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Eagle Scout Gets At Kicked Out For Supporting Scouting for All's Stand Against the Boy Scout's Of America's Policy of Discrimination

Dear Terry,

I read your article about the Eagle Scout getting kicked out by his Chartering organization. This should not happen. The young man's Scout Unit and Unit Committee can attempt to get the chartering organization,
which in this case is the Bethel Bible Church recommendation for dismissal, dropped. The Boy Scouts of America National has to make the final determination of any member being recommended to be dismissed.

This Eagle Scout did nothing wrong. He did not violate any BSA rule for membership. His belief is contrary to the church who sponsors his scout unit. I don't see the BSA going against the church's decision, but the young man did earn his Eagle and they can't it from him. He was given his Eagle at his Eagle ceremony. That cannot be taken back. He earned it. The church can attempt to kick the young Eagle Scout out and may succeed in
doing that, but not even the BSA can take his Eagle from him.

The young man and his Scout unit can also just leave the Bethel Bible Church and get another sponsor who tolerates freedom of thought and belief. I cannot see many chartering organizations kicking out a young man
for denouncing the BSA's policy of discrimination. In fact my son Steven also denounced the BSA at his Eagle Ceremony. He didn't get kicked out and received his Eagle.

If there is anything Scouting for All can do to support this young man please let him know we are there for him 100%.

Scouting for All will be in Chicago May 19-21 to Protest at the Boy Scouts of America's National Conference being held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. We are also going to hold a Candlelight Vigil in memory of the Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth who have taken their lives because they felt rejected.

Sincerely,
Scott Cozza, Pres.
www.scoutingforall.org


Eagle's shame or badge of honor?

March 28, 2004

Terry Bibo
tbibo@pjstar.com


On Feb. 22, an Eagle Scout Court of Honor was held for Andrew Cote at Bethel Bible Church in Edwards.

On Feb. 24, Andrew received a letter from the church, signed by the Rev. Dean McFadden and the church's representative, James Moore.

"Bethel Bible Church as sponsor of Boy Scout Troop 352 has taken action to dismiss you as a member of Boy Scouts of America Troop 352," it reads. "You have taken a position which is not consistent with the policies of
Bethel Bible Church."

Period.

What happened?

When he spoke at his Eagle ceremony in that same church, Andrew thanked everyone who had helped him, particularly Scoutmaster Paul McKim. He recalled Cub Scout den meetings, Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico ...
and some words from his brother. Chris Cote had held his own Eagle ceremony in the same church three years ago and spoken on behalf of people who cannot participate in scouting.

"The BSA doesn't allow non-theist or homosexual people to experience the same memories I have," Andrew said. "So as I receive my Eagle Scout badge now, tomorrow I will be sending it to 'Scouting for All' Headquarters, where it will hang on a wall next to my brother's badge, and the badge of hundreds of other Eagle Scouts who believe in the same thing my brother and I believe in. That a Scout should be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent."

As it happens, I was there. I also served on Andrew's Eagle Board of Review, the last step in the process for the highest award in scouting. He spoke eloquently then, as well, about his beliefs and his project at Wildlife Prairie State Park, a feat more impressive when you know he battled learning disabilities throughout school. All this is by way of saying I'd rather not write this story, but unfortunately, recent controversies make it news.

Last Sunday, for example, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a lengthy article about the way gay marriage plays in Peoria, referring to us as "an exemplar" of the heartland. Considering the originality of the playing in Peoria angle, it's hard to say whether we should be grateful or insulted at the conclusion "Peoria ... is changing." Also considering that polls show 61 percent of people under 30 favor gay marriage and 73 percent of people over 65 oppose it, Peoria - and Scouting - is not alone in the change.

Scouting for All was co-founded by a California Scout named Steve Cozza a few years ago. Cozza had made Eagle Scout at 12. In 1998, he started a national petition drive to get the BSA to change its discriminatory
policies, dedicating his efforts in memory of a gay friend who killed himself at 15. Thousands of people have signed petitions since, and Scouting for All was formed as an educational organization, largely on the Web.

That's been simmering awhile, but the recent controversy over gay marriage has fanned the existing firestorm. It is painful to watch it divide Troop 352.

Scoutmaster McKim also is chairman of the church elders committee. He says Bethel Bible was directed to dismiss Andrew by W.D. Boyce Scout Executive Fred Wallace. McKim says Wallace acted on advice from the national office.

Wallace disagrees.

"No, it didn't come from national. It didn't come from the council," Wallace says. "It was a decision of the church."

Even within Scouting, not everyone understands that the chartering organization - in this case Bethel Bible Church - owns the troop. In fact, that is one reason why the BSA forbids homosexual leaders. A huge number of troops are chartered by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which pushed that direction, which likewise led to court.

In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that forcing the Boy Scouts to accept gay troop leaders would violate the First Amendment. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal from the Boy Scouts, claiming
discrimination from the state of Connecticut, which would not allow the BSA in a charitable campaign because of discrimination against homosexuals.

Which brings us back to Scouting For All, which brings us back to Andrew Cote. He is one of hundreds of straight (and in this case, religious) Eagle Scouts who have demonstrated their belief that Scouting should be
open to everyone by sending their Eagle badge to the organization. McKim says that the group is "mis-aligned from the beliefs of the church and the BSA," which is why Wallace directed the church to send Andrew Cote a
letter of dismissal.

Again, Wallace disagrees. He says he did not know much about the group until this incident, and there is no directive from the national or council office to dismiss members of Scouting For All.

"That's not true whatsoever," he says.

Well, sometimes people hear what they want to hear. Checking with the Rev. McFadden, he says Wallace explained the church's options.

"The office told us, 'Don't discuss it, just act.' They told us, 'You own the troop. You make the decision.' So we did," the pastor says. "He did not directly tell us, in my conversations, 'You need to get rid of Andrew Cote.' He did not say that. But he did say they would back it. And it did go all the way to national."

The bottom line is if McKim and Bethel Bible Church disagree with Andrew's stance, they can get rid of him - and his parents. Greg Cote was Troop 352's committee chairman, which technically is the most powerful
position in a troop. Along with his sons, he is a Universalist Unitarian. The rest of the Cotes are Catholic. (Only a handful of troop leaders and Scouts attend Bethel Bible.) Since Chris Cote was no longer a member of Troop 352 when he sent his badge back, he couldn't be dismissed. But his parents could be removed from leadership.

On March 8, Greg and Melinda Cote and another member of the troop's committee were sent a letter telling them that the church had dissolved the committee. A new troop committee was formed. In order to be on it,
members must sign a leader agreement that reiterates the BSA mission statement, Scout Oath, Scout Law, and says "I do not disagree with the mission statement of Bethel Bible Church."

Again, McKim says this was recommended by Fred Wallace. Again, Fred Wallace says the office only advises on policy and regulations.

"It's their decision," Wallace says of the church. "The Cote young man is actually an adult assistant scoutmaster. ... That does not stop him from being with any other troop. He was not removed from Scouting."

Actually, I am eligible to be on the troop committee, although I was not informed until after the old committee was dissolved. I do not disagree with the Bethel Bible Church mission statement. It says the purpose of the church is to glorify God, reach the unsaved with the Gospel, train Christians in biblical truth, work for unity in the body, show love and compassion, trust in God and the leading of the Holy Spirit. The thing is, I don't see where that mission statement disagrees with - or has been applied to - the Cote family.

The Rev. McFadden is in a difficult position. He relies on Scoutmaster McKim, who has been involved with Scouting for decades and helped organize national events. McFadden hopes people will not get the wrong impression of Bethel Bible Church. But he says Andrew knew what he was doing when he took a stand contrary to the church's teachings.

"Conviction can never be sacrificed for compassion. There is compassion, but compassion cannot allow us to say, 'We'll let that slide,'" he says. "Were there no conviction, there could be no compassion."

And Andrew?

He's having his dismissal letter framed.

- You can call Terry Bibo at 686-3189 or e-mail tbibo@pjstar.com.



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