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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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Narragansett Council 546, Providence, Rhode Island

Narragansett Council 546
175 Broad Street
Providence, RI 02903

November 18, 1999


Be it resolved that the Executive Board of the National Council, Boy Scouts of America, establish a representative commission to examine the relevance and appropriateness of present membership requirements for traditional Boy Scouts of
America programs and report its findings in a timely manner to the ExecutiveBoard, Boy Scouts of America at the conclusion of its mission.

Explanatory Statement

The Narragansett Council (#546), Boy Scouts of America, serving the state of Rhode Island and portions of nearby Massachusetts and Connecticut, is involved in a public discussion with a host of community representatives concerning
Scouting membership standards for youth and leaders and the impact of those standards on our community.

This discussion is centered on the common good Scouting has brought to our community since 1910 with the formation of the Rhode Island Boy Scouts, which later joined with the Boy Scouts of America. All participants recognize and attest to the values brought to the community by trained, committed youth and leaders.

As citizens within the smallest state in the United States, we are comfortable with a single community approach to the business of the state and its citizens, while we recognize and honor the diversity within the multiple constituencies forming our greater community.

Fundamental Scouting principles urge us to value and respect human diversity. We believe Scouting is providing a ``program for community organizations to offer effective character, citizenship and personal fitness training for youth'' within the traditions of the Scout Oath and Law. Boy Scouts of America ``endeavors to develop American citizens who are physically, mentally and emotionally fit; have a high degree of self-reliance as evidenced in such qualities as initiative, courage and resourcefulness; have personal values based on religious concepts; have the desire and skills to help others; understand the principles of the American social, economic and governmental systems; are knowledgeable about and take pride in their American heritage and understand our nation's role in the world; have a keen respect for the basic rights of all people and are prepared to participate in and give leadership to American society,'' according to Boy Scout materials.

It is the proponents' desire and purpose in moving this resolution to recognize, ratify and second the Resolution submitted by the Indianhead Council of St. Paul, Minnesota at the 1999 Boy Scouts of America Annual Meeting which was referred to the Relationships Committee for review.

We believe no words can better state the Indianhead desire ``to initiate a deliberative process whereby all traditional membership requirements will be examined, where positions will be studied and recommendations made to sustain a
robust BSA program for future generations,'' before growing countrywide discussion interferes with the purpose and mission of Scouting.

Scout controversy: Fleet makes choice -- the wrong one

By M. Charles Bakst
Providence Journal

September 28, 1999

At a Thursday luncheon, Rhode Island Boy Scouts will honor Fleet National Bank/Rhode Island with a Whitney M. Young Jr. Service Award for corporate citizenship.

Fleet is a good citizen. But it would be a better one -- and set a fine example -- if it rejected the award to protest Scout policy against gays as members or leaders. Such a move would be more in line with Fleet's nondiscriminatory policies and the legacy of Young, who was National Urban League executive director and dreamed of ``justice and equality for all.''

Young championed blacks. But his words could apply to today's gay cause. At the March on Washington, he declared, ``We must support the strong, we must give courage to the timid, we must remind the indifferent, and warn the opposed.
Civil rights, which are God-given and constitutionally guaranteed, are not negotiable in 1963.''

In view of the furor that has raged recently in Rhode Island and around the nation about the Scouts and gays, I asked bank chairman Dean Holt why Fleet is accepting the award. He said Scouts over the years have done much good. ``This
is a new issue and I think we'd rather try and work to have their policy changed as opposed to just cutting off support. We have a nondiscriminatory policy at the bank with regard to everything and we would like the Boy Scouts to come to
that position.''

Holt is a board member of United Way, which has been a major Scout supporter. He said United Way is discussing the Scouts' policy and would like to speak with the Rhode Island and national organizations about it. ``That's the most we can
do at this point,'' he said.

Bank P.R. aide Cate Roberts said Fleet this year will give United Way $350,000. The bank gave the Scouts $10,000 directly in connection with a June dinner and has bought a table for $500 for Thursday's lunch at the Westin.

The Providence Journal Co., which donated to the Scouts in the past and was the recipient of a Young Award a couple of years ago, declined to buy a lunch table. Publisher Howard Sutton said the company did so because ``the Scouts' stance
regarding gays is clearly discriminatory.'' He said The Journal does not anticipate supporting Scout fundraisers ``while that policy remains in place.''

Kate Monteiro, a key Rhode Island gay-lesbian leader, said Fleet should reject the award and not lend its prestige to the Scouts. It doesn't matter, she said, that the Scouts do good things: ``Segregated universities in the South certainly educated a lot of people and did a lot of wonderful things, but they were still segregated institutions and they were still wrong.''

Accepting the award for Fleet will be Robert Twomey, a senior bank VP and a Rhode Island Scout board member. I told him I thought the Scouts generally are terrific but that they should know not to discriminate. ``We're going to work to
try and make them better,'' he vowed.

Twomey didn't know what he might say when he gets the award. I think he should politely hand it back and say he hopes this small gesture will be one of many around the nation that eventually will prompt change. He could cite this quotation from someone who'd gone to an outdoor music festival:

``As we filed into that vast arena, everybody was given a match, and at a certain point in the program all the lights were turned out and one hundred thousand people were in darkness. Each person was asked to strike his match. I am certain each one of us thought, `What can I do with this little match?' But we all went along with the request and struck our tiny matches. And because one hundred thousand matches were struck, the place became as light as brightest day. This we can do as individuals. Each can strike his match. We can't just sit and wait for somebody else. We must go ahead -- alone, if necessary, but together in the end.''

And then Twomey could cite the passage's author: Whitney Young, in his book, To Be Equal .

M. Charles Bakst, The Journal's political columnist, can be reached by E-mail at

Fundraiser puts Scout policy on gays back in spotlight

An official at Fleet Bank, the guest of honor, says after the closed event that the policy is at odds with the bank's stance on diversity. And United Way, a major sponsor, expresses ``deep concern.''

Providence Journal

October 1, 1999

PROVIDENCE -- Boy Scout officials guarded the doors of their annual corporate fundraiser yesterday, saying they didn't want controversy over the organization's anti-gay policies to distract from a ``Corporate Citizenship Award'' they were presenting to Fleet Bank.

Only those who received an invitation to the $500-per-table event were allowed in the banquet room at the Westin Providence, but the contentious issue clouded the 6th Annual Whitney M. Young Jr. Service Award Luncheon

A top Fleet official said, as he stood holding the plaque after the ceremony, that he doesn't approve of the Boy Scout policy and that it doesn't square with the bank's commitment to diversity.

Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr. said during brief remarks at the luncheon that he and the Scouts have a ``difference of opinion,'' and said afterward that the city is taking a look at its ties to the Boy Scouts.

And later, the United Way of Southeastern New England, one of the biggest corporate sponsors of the Rhode Island Scouts, released a statement saying that the agency is ``extremely concerned that both scouts and adult leaders who merely identify themselves as being gay may be denied access'' to scouting.

Leaders of the Narragansett Council of Boy Scouts, the Providence-based headquarters for the state's Scouts, wouldn't comment beyond a prepared statement that said policy is established by the national organization, the Boy Scouts of America.

The policy, which national leaders voted to study in May, is based on a 1910 oath that says Scouts must be ``morally straight.''

The local scouting organization came under attack this summer when officials fired an Eagle Scout from his job at Camp Yawgoog after his boss asked him if he was gay, and he said yes.

Scout leaders gave the teen his job back, but the incident thrust the Scouts' policy on not allowing gays into the spotlight.

The incident at the Hopkinton camp also raised questions about whether corporations with anti-discriminatory policies should support the Scout organization.

The Providence Journal, which won the Corporate Citizenship Award in 1997, didn't buy a table at this year's luncheon because of the policy, which publisher Howard Sutton said is clearly discriminatory.

But some of the most influential business people in the state did.

Representatives from Gilbane Building Co., Providence Gas, Citizens Bank, and AMICA Mutual Insurance Co., dined yesterday at tables decorated with miniature Boy Scout flags.

Scout leaders didn't want to discuss yesterday how their policy might sit with the award's namesake, Whitney M. Young Jr., a former executive director of the National Urban League and an advocate of equality for all.

``Our real concern is to make sure that the recipient of the award gets the attention they deserve and that other activities or interests don't distract from that,'' said David Graves, one of several Scout officials making sure that only those with invitations entered the luncheon.

Mayor Cianci, who prides himself on going to as many Eagle Scout ceremonies as he can, delivered ``Greetings from the City of Providence,'' in which he referred to his ``difference of opinion'' with the Scouts.

Afterward, he explained that he disagrees with the policy on gays, but he felt it would be better to ``keep communication open'' rather than stay away from the event.

Cianci has directed W. Fitzgerald Himmelsbach, the city's liaison to the gay and lesbian community, to study Providence's ties with the Scouts. The city currently sponsors troops, gives grants to youngsters to attend Camp Yawgoog, and allows Scouts to meet in public buildings.

``They have to realize that they can't exclude gays who want to be Scouts or leaders,'' Cianci said.

Fleet Bank received the award partly based on its support of the ``Scoutreach'' program, according to Scout officials.

Robert Twomey, the senior bank vice president who accepted the award, said that before recent publicity, the Boston-based bank hadn't focused on the Boy Scouts' stance on gays.

But he said the policy is at odds with the anti-discrimination policy at the bank, which prides itself on its diversity and sponsors an organization for gay and lesbian employees.

Fleet officials have contacted both the Boy Scouts and the United Way, saying that the bank doesn't support the policy, he said.

``We are 100-percent nondiscriminatory, but now it comes to our attention that they have this policy,'' Twomey said. ``We want to enter into a dialogue with them.''

LATE IN THE AFTERNOON, the United Way issued its news release, which recognized ``some movement in the Scouts' willingness to re-examine their position'' after extensive discussions. ``But we are disappointed in the substance of their statement today,'' the agency said.

The United Way funds Scoutreach, which offers scouting to inner-city boys.

The statement acknowledges the right of private organizations to set their own policies ``within the parameters of law,'' but says supporters of those groups have the right ``and in some cases the obligation'' to reevaluate their own decisions.

Asked whether the agency might cut off funds for the Boy Scouts, Dennis Murphy, spokesman for United Way, said no.

``We don't want to overreact and fragment the community over this,'' Murphy said. ``But we're not going to under-react and stick our heads in the sand either.''
Advocate - October 4, 1999

Rhode Island scouts face problems from longtime supporters

The recipient of a "corporate citizenship" award from the Rhode Island chapter of the Boy Scouts said after receiving the honor that he disagrees with the Scouts' policy on gays, the Providence Journal-Bulletin reports. Robert Twomey, a senior vice president at Fleet Bank, received the award last Thursday, but after the ceremony he told the paper that "we are 100% nondiscriminatory, but now it comes to our attention that they have this policy." Twomey's comments come several months after a scout was thrown out of the state chapter, but then reinstated, after he was asked if he was gay. Providence mayor Vincent Cianci also commented on the controversy at the awards ceremony, saying that he had "a difference of opinion" with the Scouts. Meanwhile, the United Way of Southeastern New England issued a statement saying that it is "extremely
concerned that both scouts and adult leaders who merely identify themselves as being gay may denied access" to programs. However, the agency said it has no intention of stopping funds for the group.

Kudos to Kennedy for exposing hate; What about you?

M. CHARLES BAKST - Providence Journal

October 5, 1999

Congratulations to U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy for publicizing the hate mail and phone calls he gets for standing up for human rights.

Those who say he's puffing himself up or engaging in a cynical political ploy should think again. Does Kennedy's being a pol mean he can't also have convictions? His strong views on human dignity may win him some votes, but there's little political payoff in much of what he does, such as a visit he made to a 1996 atrocities trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

His embrace of the Narragansett Indians on the casino front put him at odds with the electorate and other pols. I, too, thought Kennedy was wrong. But, overall, I admire his turning the spotlight on events and groups -- including East Timor, Liberian refugees, Hispanics, immigrants, and gays -- that need it and that other pols too often ignore.

A ``reward'' for his good deeds is hate mail and calls. He told The Journal's Jon Saltzman he went public about it to show that racism is alive here and we need to face it. I know Kennedy is right because I encounter the same garbage when I write about such causes.

But forget Kennedy. What are you doing to eradicate injustice?

Were you at a Providence Gridiron Club dinner for high-school footballers Tom Mooney wrote about in Sunday's Journal? A contingent of young men from Central High, who happened to be black, were ignored and left without seats in the
crowded room while a group from another school, who happened to be white and who arrived after them, had their needs met -- table wheeled in, chairs and silverware set. Mooney finally intervened; the Central group was at last accommodated.

Why did this fall upon Mooney? Why hadn't others done anything? Why, amid injustice, are so many so blind -- or timid? You could ask the same of those who'd like the Boy Scouts to end a policy against gays as leaders or members.

I saw Buddy Cianci going in to address last week's Scout corporate luncheon at the Westin. The mayor generally has a strong record on gay issues. He told me he hopes he can persuade the Scouts, whom he says do much good, to change their
view on gays. But let's try to bring the issue of prejudice home. Would Cianci address an organization that bans Italo-Americans? ``I would probably insist on coming,'' he said. I wish he'd insist that the Scouts end their gay discrimination. It's nice that Cianci will mull an end to city support. But it'd be better if he took quick, decisive action.

The same day, a United Way statement decried Scout discrimination. But there was no threat of an immediate cutoff of funds.

I spoke yesterday with the Rev. Jim Miller, executive minister of the Rhode Island State Council of Churches. He recently became a member of the Rhode Island Scout board, but he believes the national Scout policy on gays is wrong, and he says he's not going to stick around long if he doesn't see progress. He says Scouts here should break with the national policy.

At the same time, he concedes, not every church in his council agrees with him, and, of course, many churches host Scout troops. He says the Scouts and the churches need to talk.

He says something haunting: The Scout troop he belonged to in West Virginia included a gay. But no one in the troop knew he was gay -- until, a few years later, he left a suicide note and killed himself. Mr. Miller thinks things might have been different if the fellow could have been open with Scout peers and met with support.

My guess is most gays won't sign with the Scouts and try to ``pass.'' Why put themselves through it?

The press was barred from last week's luncheon. It was only an hour or so, but having to wait outside made me angry, lonely, and maddeningly curious about events inside -- a taste, perhaps, of how it feels to be gay and excluded.

It doesn't take a Kennedy to ask: Can't we be better than this?

M. Charles Bakst, The Journal's political columnist, can be reached by E-mail at

R.I. Scouts urged to take stand on national gay policy

A United Way official says the agency has given the Narragansett Council ``time to grapple'' with the issue but expects action ``relatively soon.''

by JENNIFER LEVITZ - Providence Journal

November 18, 1999

Influential social, religious, and charitable organizations in Rhode Island are urging the state Boy Scouts to lobby the national Boy Scouts of America to reconsider a long-standing policy of excluding gays from being Scouts or volunteers.

The United Way, the Rhode Island Council of Churches, and the National Conference for Community and Justice have pressed the Boy Scouts in a flurry of meetings in recent weeks to position themselves and Rhode Island as a ``more
enlightened'' force in the percolating controversy over the anti-gay policy.

The Board of Directors for the state's Narragansett Council of Boy Scouts -- who have so far acted more as an organization bound by national morality policies embedded in 1910 oaths -- meets today. The policy on gays is on the agenda.

Sean O. Coffey, chairman of the United Way of Southeastern New England Board of Directors, is a former state senator who led a 10-year battle to pass a gay-rights law in Rhode Island in 1995. He said the United Way, a major
financial supporter of the Scouts, is giving the Narragansett Council ``time to grapple'' with the issue, but that the United Way expects action ``relatively soon.''

``Rhode Island has been first on a lot of things,'' Coffey said after yesterday's United Way board meeting, during which members and the director of the Rhode Island Council of Churches discussed the Scout policy. ``We want them to urge the national organization to change or at least consider the issue in a modern context, to revisit this issue and engage in a discussion about diversity as it affects homosexuals in their memberships and volunteers.''

David Preston, a spokesman for the Narragansett Council, which Coffey described as being ``very earnest in their approach to this issue,'' said that Executive Director Lyle Antonides was in Connecticut and not available to comment.

Gregg Shields, spokesman at Boy Scout headquarters in Irvin, Texas, didn't return a phone call yesterday.

The Rhode Island Council of Churches sponsors more than 100 Boy Scout troops. The United Way gives some $200,000 to an urban scouting program.

The push for a review of the policy on gays also reflects Rhode Island's entry into a simmering national debate that has prompted the United Way to pull funding in San Francisco, New Haven, and Portland, Maine, as well as caused several municipalities to cut off money or cancel Boy Scout leases in city buildings. The San Diego school district banned Boy Scouts from its campuses, for example, and recently, the city of Chicago ended its 30-year sponsorship of Boy Scouts.

The United Way of Greater Portland stopped funding Maine scouts after passing an antidiscrimination policy that included sexual orientation. It meant that any group funded by the United Way's allocable funds, or money donated to the United
Way by people who don't designate a certain charity as the recipient, had to show it was in line with that policy.

``The Boy Scouts could not do that, so they dropped off as a member agency,'' Robert Stein, spokesman for United Way in Portland said yesterday.

Kate Monteiro, director of the Rhode Island Alliance for Lesbian & Gay Civil Rights, said it's ``significant'' that major Rhode Island organizations are delving into Boy Scout policy.

``Four months ago, it wasn't even on their radar screen, she said. ``Now they're moving toward finally doing the right thing.''

Four months ago, national attention centered on a premiere Boy Scout camp in Hopkinton. The director of Camp Yawgoog fired an Eagle Scout staff member just after asking the 17-year-old if he was gay, and hearing his answer: ``Yes.'' The
state Scouts let the teen back in, but it stood by the policy to exclude gays.

About the same time, the national Boy Scouts said a committee in the organization had initiated a study on whether membership standards should change to allow gay individuals.

After the Camp Yawgoog incident, people on ``both sides of the fence'' urged the United Way to either pledge unwavering support for the Scouts or shut the Scouts off entirely, Coffey said this week.

But while the United Way considered cutting ties, he said, the board believed that it would be irresponsible, and would take the United Way out of a crucial civil rights debate.

``Did we consider it? Frankly, yes, but the problem with drawing lines in the sand is that those lines sometimes turn into cement walls,'' Coffey said. ``It doesn't meant that that's ultimately not exactly what we'll do, but we'll only do it after a real opportunity to allow the Boy Scouts to discuss what we feel is a real diversity and civil rights issue.''

After the Camp Yawgoog incident, the Rhode Island Council of Churches organized discussions between churches that often have conflicting views on homosexuality. The council believes that state Scouts should be a catalyst in getting national Scouts to reconsider their policy on gays, Jim Miller, executive minister of the council, said yesterday.

Miller is planning an ``enlightened'' forum, for church representatives, Boy Scout organizers, and for Scouts and their families, in March or April, he said.

Anthony Maoine, director of the National Conference for Community and Justice, said his organization believes that organizations shouldn't ``turn their backs'' on any youths.

``We ought not say that when a Scout tells the truth about who he is, that he can't be part of scouting,'' Maoine said.''

Narragansett council recommends Boy Scouts review policy on banning gays


PROVIDENCE - The Narragansett Council of the Boy Scouts today became the second council in the United States to recommend that the national organization review its policy of banning gays from the Boy Scouts. The 40-member executive board voted unanimously to second a proposal by a Minnesota Boy Scout Council, which has already called for a commission to study whether homosexuality should be a barrier to Scout membership. "This resolution makes us one of the leaders in the entire country in asking the Boy Scouts to reexamine their membership policies," said Peter Reid, vice president
of the executive board. The group called for the national organization to conduct the review in a "timely and forthright manner." The move comes one day after the United Way and other charitable organizations pressed the local council to work to relax the ban.
Local Boy Scout council asks national body to review membership requirements

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) With a carefully worded and somewhat vague statement, the Narragansett Council of the Boy Scouts of America Council has asked its national body to review its ''membership requirements,'' which include a ban on

The statement, a Scout volunteer said, has nothing to do with a recent controversy over a young South Kingstown Eagle Scout who said the Scouts discriminated against him because he is gay.

Instead, the resolution is intended to address ''all issues that are relevant and timely today,'' said Peter Reid, a volunteer with the Narragansett Council.

But, he added, ''certainly that would include the homosexual'' issue.

The resolution, as explained Thursday in a written statement, said the local council is asking the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America to ''establish a representative commission to examine the relevance and appropriateness of present membership requirements for traditional Boy Scouts of America programs.''

The statement goes on to say the ''Fundamental scouting principles urge us to value and respect human diversity.''

''We have chosen this path because we very much want to stay within the National Council,'' Reid said of the resolution. ''We've chosen to work very carefully with them in the process, so that's why some of the language may not have been as strident as some wanted.''

''We're not giving them a target to shoot at,'' he added. ''It's time, in other words, for another review.''

The statement makes no mention of recent incident during which a 17-year-old said he was asked if he is gay by the director of Camp Yawgoog, a Scout getaway in Hopkinton popular with Scouts throughout New England.

The teen said he was denied a job answering phones at a camp after answering yes. He was ultimately allowed to remain a Scout, despite the organization's long-standing ban on homosexual members. The incident, in turn, sparked a controversy over the ban.

Although Reid would not say what he hoped the outcome of the move would be, he said the intention is to start a ''deliberate discussion'' on ''society at large.''

''The timing ... is right. We should be talking about these issues, we should be resolving these issues and getting on with the business of scouting.''

In response to the resolution, the United Way of Southeastern New England issued its own statement.

''We commend the decision the local Scout leaders have announced (Thursday) to reevaluate their policies to gay volunteers and members as dictated by their national organization,'' the group said.

The resolution asks that the commission's findings be reported next year.

The Narragansett Council is the second one in the country to pass such a resolution, after St. Paul, Minn.



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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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