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Bennett School Principal Leo Melanson has Decided to Stop the Schools Sponsorship of a Local Cub Scout Pack Because of the BSA's Policy of Exclusion

Taunton Gazette, November 28, 2000
Principal ends schools backing of Scout pack

JEFFREY D. WAGNER, Gazette Staff Writer TAUNTON --

Citing the Boy Scouts of Americas ban against homosexual troop leaders, Bennett School Principal Leo Melanson has decided to stop the schools sponsorship of a local Cub Scout pack.

The move, effective Jan. 1, comes on the heels of Union Congregational Churchs vote earlier this month to discontinue its charter with an Annawon Council Boy Scouts troop. The church also cited the BSAs bar against gay leaders.

Melanson and church cabinet members linked their break from the Annawon Council to the New Jersey Supreme Courts ruling this year that the BSA has the right to selectively choose it leaders. In addition to homosexuals, the BSA also excludes atheists and agnostics from being leaders.

Melansons decision to break a five-year sponsorship with Cub Scout Pack 50 will not keep Scout members and leaders from conducting meetings at the school, he said.

The only change, Melanson said, is that Bennett School will no longer appear on Annawon Council sponsorship documents. Union Congregational Church terminated its charter relationship with the Boy Scouts.

"The issue in my mind is, am I going to be a sponsor of an organization that discriminates against sexual orientation?"

Melanson said. "Theres a legal issue, and the legal issue is public schools in Massachusetts and most other states are not allowed to affiliate with an organization that has certain policies which are discriminatory."

Melanson said he holds no ill will against the local scouts, but said on a personal level he opposes the BSAs bar against gay leaders. He said public institutions sponsoring organizations with discriminatory policies run contrary to state law, adding that he is researching its legality.

Annawon Council Executive Director Stephen Gray, who received a letter from Melanson, said the councils Board of Directors will convene next month and discuss the Union Congregational Church and Bennett Schools reaction to the BSA policy.

"We are addressing it locally," Gray said. "I dont anticipate any change in the Boy Scouts policy. We prefer to focus on the programs and the quality of the programs were delivering." He added, "To the Boy Scouts, its a matter of selective leadership."

Gray said Bennett School has been the only local educational institution to end its sponsorship with the Boy Scouts based on that policy. "We dont anticipate any disruption of programs in this particular case," said Gray.

School Committee member Barry Cooperstein said the committee has not yet discussed Melansons decision or the legality of public institutions sponsoring organizations with discriminatory policies.

Taunton School Superintendent Gerald Croteau and Assistant Superintendent Donald Cleary were not available for comment.

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