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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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You Want to Know What The Boy Scouts of America Is Up To: Read This

July 9, 2005

Senator Lamar Alexander
Washington D.C. 20510

Dear Senator Alexander:

Few of us would debate the potential value of the Scouting program for young people. At the unit level, dedicated Scouters help youth develop a set of values that will stand them well throughout their lives. Few would debate that there are many professionals in the Scouting program who are equally dedicated as well. However, there have been a number of problems that have taken place in the past few years that have left the National Scouting Movement under a cloud of uncertainty as to the future of the program. Supreme Court decisions, membership scandals, illegal activities by Scout officials, scandals involving specific individuals and unethical actions taken by various Scout Councils against individual members have combined to raise serious doubts about the direction of the movement. I have done a considerable amount of research into this recent history. I have attempted to summarize my findings in this letter. Wherever possible, I have included references for the material cited. Much (but not all) of the information was found on the following Web sites: I have organized the information under topic headings for convenience.

Supreme Court, State Court and Other Legal Decisions

Dale vs. Boy Scouts of America - This Supreme Court decision profoundly affected the future of the Boy Scouts of America. In June of 2000 the Supreme Court found that the BSA was a "private organization" and not a "public accommodation." This decision permitted the BSA to specify membership requirements "at will." It now had the right to include (or exclude) anyone it chose. On February 6, 2002, the National Executive Board of the BSA passed a formal resolution that expressly excluded atheists and homosexuals from membership. Furthermore, the Executive Board resolved that all Councils and sponsoring organizations must sign a statement to the effect that they will enforce all policies of the BSA including the exclusion of homosexuals and atheists as members. All those applying for membership must also agree to abide by these policies. For those wanting more information about the Dale case, use the following link:

Good News Club vs. Milford Central School - The Supreme Court issued a decision on this case on June 11, 2001. The Good News Club is a "born-again" Christian group. It held that the school was violating its First Amendment right to free speech by failing to grant it access to school facilities after hours. The Supreme Court agreed. This case serves as a precedent for arguing that schools must offer Scout units use of their facilities during non-school hours. Schools are not required to "sponsor" Scout units, however. In addition, they are not obligated to permit Scout units to conduct recruiting activities during school hours.

Oregon Court of Appeals - The Court found that the BSA could not recruit during school hours since it discriminates against atheists. As government agencies, schools are bound by the First Amendment not to provide fiscal support (in this case, the use of school time) to religious organizations. (The Oregonian, 3/05/05)

ACLU lawsuit impacts government agency sponsors - The BSA altered it policy regarding government agencies (school boards, fire departments, police departments, etc.) that sponsor Scout units in the face of a
threatened ACLU lawsuit. The BSA policy now states that government agencies may not sponsor BSA units. This is an outcome of the decision of the Department of Defense to cancel military sponsorship of Scout units.
This decision was announced last November. (The BP News, Nashville, Tennessee, 03/09/05, Jeff Robinson)

Membership Scandals

Membership Trends - Membership in traditional Scout units has been declining year-after-year for the last seven years. Between 1998 and the end of 2004, there has been a loss of 300,000 Cub Scouts. The total
membership in all traditional units declined from 3,383,439 to 3,145,331 (a 7% drop) during this time period. These figures do not include the Learning for Life program, a "for profit" classroom program offered by the BSA to public schools. It is intended to help teach leadership skills to mainly inner-city youth. Those seeking a more complete analysis of membership trends are directed to the following link:

Tampa Bay Scandal - Action News investigators found falsified unit rosters and phony applications for the years 2002 - 2004 in the Gulf Ridge Council. The Council registrar, Rhonda Jackson, who brought these records to ABC's attention was fired soon after. (ABC Action News, 03/03/05, Robin Guess)

Oregon Scandal - John Mangen, then Western Area Director, identified phantom troops in the Crater Lake Council and in other Councils in Oregon. He was given the choice of either resigning or being fired by the BSA. He chose to resign and is now suing the BSA for $296,000 on the grounds of "loss of income" and "mental anguish." (Portland Mail Tribune, 02/24/04, Sarah Lemon)

Atlanta Scandal - The BSA claimed to have 15,000 Scouts enrolled in Operation First Class, a program aimed at inner-city youth. John Beasley of the Rainbow/PUSH coalition challenged that number. The local council
paid a law firm to conduct an audit. The firm reduced the number to 5,000. Beasley claims that there are no more than 500 youth involved in the program. Eight professionals were involved in Operation First Class. None
has been fired. (USA Today, 06/05/05)

Alabama Scandal - A Scouter in the Greater Alabama Council reported membership irregularities. The FBI undertook an investigation in 2003. As a result, there was a 31% drop in both number of units and total
memberships reported for 2004.

Dallas Scandal - The FBI raided the offices of the Circle 10 Council on April 7, 2000 and seized council membership records. A Federal Grand Jury was impaneled in 2003 to consider possible criminal charges. The Council has since reduced its roster by 20,000 youth (-35%). The Council Scout Executive in 2000 was Ronald Holmes. He is now the Council Scout Executive in the Greater Alabama Council. Evidently, Holmes took what he learned in Dallas to Alabama. By the way, Holmes salary in 2003 was $221,369, more that 10 times the average annual income in Alabama. (Global Ethics Newsline, 02/07/05)

Chicago Scandal - Membership scandals are not a new thing for the BSA. Back in the early 70's the BSA was suffering a "Vietnam War legacy." This was particularly true in Chicago where a bit of creativity placed
non-existent Scouts in cemeteries and elsewhere. The Council Scout Executive at the time was Alden Barber. By the time the scandal became public in 1974, Barber had moved on to become the Chief Scout Executive at
National Headquarters. Soon after, the following scandal appeared.

Boypower '76 - Membership numbers were down across the nation when Barber arrived at National, so he decided to take advantage of the fact the Bicentennial would be celebrated in 1976 by creating the All Out for
Scouting Program. Scout District Executives were put on notice that their performance would be judged by two measures, the number of new members recruited during the year and the increase in the amount of money raised in their districts. With the stress again on numbers, the air was ripe for "inventing" new members in order to make quotas. The scandal broke during the Boypower '76 program. Barber bowed out by taking early retirement. If you would like to read more about the Chicago and Boypower '76 membership scandals, use the following link:

Individual Scandals

Douglas S. Smith - Smith pled 'guilty' to trafficking in "kiddy porn" on March 30, 2005. He could be sentenced to 20 years in prison and fined up to $250,000. Smith was a Scouting professional and was the chairman of the BSA Youth Protection Task Force. (Taken from the Dallas Morning News, 03/30/05, Michael Grabell)

Bradley Stowell - Stowell, a camp counselor, confessed to molesting boys at Camp Little Lemhi (Grand Teton Council) from 1988 to 1997, when he was arrested and convicted of child molestation. National Headquarters had been notified of the abuse in a letter dated 1991. The case was finally made public in May of 2005. (KPVI, Channel 6, Pocatello, Idaho, 4/9/05)

In the state of Oklahoma (and presumably in many other states as well) those who care for youth (teachers, coaches, etc.) must report even suspected child abuse to authorities according to state law. Consequently, the Grand Tetnn Council probably violated the law by failing to report Stowell to the police in 1991. As a responsible employer, the BSA should have noted and reported the abuse earlier.

BSA Removes Scouters from the Movement

As was mentioned earlier, the Dale vs. BSA decision gave the BSA the right to act as a private organization and specify membership requirements "at will." This basically means that members have no legal rights with respect to the BSA. If the BSA chooses to remove a member, that individual does not even have the right to know the reason for his/her removal. The individual also does not have the right to confront his/her accuser or to be judged by a body of his/her peers. When a BSA Council dismisses a member (either adult or youth), the member has the right to appeal the decision to the Regional Office. If that appeal is denied, he/she can
appeal to the National Office. Given the fact that the member has no rights, the prospect of success for these appeals is limited. The only real hope that the individual has is that he/she can clear up inaccuracies during the appeal process. Even that is a "long shot" given the fact that the individual didn't even receive a formal statement as to what he/she is charged with. I have become aware of a number of cases in which the BSA has dismissed an adult member for reasons not related to the exclusion of gays and atheists. For the most part, the BSA preaches ethical principles. When it comes to how it treats its members, ethics goes out the window,
however. As a private organization, the BSA is not bound by the First Amendment, although one would think that any ethical United States organization would follow its teachings. The official privacy policy of
the BSA states, "The Boy Scouts of America is committed to respecting and protecting the personal privacy of its members..." (from As you will soon see, the BSA doesn't act that way. Evidently, the policy, along with the teachings of the Scout Oath and Scout Law are only "for show" when it comes down to treating its members.

A number of the cases referred to below are in the review process. For that reason I have omitted names except for those cases disclosed in the press. The individuals involved are long-term Scouters with an average of 20 years of adult service. They all had distinguished Scouting "careers," with service at the local, district, council, regional and national levels.

West Coast Scouters - Several California Scouters were removed from the BSA for questioning the official policy excluding gays and atheists from membership. Obviously, the BSA does not respect the First Amendment right to free speech and does not tolerate dissent, even when it is voiced politely.

East Coast Scouter - A New York Scouter was removed when he questioned why the local Council chose to spend money on new offices when the money might have been better spent on program activities. Obviously professionals make better decisions that do volunteers. One way to cope with criticism is to "eliminate" it.

Southern Scouter - A Scouter in the deep South was removed from office on the charge that he had adulterous sexual relations with another Scouter on Scout functions. The Scouter vigorously denied this. The charges were raised after he "blew the whistle" on one of the membership scandals cited above. Obviously, the BSA has nothing against invading privacy and committing slander, although slander is a violation of civil law.

Southwestern Scouter - A Scouter was removed over the content of a personal and private correspondence he had with another Scouter. The correspondence was intended to clear up a misunderstanding. It had nothing
to do with the BSA and contained nothing illegal, immoral or indecent. Again, the BSA demonstrates that it does not respect either the right to free speech or its own privacy policy.

East Coast Scouter - Another East Coast Scouter was removed when he questioned the proposed sale of Council property. This again demonstrates that the easiest way to cope with criticism is to "eliminate" it.

Southwestern Scouter - A Scouter from the Southwest was removed because he provided a letter of recommendation that was attached to the Regional Appeal of another Scouter. Evidently the BSA believes in "guilt by association." By the way, the dismissal letter was delivered the day before the individual was to direct a Council event. This ensures the maximum effect and the greatest embarrassment for the individual involved.

Midwestern Scouter - A Midwestern Scouter was removed because the local Council didn't approve of his political affiliations.

Scout Leaders - Leaders of a Southwestern Scout Troop were advised to "shun" a fellow leader who had just been removed. They were told that they too could be removed if they communicated with the individual who had just been removed. So much for free speech rights and the right of free association.

BSA "Whistle Blowers" - John Mangen, Western Area Director, uncovered phantom units across Oregon. He was given the choice of resigning or being fired when he disclosed his findings. He resigned and is now suing the BSA for $296,000, claiming "loss of income" and "mental anguish." An office employee, Rhonda Jackson, who acted as registrar for the Gulf Ridge Council in Tampa Bay, Florida, discovered falsified membership records for the years of 2002 - 2004. When she could get no action from the Council, she disclosed her findings to ABC. She was promptly fired. This just goes to show that the BSA lets no good deed go unpunished.

BSA Removes Gay and Atheist Youth

The BSA has a long history of removing gay and atheist youth and adults from the movement. Read some of the testimonials of dismissed members by following this link:

What You Can Do

Since the BSA has acknowledged that it is now a "private organization" that requires its members to swear an allegiance to God, the BSA has also become a " religious organization." The First Amendment precludes
government agencies from providing direct fiscal support to religious organizations. Even the BSA has admitted that this is correct since it has declared that all Scout units must be now be sponsored by private
organizations (churches, service organizations, etc.) and not by government agencies (military units, public schools, police departments, etc.). Congress needs to follow the lead of other federal agencies by doing the following: Demand that the BSA allow private independent audits of its membership to be conducted regularly. Demand that the BSA adopt non-discriminatory policies with regard to atheists and gays if it is to receive any public support from government agencies in the future. Recommend that the BSA end all unethical practices in its dealings with mem bers. Repeal or withdraw legislation (such as the "Support Our Scouts Act of 2005" ) that seeks to grant "special support" to the BSA unless the BSA can demonstrate that it is free from discriminatory practices against any social group. One example of "special support" is the funding supporting the National Jamboree held every four years at Army Fort A. P. Hill.

Respectfully Submitted,

Larry G. Sherman
Scouting for All* Member

*Scouting for All is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to making the Scouting program available to all youth and adults in the United States.




Scouting For All is not an alternative scouting program.
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