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Township fosters talks on Scouts (PA)

http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=16754275&BRD=1306&PAG=461&dept_id=187823&rfi=6

By: Kyle Schulz, Staff Writer

06/07/2006

The controversy surrounding the Boy Scouts' ties with Cheltenham Township continued at a public affairs meeting Tuesday night with the announcement by Board President Mickey Simon Jr. that representatives from both sides of the debate are talking.


According to Simon, several Cheltenham commissioners met separately with residents who support the Scouts, and those who believe the township should disassociate themselves with the organization.
Simon said that the conversations between the two sides and Cheltenham commissioners have been productive enough to warrant further discussion, adding the issue should be resolved by the fall.


According to Simon, the township feels the best way to solve the issue would be to have the residents work it out themselves without the township stepping in.


"We need to have both sides come together and make something good out of this situation," Simon said. "This would be the best way to go rather than having the commissioners make a decision."


Simon said he is very optimistic the issue will be resolved fairly soon.


"We had a broad range of discussion of alternatives," Simon said. "The meetings were extensive and everyone had an open mind. I don't expect it to go on forever."


The board did not provide any formal discussion on the topic, but rather just an update of the situation.
But emotions are still running high.


During public comment, Elkins Park resident Albert Meinster expressed his desire to see the local Scout troops depart from the national Boy Scout policies, which have been criticized as being discriminatory toward gays and atheists.


"We'd like to see them [Cheltenham Boy Scouts] show some kind of courage to stand up to the national Boy Scouts organization," he said.


Melrose Park resident David K. Flaks suggested the township look into legislation that would include a non-discriminatory statement on lease agreements for property that is not broadly available to the public.
According to Flaks, such legislation is being introduced in Philadelphia.


The issue regarding the Scouts began in November when Flaks voiced his concerns at a public affairs meeting about what he saw to be strong ties between the Boy Scouts of America and Cheltenham Township.


Flaks believes the Scouts were receiving special privileges and asked the township to consider ending its relationship with the Scouts until the group changed its policies, arguing because the Boy Scouts of America deny membership to homosexuals and atheists, BSA should not have access to township facilities for its events.


According to Flaks, these special privileges included Scouting Day in Government and the free use of a cabin along Ashbourne Road, which the Scouts maintain and pay utilities for.


After months of debate, the commissioners decided on changing a few things to avoid any suspicion that the Boy Scouts were receiving special treatment from the township.


Scouting Day in Government, which was attended by dozens of Scouts each year and includes spending the day with commissioners, touring township government facilities and learning how local government works, was changed this year to include all school children rather then just Cub, Boy and Girl Scouts.

 

 

 

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