Scouts React to Possible Inclusion of Gay Members, Leaders

Yahoo Contributor Network
A statue of a Boy Scout stands in front of the National Scouting Museum, Monday, Jan. 28, 2013, in Irving, Texas. The Boy Scouts of America announced it is considering a dramatic retreat from its controversial policy of excluding gays as leaders and youth members. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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A statue of a Boy Scout stands in front of the National Scouting Museum, Monday, Jan. 28, 2013, in Irving, Texas. The Boy Scouts of America announced it is considering a dramatic retreat from its controversial policy of excluding gays as leaders and youth members. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

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Robert Mazzuca, Chief Scout Executive of the Boy Scouts of America. (Mel Evans/AP)

Yahoo News asked former Boy Scouts, current leaders and scouting families to react to Monday's news that the Boy Scouts of America is considering removing its ban on gay members and leaders. In their own words, here are excerpts from opinions they shared.

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Scouting's benefits should be available to all: As an Eagle Scout and a current scout leader in Enid, Okla., I have developed a strong belief in the ideals of scouting, the lessons that it teaches, and the positive effect that the scouting program can have on the lives of young people. Participating in scouting develops many attributes in young people, including values of personal responsibility, self-reliance, courtesy and kindness.

Several scouts in my troop have very difficult home situations and would be considered at-risk youth. I have seen these young men blossom in the scouting program as they interacted with both other scouts and adults. They have done amazing things that even the scout leaders did not think were possible for them.

While I understand that many feel homosexuality is against the basic tenants of scouting, I believe that the opportunity to encourage the positive and needed attributes that scouting espouses should be available to all young people. I am in favor of lifting the ban on homosexuality in scouting so that all young people and adult leaders may participate in this worthwhile program.

-- Jeremy Phelps, Enid, Okla.

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It's no silver bullet to organization's woes: National and regional financial support for the Boy Scouts has dropped each year. When I was a professional, working for the Boy Scouts as executive director, an easy out for potential donors to not fund the organization was the stance on homosexuals. But when our local council in Vermont adopted a "nondiscrimination policy" in 2002 (to curry favor with possible contributors), large swaths of cash did not suddenly start rolling into the council office.

Similarly, the policy our council adopted did not make the program any more appealing to families that were not already a part of the organization. At best, it gave the United Way and other funding agencies in the state one less reason to support the local council.

Councils that keep a policy of discrimination will keep fighting the same battles they fight now. Councils that choose to not discriminate will probably be in the same boat.

The belief at the national office is that once they wash their hands of the issue, oodles of companies, agencies and benefactors will come out of the woodwork to help with the bills.

This is a pipe dream.

-- Bill Deaton, Hawley, Pa.

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Jennifer Tyrrell hugs her son Cruz Burns, 7, outside Boy Scouts national offices in Irving, Texas, on July 18, …

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Scouts better for influencing more young men: I have been a volunteer for the Boy Scouts of America for most of my adult life, both as a leader and a merit badge counselor. My only son is an Eagle Scout. Scouting has been and will continue to be a large part of my life. Scouting has changed the lives of countless boys, and I firmly believe in the values and goals of the organization.

In my experience, young men who join the Boy Scouts, and honestly pursue the principles espoused by the organization, grow in multiple areas. These boys mature physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. They become better citizens, they work harder and they are better-equipped to meet the challenges and obstacles that life presents to them.

The opportunity for individual charter organizations to receive more autonomy in decisions concerning membership of local scout troops is a positive move. Although the change will likely be the cause for controversy, it will open doors for more young men to enjoy the benefits that scouting can offer. The Boy Scouts of America has changed the lives of generations of young men. The more boys that join the organization, the more positive influence the group can have in the world.

-- William Ray Fullmer, Dallas, Ore.

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Scouts should follow military's lead and repeal ban on gays: I have been involved as a volunteer with Boy Scouts of America since 2001, serving as both a den mother and a pack mother throughout my children's careers in BSA.

The news that BSA may be lifting the ban on gay scouts and volunteers came as no surprise to me. I also serve in the U.S. Air Force, and the world didn't end when the military repealed "don't ask, don't tell" and let gays serve openly. There are rumors that each BSA Council will have the ability to decide to allow gays or not; I believe this should be left up to the National BSA leadership, so each organization follows the same rules.

I also do not fear for my children in Boy Scouts if the ban on gay members and volunteers is lifted. All volunteers must go through a very stringent background check to be a part of BSA, no matter their sexual orientation. In every BSA Council my boys have been part of, adult volunteers are never allowed to be alone with one child, so there is very little threat of something inappropriate happening.

-- Maggie O'Leary, Oklahoma City

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BSA right to consider ending ban on gays in scouting: As an Eagle Scout, I've had a long relationship with the Boy Scouts of America. I learned many invaluable skills in scouting and credit many of my accomplishments to the BSA and its focus on helping youth grow, develop, and learn positive ways to thrive in the world. Unfortunately, the BSA's ban on homosexual members and volunteers has long been a dark mark on its reputation, preventing it from accomplishing more or representing true equality.

As a longtime staff member at Philmont Scout Ranch, the BSA's premier outdoor adventure installation and the largest privately owned backpacking preserve in the world, I can attest that the ban on homosexuals did not gel with the viewpoints of most of my peers. Relatively few of the fellow Eagle Scouts I knew were homophobic in the least, and many were quite liberal. Nobody seemed worried that homosexuality would harm the Boy Scouts of America or Philmont.

Kudos to the BSA board members who are promoting this positive change.

-- Calvin Wolf, Midland, Texas

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A positive move forward: As the wife of a former Cub Scout den leader and the mother of a former Cub Scout, I am very pleased to hear that Boy Scouts of America is considering lifting their ban on gay scouts and scout leaders.

That the Boy Scouts has previously stuck to the thinking that gays are somehow dangerous is a reality that has been hard for me to stomach. As someone who believes in equal rights for all, it was troubling to be a part of this organization for several years, and I offered no objection when my husband decided to step down and my son chose to discontinue his involvement.

While I have wanted to support this organization for the good it does in many ways, I felt definite guilt in even purchasing popcorn or giving a donation. Monday's news is step in the right direction.

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Stevon Spears, 17 and members of Boy Scout Troop 445 salute the American flag during the Memorial Day observance …

-- Lisa Stewart, Cincinnati

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