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Activist Groups Urge Obama to Reject Boy Scout Honor

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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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Troop 110 Resolution, Portland, OR, Pioneer Dist. Casade Pacific Council

September 21, 2000

Dear Troop 110 Parents,

As you probably know, the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling in June permitting the Boy Scouts of America to deny membership to gay boys and adults. The plaintiff in the case, James Dale, had always been a model Scout and leader, and his sexual orientation never was an issue or concern in his troop. BSA officials found his photo (at a gay rights rally, unrelated to Scouting) in a newspaper and identified him as a Scout leader. The Scouts then revoked his membership, based on a then-secret policy that homosexuals could not be members of the Boy Scouts of America. There was never any complaint about his conduct within the Scouting program.

In supporting the Scouts, the court relied on a First Amendment concept called 'expressive association.' In order to win the lawsuit on these grounds, the Scouts had to assert that prejudice against gays is taught to Scouts and is part of the message of Scouting, and thus protected under the U.S. Constitution. The Scouts stated that Boy Scouts are taught that the phrases 'clean' in the Scout Law, and 'morally straight' in the Scout Oath refer, in part, to a prohibition against homosexuality.

The court, in ruling for the Boy Scouts, cited similar instances of First Amendment free speech. These included past cases when the court upheld the rights of individuals to burn the American flag and of Ku Klux Klan leaders to advocate violence to promote racism.

The Troop Committee of Troop 110 (a group of adults who oversee our Troop 110 program) reviewed this BSA policy and its background at our September meeting. Members made a number of observations, including the following:

1. We have never seen any Scout literature suggesting that homosexual prejudice is part of the Scouting message. In fact, The Boy Scout Handbook makes no reference to this in its explanation of the Oath and Law. Furthermore, the Scoutmaster's Handbook advises that sexual questions are best left to a Scout's parents, physician, or religious leader, and should be kept out of the Scouting program whenever possible.

2. It is clear that in the past the BSA policy of discrimination against gays was kept as a closely guarded secret at the national level, and never promulgated to individual members of BSA. However, BSA now has an explicit public policy of discrimination.

3. Scouting has traditionally purported to advocate respect for other's beliefs. It has held itself out as an ecumenical organization. The Scout Handbook says: 'A Scout is Reverent. He respects the beliefs of others.' Furthermore, 'A Scout is Kind. He treats others as he wants to be treated. To be kind you must look beyond yourself and try to understand the needs of
others...imagine being in their place. What can be harder is being kind to people...with whom we disagree. Extending a powerful antidote to the poisons of hatred and violence.'

4. Gay youth in America are among the most at risk for suicide. Ostracizing them from society, including the Boy Scouts, is not a compassionate or effective way of dealing with such a serious social problem.

5. One might have expected the Scouts to assert that this policy of excluding gays was for the protection of youth from sexual abuse. However, BSA did not make that argument. Why not? Quite simply, because the Scouts are aware that the facts do not support that contention. Studies show that the vast majority of sex abusers of children identify themselves as heterosexual, not homosexual. Also, lesbian women, not just gay men and boys, are forbidden membership in BSA. Furthermore, BSA did not draw justification from any religious source, such as biblical passages, as the organization is supposed to be ecumenical.

6. The image of Scouting is suffering greatly in the eyes of millions of Americans as a result of this controversy. Sadly, the facts of the Supreme Court case show clearly that it was the Boy Scouts themselves who sought the confrontation over this issue, not James Dale.

7. For 90 years, the Scouting program has had a positive influence on millions of America's youth. The brilliance of the Oath and Law is that they have fostered universal values that have resonated with millions of Americans. People of all religions and political views have worked constructively together under these values. That should not change. In the same way that one's religious beliefs are private, personal views on sexual matters should remain private in Scouting. We can all work constructively
together for the youth of our community without drawing political lines in the sand.

What should our troop do? Some of us have explored avenues at the local and national levels to affect a change in BSA, but have run into stone walls at every juncture. BSA is not a democratic institution, so members really have no say in such policies. It is very much a 'take it or leave it' organization. For example, in the Sunday Oregonian, Sept. 10, 2000, Chief Scout Roy Williams (the nationÕs top Scout executive) is quoted: The 'single most important person' in this controversy is the parent. 'They chose Scouting to help their children be better people, and when they start walking away from us, that's the signal to tell us to revisit the issue.'

The Troop Committee is hopeful that something less than withdrawing from the Scouting program can bring change to the Boy Scouts. However, if we remain silent in the face of intolerance we are condoning it. Therefore, the Troop Committee is considering adopting the attached resolution.

We are seeking input from parents before acting on this resolution. You may wish to discuss this with your son. You should be aware that, although unlikely, one possible effect of adopting this resolution would be that the Boy Scouts of America could revoke our charter. A number of troops have adopted similar resolutions as far back as 1991 and none, as far as we have been able to determine, has actually had their charter revoked. If challenged by BSA we would have to explore our options.

We plan to vote on adopting this resolution at our October committee meeting. Therefore, if you would like to comment, please send your thoughts, by the end of September, to any committee member or scoutmaster.

We look forward to your input, as it is very important to us in dealing with this difficult and divisive issue. Please know that we are trying to do the right thing for all the youth of our community and for the Scouting program as a whole.


Your Troop 110 Committee & Scoutmasters

Boy Scout Troop 110
Portland, Oregon
Pioneer District
Cascade Pacific Council

RESOLVED, that Troop 110 fully supports the tenets of the Scout Oath and Law, including the phrases "to keep myself morally straight" and "a Scout is Clean." Further, a Scout is Kind and Reverent, and this requires that a Scout be tolerant and respectful of others.

We reject the policy of the national leadership of the Boy Scouts of America that sexual orientation, specifically homosexuality, is grounds for denying membership in Scouting. Homosexuality is a private issue and is irrelevant in granting membership, in selecting adult leaders, or in the awarding of status or rank, including the Eagle Scout rank.

As a result, Troop 110 will operate on a non-discriminatory basis, as it has in the past.

Adopted this ____ day of October, 2000, by the Troop Committee.

This resolution shall be placed in the official records of the troop, and a copy shall be forwarded to the Cascade Pacific Council and to the national office of the Boy Scouts of America. The troop committee shall communicate the adoption of this resolution to the Riverdale School community, in order to assure the community that Troop 110 does not discriminate.




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