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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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Boy Scouts shut dad out of events at public school

October 2, 2005
By Ruth Holladay

When Dave Wendling's 6-year-old son expressed an interest in joining the Boy Scouts of America's Tiger Cubs at his Lawrence Township school, dad was front and center at the organizational meeting.

But was he straight? As in "morally straight"?

Wendling, 47, a 15-year regional manager with the mortgage lender Freddie Mac, is a partner, son, brother, good neighbor, hard worker and involved dad, he said.

But he is not, by the Boy Scouts' definition, morally straight. He's gay.

He is also the father who stepped up to the plate at the meeting. When nobody in his small group volunteered to be a leader, Wendling did.

"It is a very positive program," said Wendling, who was in Boy Scouts himself. "The kids get immediate rewards by following certain guidelines. They make friends and they get good messages."

But how good a message is discrimination? Or using public property as a haven for bias?

Those are questions Wendling is raising following his experience. They've been asked elsewhere in the nation, where lawsuits have challenged taxpayer sponsorship of Boy Scout troops. Chicago schools have cut all ties with Boy Scouts. So have military bases.

This may be the first time the issue has gone public in Indiana. Wendling came home from the meeting and told his partner, Rog Hayes, that he had volunteered as a leader. Hayes immediately "raised red flags," reminding Wendling of the BSA's refusal to allow gays.

The next day, Wendling called Mike Cimarossa, the dad in charge of the recruitment meeting, and told him he was gay. Cimarossa called Scout officials. Although personally supportive, Cimarossa said, he had to give
Wendling the word: He could not lead the troop. He could not even attend an upcoming overnight event at school with his son.

A reasonable man, Wendling said he understands the BSA position. "Part of me says I don't like it, but I get it -- private organizations can exclude."

But how can the Scouts tell him he's not welcome at Scout events at school, he asks? Why should a private group be allowed to use a public facility to exclude him?

The questions are familiar to Gina Farrar, director of public and corporate relations for the local Crossroads of America Council of BSA. "Dave is correct that there are a lot of issues coming up here," she said. "We as a council adhere to the national policy, but we don't seek trouble. He could chaperone, but not in a leadership capacity."

Lawrence Schools Assistant Superintendent Duane Hodgin set the stage for more dialogue. The district, he said, has a firm human dignity policy.

"He can come to anything at school that has to do with Scouts." But Wendling isn't sure if it's worth it. He's signed his son up for gymnastics and is checking out Camp Fire USA.

Scouting For All is not an alternative scouting program.
We are an education and advocacy organization reaching out to gay and nontheist youth and adults in our effort to get the Boy Scouts of America to rescind its exlusionary policy.

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