Protestors Face Natl. Scout Meeting
May 31, 2007
The Boy Scouts of America opened their annual national meeting in Atlanta on Wednesday. Protesters showed up, too.
Inside the Hyatt Regency, marketers and scout officials sent messages >to local scout leaders from around the nation. Outside, a small group sent a different message.
"I am an American," said M.J. Christensen. "I am here, I am queer, and I am an Eagle Scout."
Christensen quit after eight years. He said he no longer felt welcome. David Knapp said he was kicked out in 1993, after 55 years as scout, then scout leader -- because he's gay.
"I, as a professional scout executive, never kicked out any boy or leader for being gay. I kicked them out for misbehavior of any kind," said Knapp. "I find the bigoted policy of the Scouts to be morally offensive."
Dale Merkle of Atlanta, whose sons were scouts, called on the national board to change the rules.
He and other protesters said the scouts get taxpayer-funded benefits. "This is not a private organization," Merkle said. "This is a public accommodation, and as such, should allow everyone."
"We are totally a private organization," said scout spokesman Gregg Shields; and as such, he said, the scouts can set rules on homosexuality. "It's just not a value that we want to uphold in the Boy Scouts of America, and we have a right to establish those values."
But opponents of the Boy Scout policy don't have too many options. They said their best hope is to change the rules from the inside, because the legal battle has already been fought in court.
In 2000, the US Supreme Court ruled the scouts are a private group with a right to bar gays as troop leaders.
Neither side is giving up.
Story as reported by Denis O'Hayer at 11Alive.com: