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Activist Groups Urge Obama to Reject Boy Scout Honor

From Fox News:

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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Group Protests Boy Scouts Exclusionary Policies

Thursday, May 25, 2006

By Eba Hamid - David Knapp was 67 years old in 1993 when three visitors to his Guilford, Conn., home informed him that he was being kicked out of his leadership role at Boy Scouts of America.

Washington, D.C. - Scripps Howard Foundation Wire - infoZine - He had joined in 1938 and was serving as a volunteer district commissioner when the three scouting officials knocked on his door.

So why now?

Someone had written a letter to the Boy Scouts' leadership informing them that Knapp, an Eagle Scout, was gay. He suspects it was a relative upset over his divorce several years earlier.

"I was in the closet," Knapp said, "deep in the closet."

Now, Knapp is Connecticut state chairman for Scouting for All, a nonprofit organization that aims to have the Boy Scouts rescind their policies against both gay members, like Knapp, and atheist youth and adults.

Members of Scouting for All staged an eight-hour protest Wednesday outside the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel as some of the 3,000 people attending the Boy Scouts' national annual meeting began to trickle in.

"We're a peaceful group, but we're not going to remain silent," said Scouting for All President Scott Cozza. "The Boy Scouts of America will never be the same. They're going to have to deal with this issue."

According to Scouting for All's Web site, more than 40 percent of its members are Eagle Scouts. More than 100 of them have returned their Eagle Scout awards either to the Boy Scouts or Scouting for All, which is holding them in trust until the BSA's policies change, Cozza said.

"I still love scouting," Knapp said. "I still believe it's the best youth program in the world. We need it now more than ever before."

The national spokesman for Boy Scouts of America said Scouting for All is welcome to protest as long as the group allows the service organization to do as it wishes.

"The Boy Scouts accepts their rights of free speech," Gregg Shields said. "We would ask our fellow Americans to respect our right to define our membership."

That right allows the Boy Scouts to exclude gays and atheists, said Shields, adding that the Boy Scouts oath states: "I will do my best to do my duty to God."

"If you want to be a Boy Scout, you must believe in God," Shields said.

"Similarly, we don't admit to our membership overtly homosexual peoples in leadership positions," he said.

A 2000 Supreme Court ruling upheld the Boy Scouts' right to set its membership rules. The 5-4 decision in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale overturned a New Jersey Supreme Court decision requiring the Scouts to readmit a gay scoutmaster.

In 2002, the Boy Scouts adopted a resolution reinforcing the group's stance against admitting gays and atheists.

Members of Scouting for All have protested the Boy Scouts' annual meeting since the late 1990s, Cozza said.

Also speaking at this year's rally were members of Equality Maryland; Virginia Partisans, a gay and lesbian Democratic club; Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays; the Unitarian Church of Montclair, N.J.; and the Secular Coalition of America.

The group was to hold a candlelight vigil and walk from Dupont Circle to the hotel late Wednesday in memory of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and atheist youth who have committed suicide.

The protest was to continue Thursday. Boy Scouts of America's conference concludes Friday.




Scouting For All is not an alternative scouting program.
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.

Any communications sent to Scouting for All or any Scouting for All representative may be published on the Scouting for All web site or in Scouting for All materials unless the communication specifically requests that it not be published.

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