay, for years and have been terrific leaders, have been terrific role models.”

The policy change does not allow for openly gay scout leaders. As for youths, BSA officials say their policy still stands that any sexual conduct, regardless of one’s sexual orientation, is “contrary to the virtues of scouting.”

In a statement, Ron Gardner, Scout Executive and CEO of the New Birth of Freedom Council said in a statement, “The Boy Scouts of America will not sacrifice its mission, or the youth served by the movement, by allowing the organization to be consumed by a single, divisive, and unresolved societal issue. As the National Executive Committee just completed a lengthy review process, there are no plans for further review on this matter.

The policy change is effective Jan. 1, 2014.

The resolution to open up the Boy Scouts to openly gay members passed today with 60 percent of delegates gathered at the BSA headquarters in Texas,  supporting it.

The ban on gay adults in Scouting remains in place because that policy change was not under review.

The Boy Scouts of America Statement:
“For 103 years, the Boy Scouts of America has been a part of the fabric of this nation, with a focus on working together to deliver the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training.”
Based on growing input from within the Scouting family, the BSA leadership chose to conduct an additional review of  the organization’s long -standing membership policy and its impact on Scouting’s mission.
This review created an outpouring of feedback from the Scouting family and the American public, from both those who agree with the current policy and those who support a change.
Today, following this review, the most comprehensive listening exercise in Scouting’s history  the approximate 1,400 voting members of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Council approved a resolution to remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone. The resolution also reinforces that Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting. A change to the current membership policy for adult leaders was not under consideration; thus, the policy for adults remains in place. The BSA thanks all the national voting members who participated in this process and vote.
This policy change is effective Jan. 1, 2014, allowing the Boy Scouts of America the transition time needed to communicate and implement this policy to its approximately 116,000 Scouting units.
The Boy Scouts of America will not sacrifice its mission, or the youth served by the movement by allowing the organization to be consumed by a single, divisive, and unresolved societal issue. As the National Executive Committee just completed a lengthy review process, there are no plans for further review on this matter.
While people have different opinions about this policy, we can all agree that kids are better off when they are in Scouting. Going forward, our Scouting family will continue to focus onreaching and serving youth in order to help them grow into good, strong citizens.
America’s youth need Scouting, and by focusing on the goals that unite us, we can continue to accomplish incredible things for young people and the communities we serve.”
For BSA website click here
Local News
04/19/13

Boy Scouts policy on gays could change

(CNN) — The Boy Scouts executive committee has written a resolution for consideration that would remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone, the Boy Scouts of America said Friday. The scouts would maintain the current membership policy for all adult leaders of the Boy Scouts of America.

By Casey Wian and Michael Pearson, IRVING, Texas (CNN) – Boy Scout executives won’t vote this week on a proposal that would allow local troops to decide whether to welcome gay members and leaders.

The national organization’s executive board had been expected to vote on the proposal Wednesday, but said instead that it needs more time to get comment on the issue from its members.

The decision will now be made at the organization’s annual meeting in May. About 1,400 members of the group’s national council will take part during that gathering, the board said.

“After careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the Scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy,” the board said in a statement.

In the meantime, the organization will “further engage representatives of Scouting’s membership and listen to their perspectives and concerns.”

Many conservatives and religious groups that sponsor Scout troops argued against the proposal, saying the change would dilute the Boy Scout message of morality and potentially destroy the organization.

Gay rights groups and other critics had hoped the organization would lift the ban, but had expressed concerns of their own that allowing local troops to make the decision whether to admit gays would still result in unequal treatment.

The Boy Scouts announced last month that it would consider changing its longstanding policy against allowing openly gay members.

The new policy would allow local leaders to decide “consistent with each organization’s mission, principles or religious beliefs” whether to open troops they sponsor to openly gay people, the group said in a statement at the time.

The decision to even consider a change comes more than a decade after a Supreme Court ruling that found the organization has the right to keep gays out, but also amid declining participation in the venerable American institution.

Membership in Boy Scouts has declined by about a third since 1999. About 2.7 million people now participate in scouting nationwide, with more than 70% of troops affiliated with a church or religious groups.

The organization has also endured frequent criticism from gay rights groups and other critics who argue the Boy Scouts should not endorse discrimination.

Among more recent controversies, the organization came under fire last year after Jennifer Tyrrell, an Ohio den leader, was dismissed by her local Boy Scout officials for being a lesbian.

On Tuesday, Tyrell delivered a petition she said was signed by 1.4 million people supporting the change.

Before Wednesday’s announcement of the delay, she said she was looking forward to the change, but added it would not go far enough.

“If this ban is lifted, it’s a great first step,” she said Wednesday on CNN’s “Starting Point.” “But it’s still going to lead to kids being rejected. Families are still going to be turned away.”

Brandy Pryde, a troop leader who participated in a prayer vigil outside the Boy Scouts headquarters Wednesday, said her church would pull support from scouting if the change goes through.

“What happens when we go camping and there’s units that allow gays and homosexuals and there’s units that don’t, how are we going to keep them separated from those units and how are we going to instill in our kids Christian values and the Biblical truth if that’s allowed in our program?” she said.

A poll released Monday suggests the public is in favor of lifting the ban. The poll, conducted January 30 to February 4 by Quinnipiac University, found 55% of respondents favored lifting the ban. The school said 33% were opposed. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.

President Barack Obama — who serves as honorary president of the national organization by virtue of his office — also supports opening troops to everyone.

But conservative politicians and religious leaders have argued doing so would dilute the organization’s voice and mission.

Some, including former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, have argued the change could destroy scouting. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention said the change could be a “catastrophe.”

“What they’ve said to us and to other religious leaders is that they are doing this under pressure, and we’re going to give people what basically amounts to a local option,” Land said. “You can’t have a local option of a core conviction.”

Changing the policy against having openly gay leaders or scouts “would be a grave mistake,” the conservative Family Research Council and dozens of other groups said in a half-page ad in USA Today this week.

The message called on the Boy Scouts to “show courage” and “stand firm for timeless values.”

“Every American who believes in freedom of thought and religious liberty should be alarmed by the attacks upon the Boy Scouts, who have had core convictions about morality for 100 years,” the ad said. “Every Scout takes an oath to keep himself ‘morally straight.’ The Boy Scouts have every right to include sexual conduct in how they define that term.”

But others say scouting is suffering because of its policy on gays, not despite it.

Eagle Scout Zach Wahls, founder of Scouts for Equality, says the ban has backfired.

When he was 10, Wahls’ Cub Scout pack had to find a new home because the Boy Scouts of America’s policy violated the nondiscrimination rule of the school district that hosted it.

“I was confused, because my den mother, Jackie — who is my actual mother — was a lesbian, and nobody in our unit had any issue with that,” Wahls wrote. The pack managed to find another sponsor — a nearby church — but “some parents pulled their kids from the pack, uncomfortable with entrusting their sons to an organization they believed engaged in discrimination.”

CNN’s Casey Wian reported from Irving and Michael Pearson wrote and reported from Atlanta. CNN’s Holly Yan, Catherine E. Shoichet and Devon Sayers also contributed to this report.

(CNN) — The Boy Scouts of America has decided to delay its vote on a proposal to allow local troops to decide whether to allow openly gay members and leaders. The organization said it needs more time to get input from its members. The vote will now be held in May.

Boy Scouts of America Current LogoBy Casey Wian and Holly Yan, IRVING, Texas (CNN) – The polarizing debate over whether Boy Scouts of America should allow gay members could culminate with a vote on a new policy Wednesday.

But no matter which way the vote goes, activists on both sides aren’t going to be satisfied.

The controversy pits leaders of religious groups that sponsor about 1 million Boy Scouts against activists who want the organization to end its ban on openly gay Scouts and Scout leaders.

Representatives from neither camp are happy with a proposal to let local troops decide if they want to allow gay members.

“What they’ve said to us and to other religious leaders is that they are doing this under pressure, and we’re going to give people what basically amounts to a local option,” said Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention. “You can’t have a local option of a core conviction.”

Brad Hankins of Scouts for Equality also sees problems with passing the decision to local troops.

“We don’t want to see scouting gerrymandered into blue and red districts. So the best solution would be to end discrimination outright,” he said.

The Boy Scouts of America has 2.7 million members nationwide. More than 70% of troops are affiliated with church or religious groups.

The debate has ignited a firestorm of comments on CNN.com and social media.

“Hopefully the BSA will make the decision to be more inclusive! I enjoyed my time as a scout, but would not want my future children to join an organization that doesn’t promote equality,” said Cole Fuller, one of thousands of readers who have shared their views in the comments sections of CNN.com stories.

Other readers slammed the organization for considering the change and criticized gay rights advocates for pushing for it.

“Take a challenge and create your own organization with gay ideals, but don’t ever force or coerce a child and don’t force us to say your lifestyle is acceptable,” said another poster, identified as Dave McFarland.

By Wednesday morning, the Boy Scouts of America Facebook page had more than 27,000 comments on the issue.

“Stick (to) the core values, Boy Scouts is not for everyone,” Adam Stoltzfus said.

Danny Kane disagreed: “We have an organization for all. It’s called the Boy Scouts of America. Segregation is not an American value.”

No lesbian den mothers

The existing policy came under fire last year after Jennifer Tyrrell, an Ohio den leader, was dismissed by her local Boy Scout troop for being a lesbian.

In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled that Boy Scouts of America has a constitutional right to oppose homosexuality in its ranks.

“Forcing a group to accept certain members may impair the ability of the group to express those views, and only those views, that it intends to express,” then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote after the court’s 5-4 decision. He added that the decision was not meant to approve or condemn the Scouts’ view on homosexuality.

“If this ban is lifted, it’s a great first step,” Tyrell said Wednesday on CNN’s “Starting Point.” “But it’s still going to lead to kids being rejected. Families are still going to be turned away.”

Eagle Scout Zach Wahls, founder of Scouts for Equality, says the ban on gays has backfired.

When he was 10, Wahls’ Cub Scout pack had to find a new home because the BSA’s policy violated a school’s nondiscrimination rules.

“I was confused, because my den mother, Jackie — who is my actual mother — was a lesbian, and nobody in our unit had any issue with that,” Wahls wrote. “… But some parents pulled their kids from the pack, uncomfortable with entrusting their sons to an organization they believed engaged in discrimination.”

Conservative groups take action

Changing the policy against having openly gay leaders or scouts “would be a grave mistake,” the conservative Family Research Council and dozens of other groups said in a half-page ad in USA Today this week.

The message called on the Boy Scouts to “show courage” and “stand firm for timeless values.”

“Every American who believes in freedom of thought and religious liberty should be alarmed by the attacks upon the Boy Scouts, who have had core convictions about morality for 100 years,” the ad said. “Every Scout takes an oath to keep himself ‘morally straight.’ The Boy Scouts have every right to include sexual conduct in how they define that term.”

Even before the recent controversy over admitting gays, Boy Scouts of America has seen a decline in membership, which has dropped by about one-third since 1999.

Land, of the Southern Baptist Convention, said allowing gays would be a “catastrophe.” He noted more than 1 million Boy Scouts belonging to troops sponsored by Mormon, Roman Catholic, Methodist and Baptist churches.

He said if the BSA changes its policy, many of those Scouts “are going to vote with their feet. They’re going to leave the Scouts.”

But mother Jen Traeger said the opposite is already happening.

“This national policy of exclusion and rejection of gay members is the main reason we won’t put our very young son in scouts, even though it is in many other ways a worthy experience,” she wrote on BSA’s Facebook page. “We don’t want our child to be in an organization that says that some people ar(e) better than others based on orientation, or that might kick him out after all his time and work if he himself turns out to be gay in 12 years.”

CNN’s Casey Wian reported from Irving, Texas, and Holly Yan wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Catherine E. Shoichet and Devon Sayers also contributed to this report.

(CNN) – Potential changes which could end the ban on gay boy scouts signal “a challenge to the Scouts’ very nature,” conservative activist and former Sen. Rick Santorum wrote Monday.

His column, published online on the right wing website World Net Daily, comes as the Boy Scouts of America prepares to discuss changing their longstanding national ban on gay scouts and scoutmasters at an upcoming meeting.

Removing that ban is “another example of the left attempting to remove God from all areas of public life,” Santorum alleged in his op-ed, pointing to a “long list of liberal victories” that he said included abortion, affirmative action and “sexual liberation.”

“Scouting may not survive this transformation of American society, but for the sake of the average boy in America, I hope the board of the Scouts doesn’t have its fingerprints on the murder weapon,” he wrote.

The potential change to the Scouts’ rules follows protests after a den leader was forced out of her post because she is openly gay. The organization made no changes to their policies on gay membership after a recent lengthy internal review, but the issue is expected to resurface at a meeting this month.

One possible change to national policy would allow local chapters to determine whether to accept gay members. If the national board approved that measure, individual troops could dictate membership “consistent with each organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs,” according to a statement last week.

That alteration of policy would be equally devastating, Santorum wrote, since troops that maintain their ban on gay scouts would no longer be protected from legal protection against civil lawsuits. He also predicted those troops hoping to preserve the ban would simply leave the organization altogether.

“Many will simply leave and pursue alternative ways to continue to invest in the development of their young men’s character, leaving the Scouts hollowed out at its core,” he wrote.

The former GOP presidential candidate also identified a socio-economic divide in the debate over allowing gay boy scouts, asserting the wealthy CEOs who comprise the Boy Scouts’ board would be shielded from the negative effects of lifting the ban.

“It makes sense that men at the top of the food chain whose boys are insulated, although not immune, from the harmful effects of societal change are behind this effort,” he said.

Rick Perry, the Texas governor and another former GOP presidential candidate, weighed in against the ending the ban on Saturday, telling a statewide gathering of scouts that “most people see absolutely no reason to change the position and neither do I.”

“Scouting is about teaching a substantial amount of life lessons,” Perry, a former Eagle Scout, said. “Sexuality is not one of them. It never has been; it doesn’t need to be.”

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