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For week ended March 26, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
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Sent on Mormon-News: 31Mar00

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 admit homosexuals.


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Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information