Summarized by Kent Larsen
Scouts Under Pressure To Review Homosexual Policy
Providence RI Journal 24Mar00 N1
By Jennifer Leyitz: Journal Staff Writer
SOUTH KINGSTOWN, RHODE ISLAND -- An attempt by two Boy Scouts of
America Councils to get the national parent organization to review
its 90-year-old policy banning homosexuals has stagnated. Rhode
Island's Narragansett Council and the Indian Head Council, of St.
Paul, Minnesota, had sent appeals to the national organization
seeking a review last year. But the national organization has ignored
the calls for a review and the Narragansett Council says that it
hasn't followed up on its request.
David Anderson, executive director for the Narragansett Council says
he thinks that executives with the national organization won't take
any action until after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling expected this
summer on the Scout's appeal of the James Dale case, in which the New
Jersey Supreme Court ruled that scouting rules banning Dale, who is
gay, from leading a troop are against state antidiscrimination laws.
The Narragansett Council's request came after an incident at the
Council's Camp Yawgoog in Hopkinton. After asking a 17-year-old Eagle
Scout if he was gay, and being told in reply that he was, the camp
director told the scout he couldn't return to a full-time job at the
camp. The youth then went to the state Human Rights Commission, and
other camp staff members staged a sit-in to support him. The Council
then gave the youth his job back.
But the incident also had further repercussions. The United Way of
Southeastern New England, a major contributor that gave $200,000 to
the Narragansett Council last year, and other financial supporters
were upset over the incident, threatened to cut off support if Scout
policy didn't change. The Rhode Island Council of Churches, sponsor
of more than 100 troops, also applied pressure, resulting in the
unanimous resolution of the 40-member executive board asking for the
national organization to review the policy.
Both the Narragansett Council and the Indian Head Council don't know
the exact status of the resolutions, but understand that they are
being considered by a committee of the national board. "I've heard
that it has not been shelved, but they tend to keep a lid on the
discussion process," said John Andrew, executive director of the
Indian Head Council. He said it would be "fairly common sense" for
the national organization to wait until after the Supreme Court ruled
to decide on the resolutions. "If we were to implement a policy
change at this time, and then the Supreme Court sends us off in a
different direction, it would be a waste of time,'' he said. The U.S.
Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case next month, and
usually rules in the summer before taking a break.
The LDS Church and the Methodist Church together sponsor the most Boy
Scout troops. But the United Way is the largest financial contributor
to the organization. In addition to funds provided by the United Way
itself, the charitable organization also facilitates thousands of
direct donations through its fundraising programs. It has already
pulled its funding from Councils in San Francisco, New Haven,
Connecticut and Portland, Maine because of Scouting's policies.
The LDS Church has supported the Scouts in their legal battle in New
Jersey and before the U.S. Supreme Court. It is not clear what, if
any, action the LDS Church would take should scouting be forced to