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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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Scott Cozza

 

As Steven's dad and co-founder of SCOUTING FOR ALL, I want to thank you all for your support. SCOUTING FOR ALL is a grassroots movement sweeping across the United States and Internationally. It is a movement led by a now 13-year-old Life Scout, Steven Cozza, my son. He began his campaign to end discrimination in the Boy Scouts of America, a program he so dearly loves and only wants to help make better, in December of '97. He wrote a magical letter to the editor. It was a letter of compassion from deep within his heart. It was that spirit of love that has generated the SCOUTING FOR ALL movement as a healing journey for us all to walk together in our efforts. As Steven would say, "to help make the EARTH a better place."

I am a social worker by profession. I have spent most of my life as an advocate against social injustice. I was raised in the 60's at a time of great social unrest and change. My father taught my brother and I to be tolerant but to never tolerate social injustice. He taught me that the human family is diverse and it is through this diversity that we as a people find strength. I am just passing my father's love on to my children. I hope they to will pass it on to future generations.

As a social worker I became involved in the HIV pandemic in 1986 as a mental health person, HIV advocate, and HIV educator. I have continued in my HIV work as well as my advocacy for prison HIV/health care reform. Check out my web site: http://members.aol.com/prisonhiv/. My current full time job is an outreach social worker for the homeless in San Francisco.

I have been involved in teaching and counseling youth since 1974 while in college. As a mental health clinical social worker I've worked with "at risk" youth, youth with severe behavioral problems and severe low self esteem. I have been a 4-H leader for the last 8 years and baseball coach for about the last 10 years. I became a WEBELO cub scout den leader for 2 years from 1994 to 1996 and an Assistant Scoutmaster from 1996 to present.

It was in 1995 that I had become aware of the Boy Scouts of America's practice of discrimination against gay youth and adults. I was so surprised when I learned that the BSA discriminated. I couldn't believe it at first. I was very torn and conflicted at the time. I talked it over with my wife but decided not to pull Steven out of scouting because of my own values against discrimination. Steven loved scouting. It would not have been fair to him to pull him out of scouting at the time. As Steven grew older and entered the Boy Scout program I began to inform him on a more deeper level about the Boy Scouts of America discriminating against gays. His response was similar to mine when I found out. He couldn't believe it. He grew very ashamed of being a scout and not doing anything about it. He had grown to know and love many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people as a child. He has a christian camp counselor who is gay and who he looks up to as a role model. In fact this year Steven was very disappointed that his friend was a counselor at a different camp session this year. Steven missed him! So the SCOUTING FOR ALL movement was not something planned. It grew gradually over time out of a need to take a stand against the social injustice the Boy Scouts of America was perpetuating against gay youth and adults through its policy of discrimination. In meeting the requirement of the Citizenship of the Nation merit badge Steven took on the national issue of the Boy Scouts of America discriminating against gays. He wrote to government officials and generated much support. And as I mentioned earlier his letter to the editor represents the heart and soul of the SCOUTING FOR ALL movement. Steven is walking the path of an Eagle Scout. He, as a 12-year-old scout, took a stand for what he believed in. He was brave because he faced the largest youth organization in the United States and told them that they were morally wrong. Told them that their policy of discrimination against gay youth was morally wrong and hurtful to all youth. As Steven says, "The BSA teaches us scouts to discriminate. I love scouting but am ashamed of the BSA's practice of discrimination." And the journey begins...

Scott Cozza

STEVEN'S DAD KICKED OUT OF THE TROOP

11-98
To: All SCOUTING FOR ALL supporters including Scouts, adult leaders, troops, packs,

I am writing to inform you the Troop XX Committee has chosen not to renew my leadership application; thereby kicking me out of their Troop. The Committee Chair provided me with the 3 reasons for their decision:

1. Parents allegedly complained they did not want their child being supervised by me.

2. I was told I was not a "team player."

3. I was accused of allegedly telling my son Steven not to listen to the other adult leaders.

The Committee at no time had ever discussed any concerns they apparently had about me as an Assistant Scoutmaster. In fact I was originally appointed to facilitate the Boy Scout summer camp outing for our troop this last summer. I had volunteered in the fall of '97. Soon after my son Steven launched his petition drive in January of '98 I was told that someone else was going to
supervise the summer camp ousting. The Committee chair told my wife Jeanette that having me do it would have caused to much of a stir within the troop among the adults.

I am sure they would deny that my Scouting For All efforts had anything to do with their decision. Just as they have denied that my Scouting For All efforts had anything to do with them kicking me out of their troop. I discussed my situation with my son Steven and one of his replies was, " How can they (the committee) say the stand you and Mr. Rice have taken had nothing to do with you both being kicked out? Dad, I know you and Mr. Rice would still be in Scouting today if you did not take a stand against the Boy Scouts of America discriminating against gays. I'm proud you're my dad."

I'm afraid the Committee's action against me is more a reflection of their intolerance of my stand against the BSA's discriminatory practices then any reflection of me as a person or Assistant Scoutmaster.

This same Committee attempted to kick Dave Rice out before learning that the BSA National office was going to kick Dave out. what did Dave rice, a Scout leader with 59 years in Scouting and I do that was so TERRIBLE in the eyes of the BSA and our troop, but to take a stand against discrimination. In this case a stand against the BSA's policy of discrimination against gays,
atheists and girls.

It is important to note that while the National BSA has a practice of discrimination against gays, atheists and girls, this has not been true of many Scouts, adult leaders, troops and packs. SCOUTING FOR ALL has received support from 1,000s of Eagle Scouts, adult leaders, Scout administrators from various councils, troops and packs from around the country and throughout the
world. In fact we have a 12 year old Tenderfoot Scout in the Midwest who learned about Steven and what Steven has done to attempt to change the BSA policy against gays. This 12 year old, Alex, has himself generated 400 signatures. His troop has been supportive and so has his church. Way to go Alex!!!

So don't let the BSA bully you! Become vocal. Write to the BSA and tell them your troop or pack will not discriminate against anyone, gay, atheist, girl. Encourage the BSA to change their disgraceful and harmful policy against our gay youth, a policy harmful to all of our youth. As Steven says, " The BSA is a good program with one bad thing. It teaches us Scouts to discriminate." Scouts should take a stand against any form of discrimination. Isn't that what being a good Scout is? President Clinton is the Honorary Chief Scout of the Boy Scouts of America. President Clinton, says "to discriminate against an American is un-American." The BSA practices discrimination. You decide if the BSA is acting un-American.

Steven is doing well. He has decided to stay with his troop. He loves Scouting and has several peers in the troop who he is friends with. Before I told Steven the news of me being kicked out of the troop I was very anxious of how he was going to handle it. Steven replied, " Dad, I'm happy for you. I know how stressful it has been for you. Now you don't have to get yelled at anymore." Although I have mixed feelings and would like to continue as an Assistant Scoutmaster it has been somewhat of a relief for me to be out of the troop. Steven was correct. Walking into troop meetings and have adult leaders not respond to my greeting or to be yelled at on 3 different occasions by 2 different adult leaders in front of the Scouts was very stressful to me and I believe very confusing for the Scouts.

Our journey has just begun. We need to stand firm in our resolve to end discrimination within the Boy Scouts of America, to help make it a program that cherishes the diversity of all our children. Dave Rice put his Scouting career on the line to stand against the BSA's practice of discrimination and was kicked out after 59 years. My son Steven, as a 12 year old Life Scout,
with no personal gain, but with strong character, looked up at the BSA and said" your practice of discrimination against gays is wrong. It teaches us Scouts to discriminate. Scouting should be for all kids." Steven launched an unprecedented global petition drive on January 17, 1998. Has generated 25,000 signatures of protest to date. I ask all of you to also protest against the
BSAs practice of discrimination. We have a moral obligation to our youth to do so.

Scott Cozza, Vice President
SCOUTING FOR ALL

The following is a letter I sent to all the parents of Troop XX as a means for me to put closure to being kicked out:

11-9-98

Dear Parents of Troop XX:

I am writing to inform you that last Tuesday, November 3rd at the weekly Troop meeting I was told that the Troop XX Committee had decided they were not going to renew my application as a Scout Leader when it expires at the end of December '98. This was very disheartening news for me. I enjoy Scouting but most of all enjoy working with children and young people. I have been involved with youth for over 23 years (baseball coach-current, 4H leader-current, child psychotherapist-current, Webelo Den leader for 2 years and Assistant Scoutmaster since '96 when Steven joined the Troop ). I
also served as a Pack Committee member for Pack 8 for 2 years.

I was told that one of the reasons given for not renewing my Assistant Scoutmaster application was that apparently some Troop XX parents did not want me to supervise their children as a Scout Leader. This really saddens me because I can only think the reason why they don't want their children to associate with me is because of my belief that gay children should not be discriminated against. Out of respect for those parents who want me away from their children I have decided not to wait until December 31th when my adult leadership application expires, to step away as an Assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 74. As of the next Troop meeting on 11-10, I will no longer serve in the capacity of Assistant Scoutmaster.

As a parent, reaching out to the parents of Troop XX, I am asking that the negative feelings some Troop XX parents and adult leaders may have towards me, not be taken out on my son Steven. I love him with all of my heart and want to protect him from any negative consequences. He is only one merit badge from Eagle and not one adult leader to date has given Steven any encouragement on what he has achieved. Steven handed a merit badge card in to be signed off by a Scout leader last week and the leader just signed the card and walked away. He did not make any positive comment or provide Steven any words of encouragement for completing the merit badge with just one left to qualify for Eagle. Scout leaders also organized a merit badge study group for some of the older Scouts in the Troop and Steven was not informed of this study group or invited to attend.

I would hope Troop XX adult leaders would be proud that they have another young man close to Eagle. Steven is a great kid with a big heart and a deep love for Scouting. His Scouting "spirit" was ignited by Dave Rice as an 11 year old Scout and also comes from within. As Scout leaders, our job is to nurture and keep the Scouting Spirit alive in our young Scouts through ourexample, encouragement and acceptance of the youth we serve. I hope that at the very least you will afford my son Steven the same encouragement and support you would provide all the Scouts in Troop XX.

I have been honored to have served your child as an Assistant Scoutmaster these last two years. May God Bless you all.

Sincerely,

Scott Cozza

To: All Supporters Please Send Out This Press Release to your NEWS MEDIA PRESS RELEASE

STEVEN's DAD KICKED OUT OF HIS BOY SCOUT TROOP


Scott Cozza, Assistant Scoutmaster and Cofounder of SCOUTING FOR ALL was kicked out of his Troop by the Troop Committee

Scott asks "that Scouts, Adult Leaders, Troops and Packs not be intimated by the Boy Scouts of America. Our youth both straight and gay need you to take a stand against the BSA's discriminatory practices against gays, atheists and young women."


For Comments:


Call SCOUTING FOR ALL at 707-778-0564

or

Check the SCOUTING FOR ALL WEB PAGE:

WWW.SCOUTINGFORALL.ORG


Church questions Boy Scouts rejection

12/11/99

by David Havelka

In a letter to the Redwood Empire Council of the Boy Scouts of America, the United Church of Christ in Petaluma has asked for more details about why the Church was denied a charter to sponsor a Boy Scout Troop.

In a letter dated October 14, 1999 Steve Venckus and Scott Oldenburg of the Redwood Empire Boy Scouts of America stated: "We have been advised by the Boy Scouts of America that after considerable thought and deliberation, the Boy Scouts of America has concluded that it is not prepared to charter a troop led by Scott Cozza or adult leadership recruited by him. We appreciate your interest in Scouting and hope that at another time and in other circumstances
that it will be possible to have a Troop sponsored by your church."

Reverend Linda Burris speculated in remarks to her congregation on November 7 that reason for the denial was "possibly, because of our denomination's policy on being open and affirmative to gay and lesbian people". In a letter to Roy Williams, the Western Regional Director dated December 1, Burris asked the following questions.

1) Why is Scott Cozza not acceptable as a Scout Leader?

2) Why are others recruited by him unacceptable? Does this include parents of the boys who applied to join the troop?

3) If not now, when is "another time" and what would be other circumstances which would make it possible to start a new troop?

Those interested are encouraged to contact Scouting For All at url: http://www.scoutingforall.org or phone (707) 778-0564 and sign their petition. The Boy Scouts can be contacted by writing to

Roy Williams-Regional Director
Boy Scouts of America
4765 S. Lakeshore Drive
POBox 22019
Tempe, AZ 85282

Scouting for all?

by Eileen Morris - Argus-Courier Staff
12/7/99

At Steven Cozza's Eagle Scout ceremony this summer, the 14-year-old gay rights advocate thanked the adults who had helped him in his long journey toward Scouting's highest honor.

Steven thanked Dave Rice, who had helped him develop his outdoor skills and taught him the importance of kindness and integrity. Rice, a 59-year veteran with Scouting, looked on proudly from the edge of the Grant Elementary School stage. He was wearing a suit and tie, not a uniform. He'd been kicked out of Scouts the year before because of his work with Scouting for All, a non-profit organization which seeks to convince the BSA to rescind its ban on gays. (See sidebar on page 4.)

Steven talked at length about the inspiration he'd received from youth minister Rev. Robert Espindola. From him, Steven learned the importance of diversity, charity and acceptance of all people. But a role model like Espindola couldn't wear the Scouting uniform. As an out-of-the-closet gay man, he was completely excluded from Scouting.

Steven thanked his parents, Scott and Jeanette, for teaching him "to take a stand for what I believe in." Scott Cozza was wearing a Scoutmaster's uniform for a new troop, Troop 3385.

Because of his work with Scouting for All, Cozza had been removed from his position of Assistant Scoutmaster with Steven's troop in the winter of 1998.

Since then, Scott Cozza had taken steps with Petaluma's United Church of Christ to charter a new troop, a troop which Steven planned to join as a patrol leader. Even though the paperwork wasn't completed, the BSA had given Scott permission to wear the uniform and insignia.

That was the first and only time the new troop was recognized. In October, officials from the Redwood Empire Council of the Boy Scouts of America sent a letter to the UCC's Rev. Lynda Burris stating, with no explanation, that the organization was "not prepared to charter a troop led by Scott Cozza or adult leadership recruited by him."

With that statement, the Boy Scouts crossed a line, according to Burris.

"It's one thing for the Boy Scout officialdom to exclude gays, but now they're excluding anyone and everyone who disagrees with them, and anyone chosen by anyone who disagrees with them. That's guilt by association," said Burris. "We're insulted."

Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, a member of Burris' congregation, joined Burris at the podium. The BSA's decision "flies in the face of the core values that Scouting says it works to promote," Woolsey said.

Burris said that while she personally deplored the Scouts' ban on gays and the removal of leaders like Rice, she and her congregation had made repeated assurances to the Boy Scouts that Troop 3385 would not be a platform for Scouting for All. "If they're not going to believe us, a church - a main-line denomination - when we say that we're going to follow the rules, who are they going to believe?" Burris asked at a press conference last week.

Across the country, the UCC charters 1,400 Boy Scout troops. The church has 1.4 million members. It has ordained openly gay and lesbian people to the United Church of Christ ministry.

According to the Boy Scout Handbook, chartering organizations provide meeting space, leadership and guidance.

Tim Talamantes, who had agreed to be the church's liaison with the troop, Burris and Cozza all assured Boy Scout leadership that they would not recruit gay leaders for the new troop, nor would they would talk about Scouting for All in meetings or recruit troop members for Scouting for All activities. These assurances occurred in letters and in interviews, Talamantes said.

Talamantes said that in October he was questioned for two hours by Scout representatives about the church's choice of Scott Cozza. "They asked me again and again why we wanted a Scout leader who wanted to destroy Scouting. I told them that wanting to change Scouting is not the same as wanting to destroy it."

Talamantes said he told Scout representatives he knows Scott Cozza well and believed him when he said he would not use the troop as a platform for Scouting for All. "I told them that if they wanted to get Scott Cozza they would have to do it without this church," said Talamantes.

"I took real offense that they were implying that we weren't trustworthy," Talamantes said.

Appearance of conflict

"It's not a question of believing them or not," said Steve Venckus, commissioner with the Redwood Empire Council of the BSA and one of the signers of the letter to Burris. "The appearance of conflict is there.

"Our intent was not to offend the church. We would work with them to charter a troop with someone other than Scott Cozza as a leader," said Venckus.

He called Scouting for All a "fine and noble cause" and said he welcomed the debate Cozza and other activists are raising within Scouting.

After a spate of lawsuits having to do with the Scouting policy to exclude gays, the Boy Scouts recently decided to re-examine membership requirements.

Burris said her church wanted Cozza as their troop leader. "We know him and his family. We believed Scott Cozza would be the best leader." The Cozzas live next door to the church, and Steven attended vacation Bible School there.

Scott Cozza is a counselor at San Francisco General Hospital. Jeanette Ramacciotti-Cozza teaches kindergarten at Grant Elementary. In addition to his work with Scouting for All, Steven Cozza has been active in numerous charity drives in the neighborhood.

Venckus confirmed Cozza had broken no Scouting rules. Despite the fact that Cozza's leadership was rejected, "There's no ban on him," Venckus said.

Venckus said the conflict of interest he ascribed to Cozza would "extend" to any leaders chosen by Cozza.

Unofficial leadership

The Boy Scout Handbook lists three types of adult troop leaders: Scoutmaster, Assistant Scoutmaster and Troop Committee member. Cozza and the United Church of Christ had promised they would not fill these positions with gay adults. But to Scott Oldenburg, Scout executive with the Redwood Empire Council, leadership extends further than these official positions.

When asked why BSA refused the charter, he read one of Scott Cozza's quotations from the July 6 edition of the Argus-Courier. Cozza was quoted as saying: "We're going to focus on the parent-child relationship. We want to encourage all mothers - straight, lesbian, transgender - to be a part of the troop."

"I take that as a leadership statement," Oldenburg said. Leadership in a troop is not always official, Oldenburg said.

When Cozza heard Oldenburg's charge, he was incredulous. "So now, if you're a straight kid with a lesbian mom, your mom has to get someone else to drive you to the meetings."

Cozza pointed out the Scout handbook encourages family involvement in troop activity.

"When you join the Boy Scouts of America, your whole family can become part of Scouting," the handbook reads. It goes on to detail the ways families can get involved, whether by taking on an official leadership role or by helping out at events.

"Oldenburg is saying that if you're a gay parent, you're not welcome to attend any meetings. I'm totally offended by that statement. It's a disgrace," said Cozza.

Past activities

Oldenburg said a large part of the decision to reject Cozza's leadership was made on the basis of his past record as Assistant Scoutmaster with Steven's old troop.

Cozza used the troop "as a platform for his personal agenda," Oldenburg said. "We simply have to look at the past to make an assessment for the future."

In an interview Dec. 2, Oldenburg could not provide specific examples of incidents when Cozza used the troop as a platform for Scouting for All. But Steven's old troop leaders could easily provide examples, Oldenburg said.

He refused to give out the names and phone numbers of those leaders, but he did promise to call them and give them the opportunity to help in the preparation of this story. No leaders from the Cozzas' old troop called this paper.

Cozza said he, Rice and Steven made every effort to comply with the BSA's wishes to keep the number of their troop under wraps. Any time they made public appearances, they covered their troop number. And any time they gave press interviews, they always requested reporters not mention the troop number.

Cozza also said he, Steven and Rice tried to follow Scout rules by working to change Scouting by writing to Scout leadership. To date -- after waiting over a year -- they have received no response.

Oldenburg said the decision to reject the troop was made jointly by the Redwood Empire Council and the national office of the BSA in Texas.

Oldenburg has only been in his job for about a year, but he said he would be surprised to learn that the Redwood Empire Council had ever rejected a troop on the basis of its proposed leadership.
"It happens very rarely," said Brian Thomas, spokesperson for the Boy Scouts national office.

Thomas reiterated that the Boy Scouts see Cozza's activities for Scouting for All as a "conflict of interest."

Parents' reactions

For Deanna Mossi, mother of one of the troop's seven prospective members, Cozza's beliefs weren't a problem.

"My goals were not to get involved in the Scouting for All platform, but I certainly didn't care what they [Scott and Steven Cozza] did in their free time," she said.

She had known the Cozza family for a number of years. Her younger son had been in Ramacciotti-Cozza's kindergarten class at Grant, and Mossi had met Steven Cozza several times when he was out collecting for charity.

When she read about the troop in the Argus-Courier this summer, she knew her 12-year-old son would love it. "That opportunity has been stripped away and I feel really robbed," she said.

A mother of an 11-year-old boy said she will not permit her son to join another troop. "I am insulted that they would not support a troop led by Scott Cozza. He is well-respected and honorable. I'm raising my child not to be prejudiced and judgmental. From now on, I'll put him in organizations or groups that teach him good values."

Burris and her congregation have sent a letter to Roy Williams, the director of the Western Region, asking why Scott Cozza was not acceptable; why others recruited by him are unacceptable; and when and under what circumstances the church could apply for another charter.

The roots of Scouting for All

Dave Rice started Scouting for All in 1993, after 55 years in Scouting, but it wasn't until December of 1997, when then 12-year-old Steven Cozza wrote a letter to this paper, that the movement took off. "I am writing to you because I want people to know that the Boy Scouts of America is a great program but it won't allow gay kids or grown-ups in Scouting," Steven wrote. "Gay kids should be allowed to be Scouts. And I know kids who have gay dads would want their dads to be able to be assistant scoutmaster like my dad."

Soon after the Argus printed Steven's letter, he started circulating a petition asking the Boy Scout leadership to end its ban on gays. His goal is 1 million signatures. To date, he has close to 40,000. He also has the respect and gratitude of people all over the globe.

The Petaluma High freshman has been honored by the American Civil Liberties Union, law enforcement agencies on both coasts and civil rights organizations. In November of this year, Vice President Al Gore thanked him for his efforts.

BSA's policy on gays

The Boy Scout policy on gays isn't written down anywhere, at least not anywhere that the public can see. From a recent decision in Rhode Island involving an Eagle Scout who was asked about his sexual orientation, expelled from Scouts when he answered truthfully, and then reinstated, it appears the policy is evolving into one of "don't ask, don't tell."

The Scout oath says that a Scout is "morally straight," which Boy Scout leadership interprets as "morally heterosexual."

Scott Oldenburg, scout executive with the Redwood Empire Council said Dec. 2 that "a gay leader is not a proper role model. A gay lifestyle is not a proper lifestyle." Oldenburg would not provide a definition of "a gay lifestyle."

The Boy Scouts have been racking up wins and losses in the courts. A recent California State Supreme Court decision ruled the Boy Scouts were a private organization and could exclude whomever they wanted. But the New Jersey State Supreme Court just ruled that, based on their partnerships with public service organizations and public entities like schools, the BSA's exclusion of gays was illegal under the state's anti-discrimination laws.

Scouts outrage local church

Petaluma parish wanted advocate for gays to head its new troop, but was turned down



Carol Ness of the Examiner staff

Leaders of a Petaluma church and a powerful member of its congregation, Rep. Lynn Woolsey, were going public Wednesday with their outrage over the Boy Scouts of America's refusal to let them sponsor a new troop.

The Boy Scouts rejected the United Church of Christ's petition because the new troop was proposed by, and might have been led by, Scott Cozza, the head of a group that's been advocating for an end to scouting's ban on gays.

"I'm just incredibly offended," said UCC Pastor Lynda Burris, who was holding a press conference Wednesday morning to air her indignation.

"What they said to us was that we don't trust what you are saying, that we as a church would not abide by Scout law and the Scout oath," Burris said.

Woolsey, a Petaluma Democrat, said the Boy Scouts' denial "flies in the face of the core values that scouting says it works to promote."

Cozza, his father and his son Steven formed Scouting for All two years ago after the boy, then 12, became concerned about the conflict he saw between scouting's principle of equality and its ban on gays as members or leaders.

Since then, Scott Cozza has been stripped of his leadership job in another Petaluma troop, where Steven was a member and earned scouting's highest rank, Eagle Scout, earlier this year. A second troop leader involved in Scouting for All has been thrown out of scouting entirely.

The Cozzas and UCC leaders envisioned a new troop that would be involved in the community, especially with a homeless shelter near the church. The new troop had seven boys, including Steven, signed up, and hoped to involve boys living in the shelter too, Burris said.

"We've been shot down," she added.

The Boy Scouts' rejection came despite written assurances from Burris and her co-pastor, Tim Talamantes, that the new troop would not become a platform for Scouting for All or a vehicle for promoting views contrary to the BSA's guiding laws.

A letter from the Boy Scouts' Redwood Empire Council, in Santa Rosa, said the BSA "has concluded that it is not prepared to charter a troop led by Scott Cozza or adult leadership recruited by him."

The rejection letter didn't spell out the BSA's objections to Cozza, who is still a member in good standing, along with his son. Burris said she would be seeking an explanation from the Boy Scouts.

The development comes at a time of strife about the exclusion of gays both within the Boy Scouts and within the mainstream religious denominations whose churches sponsor almost two-thirds of all Cub packs and Boy Scout troops.

The UCC ranks seventh among church sponsors, with 1,450 troops nationwide.

In 1993, the UCC urged the Boy Scouts to change their anti-gay policy.

Court challenges against the policy have mostly gone the Boy Scouts' way. But in one case, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled the policy amounts to illegal discrimination. The case is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, and the UCC this week filed a brief supporting an end to the policy.

San Francisco Examiner, December 1, 1999
P. O. Box 7260, San Francisco, CA, 94120
(Fax 415-512-1264 )
(E-MAIL: letters@examiner.com )
( http://www.examiner.com )

Boy Scouts Reject Proposed Troop

Associated Press, December 1, 1999

PETALUMA, Calif. (AP) - The Boy Scouts have rejected a proposed troop that was to have been sponsored by the United Church of Christ in Petaluma, and church leaders say they are insulted.

Pastor Lynda Hyland Burris said she believes the Scouts rejected the troop because its proposed scout master, Scott Cozza, is vice president of Scouting for All, a group that advocates an end to scouting's ban on gays.

In a letter to the church, officials from the Boy Scouts' Redwood Empire Council in Santa Rosa said the Scouts "concluded that it is not prepared to charter a troop led by Scott Cozza or adult leadership recruited by him.''

The letter did not elaborate on the reason. A call to the council Wednesday night was not immediately returned.

The pastor has written back to the Boy Scouts to request clarification.

She called the rejection "a real insult'' and added that it "really brought home to us, as a congregation, the injury of discrimination against gay boys and gay young men.''

One church member, Democratic Rep. Lynn Woolsey, said the rejection violates the core values of scouting. "They talk about inclusion and acceptance of all, and then they pick and choose and qualify who they include,'' she said.

Since Cozza and his son Steven co-founded Scouting for All two years ago, Scott Cozza has been stripped of his leadership job in another Petaluma troop, where Steven was a member and earned scouting's highest rank, Eagle Scout, earlier this year.

A second troop leader involved in Scouting for All has been thrown out of scouting entirely.

The proposed troop had seven boys signed up and hoped to include boys living in a homeless shelter near the church, Ms. Burris said. The church's lay leader had promised that the new troop would follow Scout rules and not become a platform for promoting contrary views.

The Boy Scouts of America's Denial of a Troop and Church Sponsor Correspondance Between The United Church of Christ, Petaluma and The Boy Scouts of America

The United Church of Christ was denied sponsoring a Boy Scout Troop by the Boy Scouts of America because the Church approved an adult leader who believed gays should not be discriminated against by the Boy Scouts of America. The following are two letters, a letter from the Church to the BSA asking why they were denied and the BSA's reponse:

United Church of Christ
Congregational, Christian, Evangelical and Reformed
825 Middlefield Drive, Petaluma, California, 94952


December 1, 1999

Roy Williams, Regional Director
Western Region, Boy Scouts of America
4765 S. Lakeshore Drive
P.O. Box 22082
Tempe, AZ 85282

Dear Mr. Williams:

We have received notification from the Redwood Empire council, Boy Scouts of america, dated October 14, 1999, stating that "it is not prepared to charter a troop led by Scott Cozza or adult leadership recruited by him."

Further, the letter stated: "...and hope that at another time and in other circumstances it will be possible to have a Troop sponsored by your church."

We thank you for your letter; however, we do request clarification as to the following points:

1) Why is Scott Cozza not acceptable as a Scout Leader?
2) Why are others "recruited" by him unacceptable? Does this include the parents of the boys who applied to join the troop?
3) If not now, when is "another time" and what would be "other circumstances" which would make it possible to start a new troop?

We would appreciate your attention and response to this letter.

Sincerely,

signed: Rev. Lynda Hynda Burris, Pastor
signed: Tim Talamantes, Moderator


Western Region * Boy Scouts of America
4765 S. Lakeshore Drive, P.O. Box 22019, Tempe, Arizona 85285-2019
480-752-7000, Fax 480-752-0093

December 28, 1999

Rev. Lynda Hyland Burris
Mr. Tim Talamantes
United Church of Christ
825 Middlefield Drive
Petaluma, California 94952

Dear Reverend Burris and Mr. Talamantes:

Thank you for your letter of December 1. In response to the questions you raise:

1. By Reason of his history of activities in and out of Scouting in recent years and statements attributed to him in the press in connection with the proposed troop, BSA does not share your confidence that Mr.Cozza would lead the proposed troop in accordance with the letter and spirit of BSA policies and principles.

2. By reason of the circumstances referred to above, BSA has no confidence that Mr. Cozza has recruited or would recruit leadership dedicated to following the letter and spirit of BSA policies and principals.

3. BSA joins with local groups as chartered organizations to instill the values of the Scout Oath and Law in youth members. In view of your harsh public criticism of BSA values, there is a question in my mind as to whether there is the mutual commitment to shared values that is called for. In any event, there can be no troop in the absence of mutually acceptable adult leadership.


Sincerely,
signed: Roy L. Williams, Regional Director, Boy Scouts of America

The Boy Scouts of America Defends Its Own Bigotry As An Institution By Banning Those Who Disagree

Gregg Shield's, National Spokesperson of the National Boy Scouts of America was quoted as saying when asked by a reporter in March of 1998, " What is the Boy Scouts of America going to do about Steven Cozza and his father Scott Cozza?" Mr. Shield's replied by saying, "The Boy Scouts of America will not interfere with a father and son relationship." The Boy Scouts of America allowed my troop to kick me out only because of my belief that gays should not be discriminated against and should be allowed in scouting. Steven and I did not violate any troop or National BSA rule. My troop told me "they did not want their children to associate with me." Before Steven and I took our stand I was looked at within the troop as a good adult leader. The local Redwood Empire Council and Steven's troop put much pressure on him in his successful attempt to earn his Eagle rank. They told him that he didn't have the Eagle Spirit and that he did not believe in the Scout Oath or Law. He just told them that he believed in the Oath and Law, that it was the BSA who did not follow them through their practice of discrimination against gays. Despite all that Steven rose above the adult leaders at the council level and within the troop. He received his Eagle. The Redwood Empire Council and the BSA have since banned me from associating with any troop, although I'm still an adult in the capacity of merit badge counselor. I had attempted to have Steven and I transfer to another troop, but when the scout master of the troop told me, Steven would have to be interviewed by their troop sponsor, I knew Steven was again being treated differently. So I decided against seeking a transfer to another troop. Steven and I agreed we'd just start our own troop that would be community service focused and would honor the diversity of the human family. We attempted to form our own troop reassuring the local council we would abide by the BSA rules. The United Church of Christ agreed to sponsor the troop. We adopted the family homeless shelter and were going to offer free memberships to the homeless kids at the shelter. After months of negotiation the troop was denied. It was denied because I was listed as an adult leader in the troop. And all the adult leaders that were listed with me were also banned from associating with any scout troops. So Steven and I are currently in scouting but without a troop to enjoy the scouting experience together.

Mr. Shield's, did the Boy Scouts of America interfere with my relationship with my son Steven? I'll let you and the National Boy Scouts of America and our local Redwood Empire Council answer that question. What did Steven and I do so terribly wrong? We stood up against discrimination. We did not turn our backs on our friends who were being discriminated against. We followed the Scout Oath and Law in taking our stand. It says in the new scout handbook in defining the term morally straight, a scout, "Should respect and defend the rights of all people."

The BSA's actions against Steven and I have only made us both stronger in our resolve. Because now we can feel on a more personal level how terrible it is to be discriminated against.

Scott Cozza, Vice President
Scouting For All
BSA "Banned" Adult Scout Leader

 

 

 

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.

Copyright 1999-2009 Scouting for All and its content providors.

 

 

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