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Panelists say Scouts must include gays

Dear panelists,

Thanks again for generously sharing your time, brain-power, social concern and personal experiences. I've copied below for you the local coverage of the event in the Bloomington daily paper and the IU campus paper.

Cordially,
John Clower

* * * *

Panelists say Scouts must include gays

Discussion at library comes at same time national Boy Scout convention visits Bloomington

By Christopher C. Paine,
Herald-Times Staff Writer
29 July 2002

A February resolution has some faith-based Boy Scout sponsors caught on the horns of a dilemma that is forcing them to wrestle with the issues of tolerance, homosexuality and continued Boy Scout sponsorship.

It is the choice between conscience and regulations and the struggle to find a solution that brought nearly 30 people to a discussion on inclusiveness Sunday at the Monroe County Public Library.

The panel discussion coincides with the National Order of the Arrow Conference at Indiana University this week. Boy Scout policy excludes gay boys and men from serving as Scouts or Scout leaders. The discussion is one of many events this week involving groups opposing the ban.

The controversy stems from a Boy Scout National Executive Board resolution passed Feb. 6 that says, in part, that homosexual conduct is "inconsistent" with Scouting and that gays can't serve as Scouting role models. The resolution also takes local decision-making on the issue away from individual scouting organizations.

"Local congregations are not able to make their own decisions on the matter," said panel moderator John Clower, a founder and co-coordinator of Hoosiers for Inclusive Scouting.

The national executive board "is forcing religious congregations to violate their moral and ethical beliefs," said Dave Rice, a member of Scouting for All, which opposes the ban. Rice, from Petaluma, Calif., was a Boy Scout leader for 59 years before being kicked out of Scouting in 1998 while fighting the ban against gays.

According to Rice, religious organizations account for more than 60 percent of Boy Scout sponsors. Certain denominations have what Rice referred to as open and affirming congregations where homosexuality is not inconsistent with their faith.

"The sad dilemma we're in," said Mary Ann Macklin, campus minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church, "is that people are having to follow their own true selves on this issue and they're finding themselves leaving something behind."

The Rev. Robert Shaw, who leads the Northeast United Church of Christ in Indianapolis, is also wrestling with the problem of sponsorship.

"If we decide we can no longer sponsor a Scout troop, who's really going to be hurt?" Shaw said. "No one, except the five or six boys in the congregation."

One member of the audience noted that the resolution would be in violation of the part of the Boy Scout mantra that states "No boy shall be excluded."

Lewis Weiss, a rabbi at the Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation, noted that other service groups, such as the Girl Scouts, do not wrestle with the problem of gays and noted the Jewish tradition of equality.

"To this day, the major denominations call for inclusiveness," Weiss said. "We need to bring the BSA in line with the rest of the service groups."

The focus on homosexuality brought forth a discussion of Scripture. According to Shaw, Scripture doesn't speak to the issue of modern homosexuality.

"It was condemning it as an abuse of power. Scripture does not say anything about a committed relationship of a loving nature," between partners of the same sex, he said.

Weiss explained the Scriptures in a historical context. "My understanding is that if Scripture comes down hard on an issue, it
usually sees it as a threat of paganism."

According to Rice, two Scouting organizations have failed to gain charters because of the ban. The United Church of Christ, Rice's congregation in Petaluma, lost its new charter application bid in the fall 2000. After a Boy Scout organization changed churches in 2000, the Shadow Hills United Church of Christ in Phoenix, Ariz., applied for recognition and was denied.

Charter application is approved by the national organization with the recommendation of the local council.

Until the passage of the resolution, many sponsors enjoyed latitude in how the organization is governed within certain unifying guidelines. Rice noted that while individual organizations are vulnerable, a coalition of Scouting organizations would stand a better chance of keeping gays in.

According to Rice, congregations can "stay in and fight from within and create a sizable minority ... if there were a coalition the numbers would be too many" to remove their charters.

At 7 p.m. today at the library, Rice will present a documentary on the effort to open up the Boy Scouts to gays. A question-and-answer session will follow the presentation.

Reporter Christopher Paine can be reached at 331-4370 or by e-mail at cpaine@heraldt.com.



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