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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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Raleigh, NC Chapel Hill - Carrboro School System: The BSA Policy of Discrimination is in Direct Conflict with the School District's policy of Inclusion

WRAL-TV Raleigh, NC, December 7, 2000

Chapel Hill Scout Troops In Middle Of Conflict Between School Board, Scouts' Stand On Gays


An adult debate could end up hurting several Cub Scout Troops in Chapel Hill.

The problem has to do with the Scouts' policy concerning gays. For the last three years, Cub Scout Pack 825 had made it their tradition to meet at McDougle Elementary School, but the Scouts may have to find a new sponsor and a new place to fly their flag.

Last summer's Supreme Court decision that allows the group to exclude people based on their sexual orientation has the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system questioning their relationship with the group.

"The students and the adults in our community seem to be caught in the middle," says Kim Hoke of Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools. "The Scouts' position on a national basis runs counter to our school board's policy on that."

Right now, the Scouts do not have to pay to use the school. If the board decides they can no longer act as a direct sponsor to the group, Pack 825 will have to pay $42 a hour to use the school. They say it is a price that they simply cannot pay.

"We are thinking about what other kinds of organizations that we can work with to pick up our charter if the school board decides that it is not appropriate for the school to sponsor us," says Joel Dunn of Pack 825.

There are currently two packs that are directly sponsored by schools. If the school board decides that they need to sever their relationship, 40 packs will have to pay to use the facility. A decision could be made in January.

Reporter: Julia Lewis

Raleigh News & Observer, January 7, 2001

Scouts' policy vexes schools

By Sumathi Reddy,

They scream and jump, chasing each other across the McDougle Elementary school gymnasium, a blur of tan and navy blue Cub Scout uniforms punctuated with badges and dangling medals.

The Scouts of Pack 825 perform a short skit, accept their merit badges and engage in fun-loving and silly games at their monthly meeting. Their gymnasium games seem far removed from any controversy.

But on Thursday, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system will decide how it can reconcile its anti-discrimination policy with its continuing sponsorship and support of local Cub Scout troops.

The school system is thought to be the only one in the state that includes sexual orientation in its nondiscrimination policy, according to the N.C. School Board Association.

The continuing support for Scout troops has troubled some board members since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that the Boy Scouts of America have the right to exclude homosexuals from leadership posts.

Since then, more than a dozen school districts, from New York City to Minneapolis, have cut their ties to local Boy Scout troops. Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools sponsor Boy Scout troops -- at McDougle and Frank Porter Graham elementaries -- that include more than 150 boys.

At least 10 troops are allowed to use school facilities for free, unlike most nonprofit organizations that pay $41 an hour to use classrooms.

"Everyone needs role models, including both heterosexual and homosexual youth," said board member Gloria Faley, who is a lesbian and gay activist. "We need to protect the mental health of all the children in the district."

The Durham and Wake County school systems do not sponsor any Boy Scout troops or allow them free use of space.

The Orange County school system sponsors three packs and allows troops to use its schools for free. But the board's nondiscrimination policy does not include sexual orientation.

"We're one of the few districts that has an anti-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation," Chapel Hill board member Maryanne Rosenman said. "It is very hard to reconcile that with the policy of the national Boy Scouts."

Troop sponsors, like the city school board, are responsible for identifying troop leaders, finding meeting places and volunteers, and doing administrative work.

The sponsor or chartering partner also must follow the Scouts' bylaws, which include "traditional family values that include not allowing avowed homosexuals as unit leaders," said Gregg Shields, the group's national spokesman.

"The scouting programs in our school are accomplishing a lot of positive things," board member Roger Waldon said, pointing to after-school activities and increasing parental involvement.

"But the national policy is so reprehensible. We can't ignore that. Something different needs to happen in wake of that very strong and very negative policy."

Scout parents and leaders say the issue is irrelevant because sexuality is not a topic broached with Cub Scouts.

"The kids are basically oblivious about this whole issue," said Cubmaster Ron Gallagher, who oversees Pack 825 and its 90 elementary age Scouts.

"Sexuality is not something that is part of Cub Scouts. It is not something that we expect to discuss with boys of that age. It's just not our role."

In Broward County, Fla., the school district has gone as far as banning the Scouts from meeting on school grounds, even if they pay the rate charged to outside groups. In response, The Boy Scouts of America filed a federal lawsuit last month, charging the district with violating its freedom of speech and association.

Stephen R. Scarborough, staff attorney for the southern regional office of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund in Georgia, said the Supreme Court decision angered many school district leaders, who balked at the Scouts' reaffirmed policy.

"When there is a sponsorship of a troop or something of that nature, that's really a seal of approval being given," Scarborough said. "That is problematic because you have a governing unit expressing approval with an organization that discriminates."

Chapel Hill-Carrboro school officials will present three options to board members: immediately ending sponsorship of troops and free use of facilities, giving local troops a year to find alternative meeting places or sponsoring organizations, or asking the local units to sign a contract pledging that they will comply with the school system's nondiscrimination policy.

Whichever option they choose, board members agree that something must change to resolve the irreconcilable differences between the two policies. Board members say they are torn since many have strong ties to the Scouts organization.

"No one is alleging that the local groups are discriminatory, but obviously there are links between the local and national units," Rosenman said, noting that local dues go to the national organization.

"Would the local units be willing or able to state they they would not discriminate against gays or lesbians? I don't know whether they could even do that."

Board members Faley and Waldon said they hope the local troops will be able to pledge to abide by the district's policies.

But John McCormick, attorney for the district, said doing so would just shift the conflict, pitting the local troop against the national organization. "That would sort of put [the local troops] between a rock and a hard place," said McCormick. "It wouldn't resolve the conflict."

Some troops, in Rhode Island, for instance, have taken stands against the national policy, sending letters to the national headquarters in Texas saying they will not discriminate.

Those cases have not yet been reviewed, Shields said. Other Chapel Hill-Carrboro board members hope the national organization will cave in to public pressure and change its policy.

"My inclination would be to give them a date by which I would expect the national situation would be resolved," said Board Chairman Nick Didow, who called the Scouts' anti-gay and lesbian policy "terribly unfortunate and ill-considered." Local Scout leaders say they have never had an instance where a scout leader or member's sexuality was questioned.

"Scouting policies make no effort to find out the sexual orientation of an individual," said Thomas Dugger, executive director of the Occaneechi Council, which oversees Boy Scout troops in 12 local counties, including Orange County.

"We only ask those people that participate with us as leaders to live according to the Scouting law." Meanwhile, the local volunteer scout leaders and parents with sons in the Scouts find themselves caught in the middle.

"I don't personally believe that a person's orientation is relevant to the work we try to do with the kids," Cubmaster Gallagher said. "I don't see it making a difference one way or another." Valerie Meicher and Bill Buzzi watched their 9-year-old son, Zachary, buzz around the McDougle Elementary gym, where boy energy abounds.

About 40 Scouts, their parents and troop leaders participated in goofy antics, ranging from a watermelon cheer, where they feign chomping down on melon and spitting out the seeds, to a bowling cheer ending with the boys screaming "Strike!" and hopping up and down. Minutes later, the Scouts were scooting across the gym floor on their hands and knees in a "crab race."

Meicher and Buzzi say the Cub Scouts give their son adult role models, identification with a group and, quite simply, a fun time. They say the Scouts' national policy banning gay leaders is unfortunate but has little to do with this group of rambunctious boys.

"Whatever some big organization off somewhere says isn't going to affect our son," Meicher said. "Our son is going to learn the values that we teach him at home."

Associated Press, January 12, 2001

School district votes to cut ties with scouts over anti-gay policy


The Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board voted to sever its relationship with local Boy Scout troops because of the organization's policy banning gay members and leaders.

The board's unanimous vote, which came shortly before midnight Thursday, gives the troops until the end of the school year to find a new sponsor and alternative meeting places.

The school district questioned its ties to the scouts after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that the Boy Scouts of America may exclude homosexuals.

Board members said they hoped local troop leaders would refuse to follow the national organization's policy.

"I am deeply saddened at the heart," said board member Gloria Faley.

"To me, there have been a lot of organizations that have been local that have made statements to national organizations when they felt a group of people were being discriminated against."

Troops could continue to meet at the districts' schools if leaders sign a pledge to not discriminate against gays and lesbians.

The school district added sexual orientation into its anti-discrimination policy two years ago. Local scout leaders say that sexuality has never become an issue. More than 150 Cub Scouts use the facilities at McDougle and Frank Porter Graham elementary schools at no cost.

All troops must have a sponsor or chartering organization, which is responsible for finding meeting places and doing administrative work.




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