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SW Minneapolis Scouting Groups Stick to Policy "Inclusive" of Gays

Tuesday, Boy Scouts of America affirmed a policy excluding "open or avowed homosexuals."

On Tuesday, the national council of the Boy Scouts of America  from membership and leadership positions within the organization. However, several Southwest Minneapolis Boy Scout troops and their regional parent organization responded, telling Patch that they will continue to stand by a policy of "inclusiveness."

"We don't inquire about someone's sexuality," said Kent York, the spokesperson for the Boy Scouts' Northern Star Council. "This council is nothing more than a reflection of the communities it serves, and it's a pretty diverse community here."

York said that the council felt its policy was "a straightforward and common-sense approach" that helped it walk a middle ground on a divisive issue within a "big tent" organization like the Boy Scouts.

"We’re a youth-serving organization. We don’t try to define sexual roles in society," York said, adding that the Northern Star Council trust the parents and families it serves to pick good leaders.

While it might seem that the local Council's policy puts it on a collision course with the national Scouting organization, local scouting families ought not be worried, several troop leaders in Minneapolis told Patch. The scouting movement works a bit like a franchise system.

"Essentially Minnehaha United Methodist Church is the owner of our program," Troop 1 leader Louis Hoffman said.

"The policy pertains to adult leaders (and) I can honestly say that I have no knowledge of the removal of, or have ever been 'pressured' to remove any volunteers for that reason," Tim Jopek, another local scouting leader, wrote in an email to Patch.

For some leaders, the issue of inclusion was deeply personal.

"My son's two godfathers are gay, and I think (the policy) is wrong on many levels, and is inconsistent on many levels with the rules and spirit of the Boy Scouts," Hoffman said. "If anyone above us wanted to say 'You must enforce this,' I'd say 'You can put in my hour or two of volunteer work per week and run this yourselves.'"

"My interest is in delivering the best possible scouting program for our 28 boys," he added. "If someone wants to be a part of that, it's not my business what their sexual orientation is."

James Sanna July 19, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Like I said, I'm quoting Troop 1's leader there. I don't have my notes from that conversation in front of me right now, but as I recall he'd said it was sometime in the last few years—i.e. after the initial adoption of the BSA national policy against LGB leaders. Your first comment, though, points to a problem in getting to the core of this. It's tough to find currently-serving leaders who are willing to go public about their sexuality.
Andrew July 19, 2012 at 04:35 PM
"It's tough to find currently-serving leaders who are willing to go public about their sexuality." Exactly. BSA does not allow openly gay members. Period. No matter what part of the country you are in. A 2002 press release from BSA clearly states "an avowed homosexual cannot serve as a role model for the traditional moral values espoused in the Scout Oath and Law and that these values cannot be subject to local option choices." Northern Star Council is no different, and it is disingenuous (dishonest?) of them to suggest otherwise.
Andrew July 19, 2012 at 04:45 PM
In addition, "used to have" is a key phrase. You might want to interview her and find out why she left.
James Sanna July 19, 2012 at 04:56 PM
It's not perfect, for sure, but I think the Northern Star policy is different from the BSA policy. Here's what I heard from the scouting leaders I talked to, FWIW: Their policy is more "turning a blind eye" than tossing people out if they discover someone is gay. In multiple conversations, when I asked questions like "what if someone came out," the action seemed to hinge on whether or not the person's sexuality was broadcast in the media or something like that. The impression I got from my interviews was that so long as everything stayed out of the national media spotlight, everyone would make sure no issue was made of it. But that probably depends on the individual Troop you're talking about. So, does it allow full, open, and proud participation? No. But different and more inclusive that the BSA policy? Yes. (RE: the minister - She wasn't the senior minister. in Protestant churches, non-senior ministers frequently shift from congregation to congregation every few years, like visiting professors, until they get enough experience to take on a senior ministry position)
Andrew July 19, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Much as they'd like to claim it, BSA National Council does not give Northern Star Council a different membership policy from any other council nationwide. In an organization with representative leadership, that might be the case. But that is not BSA's organizational structure. "the action seemed to hinge on whether or not the person's sexuality was broadcast in the media or something like that." That tells us two things: 1) "seamed to" means nobody really knows for sure, and nothing is clearly written down anywhere. Northern Star Council retains the right to kick out any gay person, any time, without giving any reason, just like any other BSA council in the country. A gay person has no more rights to BSA membership in Minnesota than they would anywhere else in the country. 2) "whether or not the person's sexuality was broadcast in the media or something like that" This means that a gay person in Northern Star Council has restricted speech in BSA. No talking about your family. No bringing your spouse to Scout events. No talking about your personal life in a way that makes normal relationships meaningful. A closeted gay person is not a full gay person, yet Northern Star Council policy requires that gays stay in the closet. In its gay membership policy, Northern Star Council is no different than any other BSA council nationwide. Northern Star Council is fully aware of that, and they are being intentionally dishonest when they say otherwise.

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