Little impact seen here on gay stance
February 4, 2013
The Boy Scouts of America may let individual troop sponsors decide whether to allow gay people to be scouts and scout leaders. The BSA on Monday announced that it is considering the change. But if such a change would occur, it may not have much of an impact in Butler County, according to Ray Tennent, scout executive with the Moraine Trails County, which covers Butler County. Tennent doesn’t expect much to change with scouts in the county since this policy is not a major issue here. “I probably have a complaint every couple of months that we don’t let gays in,” he said. He would expect most individual scout units here to continue operating as they always have. The Boy Scouts have long had policies excluding gays from participating. Protests over the policy increased in 2000, when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the group’s right to keep its policy in place. Under the proposed change, said BSA spokesman Deron Smith, “the Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents.” Smith said the change could be announced as early as this week, after BSA’s national board concludes a regular meeting on Wednesday. The meeting will be closed to the public. “They caved,” said Jeff Wahl, scoutmaster for Troop 457 in Zelienople. He said the BSA has had a tradition that has built good citizens since it was founded. “I think they should have left the same bylaws,” Wahl said. “I think they should have kept well enough alone.” However, he is pleased the BSA is letting individual troops and sponsors make the decision. He said he is optimistic Troop 457 will keep the same bylaws that it always had. Gary Foster, a former scoutmaster for Troop 399 in Evans City, said he recognizes the world is moving toward greater acceptance of gays. However, that does not mean the BSA should change its policy, he said. “It’s not scriptural. I’m not really for it, at all,” Foster said. A lifelong scout who became an Eagle Scout in 1953, Foster was the scoutmaster for the troop for 25 years between the 1960s and 1980s. He said the bylaws banning gay members and leaders are important to the tenets of scouting. Tennent said the scouts are having an “open dialogue” about the gay issue to see how it affects scout districts, councils and troops. Tennent said scout officials have set up a Voice of the Scout survey, which seeks feedback about how scouting supports troops, camps, volunteers and other activities. In that survey a number of people have complained about the scout policy on gays. Because of that, Tennent said, the national leaders want a discussion on this policy. The Associated Press contributed to this report.