The Boy Scouts of America's decision to let local chapters in Los Angeles and nationwide decide whether or not to continue a controversial ban on openly homosexual members is generating near-silence in Scouting in L.A., which has one of the nation's largest population of gay young people.
The national board recently decided that its longtime gay ban conflicts with the Boy Scout mission “to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetime.” Yet in Los Angeles, few Scout officials or leaders seem willing to talk about it:
One of those few is Victor Zuniga, field director for the Boy Scouts of Los Angeles Area Council, who sees the change as a opportunity to include more of the youth of Los Angeles.
In a carefully worded statement, Zuniga told L.A. Weekly, “I can say that local councils agree to support the decisions made by the volunteer national executive board and our united focus is on working together to deliver the nation's foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training.”
Zuniga adds: “This revision allows Scouting's members and parents to choose a local unit, chartered to an organization with similar beliefs, that best meets the needs of their family.”
In another written statement from a Los Angeles troop, Scoutmaster of Troop 621, Alan-Michael Graves, tells L.A. Weekly, “I think it will be similar to 'Don't Ask Don't Tell.' Scouts and scouters will conduct business as usual and those not involved will be the ones talking about it.”
The national Boy Scouts board has stated that:
Currently, the BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation. This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization's mission, principles, or religious beliefs.
BSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families.
The national board announced its change in policy after years of protests — and following President Obama's strong inauguration comments in support of gay rights.
The board will now let local chapter leaders make the choice to allow gays to join as scouts and possibly as scout leaders.
Some Boy Scout troops apparently are creating polls asking families involved in Scouting to vote on whether or not to honor the non-discrimination policy within local chapters.
But that seems to have led to a certain amount of silence, at least when the Weekly called. Leaders of local Los Angeles Boy Scout troops 1, 20, 117, 139, 642, 764, 733 did not respond to our calls.
Several troops are sponsored by churches, civic groups and other entities whose leadership might disagree with the national board's decision.
Some anti-gay leaders have issued ugly slams of the decision, such as Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association. On a recent AFA blog entry titled, “Jerry Sandusky as the new poster boy for Scouting,” Fischer writes, “The Boy Scout oath requires each Scout to declare that he will live a life that is 'morally straight.' That will no longer be the case.”
Fischer gets uglier after that.
Tony Perkins, president of the socially conservative Family Research Council, says the Boy Scouts shouldn't put up with the “bullying of homosexual activists.”
The Boy Scouts of America utilize a fairly intense screening process when they choose new scout leaders. They are brought in by trusted chapter counsels, undergo a criminal background check, and go through an extensive leadership training program.
According to The Boy Scouts of America, the organization serves about 2.7 million children, teens and young adults, and has about 1,100 National Council employees and 5,800 local council employees located in communities nationwide. In addition, nearly 1.2 million adults volunteer their time.
The Boy Scouts follow a “law” that encourages them to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.