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Paul Lorenzini President of the Cascade Pacific Council, Statement at Nat'l. BSA Exec. Brd. Mtg. In Response to The 2/6/02 BSA Resolution Denouncing Gay And Atheist Youth And Adults In Scouting

First - I thank the Chair for permitting me to have a few moments to address the Board regarding this resolution. There are only a few points I wish to make.

I am here because I am concerned that the current policy on homosexuality will marginalize the Boy Scouts of America and make us a weaker organization. I realize those who support the current policy believe just the opposite - they see this issue as symbolic of a permissiveness in our society, and believe a strong stance on the policy is necessary to show we stand for principle. They see renewed strength in such a stance.

If this were any other issue I would agree - we have become more permissive as a society, and it is essential for our children that an organization like the Boy Scouts stand on principle.

The difficulty I have with this policy is our understanding of just what that principle is.

The premise is the existing policy is based on the principle that being gay is immoral and therefore not consistent with the Scout Oath - to be "morally straight."

This requires one to define what is and is not moral. And here is the problem - the gay issue divides us as an organization not because of pressure from outside groups, but because many Scouters inside the organization have different understandings of just what morality means with regard to this issue.

I realize the division is not felt equally throughout Scouting - it is felt more in some areas than others. But as the President of the Cascade Pacific Council, I can say categorically that our council is divided - I can't give percentages, but I can say there are numbers of board members and othe Scouters who feel strongly on both sides of this issue.

The existence of this division reflects something quite important - what I believe is an inconsistency between our policy on the gay issue and our policy on duty to God. Let me explain.

Nearly everyone who takes a strong position bases it upon their understanding of morality as defined by their religious convictions. All Scouters have religious convictions because all of us agree that the duty to God is a pillar of what Scouting is about.

But in defining what we mean by "Duty to God," we have - after long and hard thought - said it is not narrow, it is not Baptist, Presbyterian, Mormon, Episcopalian, Catholic, or even Judeo-Christian. It encompasses many views of God, including the full range of Judeo-Christian beliefs, Eastern religions, and Islam, to name a few.

It is obvious to anyone, I believe, that there is no uniform view among these religions on the morality of homsexuality. This point was made most clearly when one of our board members told of how he was approached by the pastor of his church and told they had a gay leader teaching a Sunday School class. He was asked if the Boy Scouts had decided their church was immoral. If the Boy Scout policy is based on morality, the implication is that we have decided to define God and morality according to the views of a subset of the religions we claim to embrace with our duty to God policy.

If we are to take such a stance, it might be justified if it were tied somehow to a core Boy Scout belief - but it is not. It does not relate to anything we teach, to any of our literature, or to any of the values embodied in the basic Scout Law - Trustworthiness, Loyalty, Bravery, and so forth. Discussions of sexuality have never been a part of the Boy Scout program. The proposed resolution emphasizes this point and would clearly support the rejection of anyone who brings the subject of sexuality into the Scouting program.

To take such a stance under the present circumstances, however, without any such justification, runs counter to everything we have said about the breadth of our policy on duty to God. It does not, as we have claimed, respect the views of all religions and all Scouters as they understand their duty to God. Instead, it marginalizes out of the organization those thousands of Scouters who have a different view of morality on this issue based on their own religious convictions.

If we are to embrace a particular moral position on this issue, therefore, it must be done, I believe, based upon the moral views of a charter partner - if a charter partner believes homosexuality is immoral, our policies should permit them to select only leaders who are not gay. The significance of the Supreme Court decision is we have the constitutional freedom to do that.

The resolution that has been offered works within this framework and is consistent with the breadth of our policy on duty to God. It permits local councils to have some flexibility by allowing those who feel stronly to continue to exclude gays where the charter partner believes being gay is immoral, but does not impose that view of morality on those who see it differently.

I do not believe we should decide our policies on the basis of pressure from outside organizations. I don't think any of us differ on that point. But that is not what I believe this resolution represents. I believe it represents a genuine disagreement coming from loyal Scouters within the organization. Indeed, they have worked very hard to keep this within the organization and to keep our internal debate out of the public eye.

As to the resolution itself, I have not attached my name to it until now - I would have rather seen efforts to find language that was worked out between all the parties in a spirit of cooperation and compromise. But if my only choice is to support the current policy or to support this resolution, I will support the resolution because I think it is the morally right thing to do.

I have one final thought to share. I realize I very likely speak for a minority in this room, although I earnestly hope that is not the case. But in the event we do not change the policy, I believe greater efforts need to be made to embrace those Scouters who feel they have been excluded by this policy. Unfortunately in too many instances, they have been made to feel they are not "on board," not loyal, and in some cases, not welcome. Perhaps that is inevitable when feelings run as strong as they do, but leadership from the highest levels aimed at healing those divisions is important. There is, I believe, a third principle involved here which is stated less frequently - no one should have the right to impose themselves as a role model for someone else's child when the child's parents are uncomfortable with the person's orientation.

It is this third principle which I believe should guide our thinking, it is a principle which the Supreme Court gave us the right to protect, and it is a fundamental right of parents.

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