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Activist Groups Urge Obama to Reject Boy Scout Honor

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Activist groups, including Scouting for All, urge President Obama not to accept the honorary Presidency of the Boy Scouts of America until they stop discriminating.

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One of Matthew Shepard's was Murderers was an Eagle Scout: What Kind of Message is the BSA Giving Our Youth?

Opening Statement Form Scouting For All

The Boy Scouts of America's discriminatory policy against gay youth and adults just fuels the flames of violence towards persons who are gay. Is it possible that maybe Henderson would not have murdered Matthew if the BSA didn't have such a policy? In fact if the BSA had a policy that affirmed the diversity of the human family could Matthew still be alive today. Maybe if this were true Henderson as a good Eagle Scout would have tried to prevent McKinney, the other murderer from killing Matthew.

The Boy Scouts of America's policy just teaches our youth to hate and discriminate. Was this the Mission of Lord Baden Powell, when he founded the World Scouting Movement? I think not! The Boy Scouts of America seem to have been taken over by the religious fundamentalists who have corrupted both the Scout Oath and Law for their own political and religious agendas. You see, Scouting in America is supposed to be nonsectarian, not driven by any particular religion. According to the 1916 BSA Charter each Scout Unit is supposed to decide its own membership and the values it wants to instill in its youth. The term "Morally Straight" was borrowed from the YMCA in 1916 and has nothing to do with one's sexual orientation as current National BSA leadership would lead you to believe. Is the BSA "morally straight" when it advocates a bigoted discriminatory policy that hurts people? The answer is no. The current leadership of the National BSA has taken a wonderful youth program and turned it into a program that supports bigotry by advocating it through its own actions. Yes, the BSA is letting down the youth of America. I wish James Dale, Tim Curren, or Scott Pusillo all gay Eagle Scouts kicked out for their crime of being born gay, could have met Henderson as an Eagle Scout. If he had, Henderson would have realized that his hatred towards gays was rooted in ignorance and fear. Maybe two lives could have been saved Henderson's and Matthew's.

Scott Cozza, Pres.
Scouting For All


Thursday, October 22, 1998 ; Page A02

LARAMIE, Wyo., Oct. 21 -- Six years ago, Russell Henderson completed requirements for the rank of Eagle Scout with a community service project sprucing up a local cemetery, and had his picture taken with the governor. Today, at age 21, he is in the Albany County Jail, accused of helping murder University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard.

Those who know him wonder how and why Henderson made the journey from an apparently well-rounded teenager -- honor roll student in junior high, member of Future Farmers of America, solicitous and kind to the grandparents who raised him -- to co-defendant in a vicious anti-homosexual murder that has aroused the nation.

Details of that transformation and of the events of Oct. 6 -- when police say Henderson and co-defendant Aaron McKinney lured Shepard, 21, from a Laramie tavern, beat him with a pistol and hog-tied him to a fence to die -- remain shrouded for now. Court records have been sealed and the two defendants in a case that has become a cause celebre for gay activists will
not appear in court again until next month.

What has emerged so far is a portrait of two young men from broken homes who dropped out of Laramie High School, held marginal jobs, partied together and occasionally got into trouble.

One, McKinney, 22, has been described by acquaintances as hot-tempered and prejudiced, a minor troublemaker who spent three months in a youth detention center at 14 for stealing a cash register and who recently pleaded no contest to a $2,500 restaurant robbery.

The other, Henderson, has been portrayed as quiet and polite, "a sensitive young man, kind-hearted" in the words of a woman who knew him well as a teenager, but someone who more recently was arrested for drunken driving.

Kristen Price, McKinney's girlfriend and the mother of their young daughter, has provided one account of what happened the night of Oct. 6. Price said the two men set out to rob Shepard to teach him a lesson for coming on to them at the Fireside, a bar popular with university students.

"They just wanted to beat him up bad enough to teach him a lesson," Price said on ABC's "20/20." "Not to come on to straight people and don't be aggressive about it anymore."

Price, 18, herself has been charged, along with Henderson's girlfriend Chastity Pasley, 20, as an accessory after the fact, for allegedly helping concoct an alibi and hiding McKinney's bloody clothing.

McKinney, whose parents were divorced, lived with his mother until her death five years ago, then with his father and then with his mother's second husband. He had a tendency to react angrily when he encountered adversity. He flunked seventh grade, got into fights in school and, after getting into trouble with the law, underwent conflict resolution counseling.

Travis Brin, a friend, told the Rocky Mountain News in Denver of an incident last year when McKinney "flipped out" in a bar when he saw a doctor who had treated his mother before her death five years ago. "He was yelling at this guy, blaming him for his mother's death," Brin said. "They almost called the cops to get him out of there."

Laramie police say that after the attack on Shepard, McKinney had an altercation with two Hispanic teenagers, hitting one on the head with a handgun and inflicting an ugly four-inch wound that required 21 staples to close. McKinney, another acquaintance told reporters, also was biased against homosexuals and minorities.

"He was a real redneck," Brendan Murphy told the Rocky Mountain News.

Henderson, who lived with Pasley in a trailer home near the Union Pacific railroad tracks in southwest Laramie, had quite a different reputation, according to those who know him.

Deanna Johnson, best friends with Henderson's grandmother, described him as "a very kind young person" who loved animals, was active in sports and school activities, and helped with the home medical care of his grandfather. Henderson was kept from graduating from high school by a teacher who said he failed to turn in a paper, Johnson said. Although he never completed high
school, he did "very well" when he went to work at a fast food restaurant, a gas station and a roofing company, she added.

Johnson said she "was devastated" when Henderson was arrested for the Shepard beating. "I knew it couldn't be him," she said. "I knew it was him, but knew it couldn't be. Could this be our Russell? He was definitely with the wrong person."

Sherry Aanenson, who rented the $340-a-month trailer to Henderson and Pasley, described him as a "very quiet and polite" young man who never gave her any trouble in his three years as a tenant, who helped with repairs to the trailer and who usually paid his rent on time and let her know when his payment would be late.

Cheryl McKinney, Henderson's next-door neighbor, whose son and daughter worked with him at a Taco Bell near the University of Wyoming campus several years ago, has less fond memories, including "a couple of altercations" over Henderson's setting off fireworks late at night. Last July 4, McKinney -- no relation to Aaron McKinney -- summoned the sheriff to put an end to one such episode. Afterward, she said, she found him to be "an unpleasant young man."

But those who knew Henderson before the Oct. 6 crime did not think him capable of the violence inflicted on Shepard.

"I couldn't imagine him on his own accord doing anything like that," said Aanenson. "To us it was inexplicable. Either he was incredibly intimidated by Aaron, or he was lost on drugs or alcohol or whatever. That's the only way we could see him being that violent."

Cutline: Russell Henderson, charged with murder of gay college student, is escorted to court.

Articles appear as they were originally printed in The Washington Post and may not include subsequent corrections.




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We are an education and advocacy organization reaching out to gay and nontheist youth and adults in our effort to get the Boy Scouts of America to rescind its exlusionary policy.

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