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A group of Boy Scout and church leaders have proposed creating a troop sponsored by the Utah Pride Center, aiming to include boys whose parents have opposed Scouting because of its gay membership ban.
The applicants, including a member of the Great Salt Lake Council’s executive committee, assert they are all "open" and "avowed" straight individuals.
The Boy Scouts of America has denied a troop application by the Utah Pride Center because of conflicting missions. Here are the two group’s mission statements.
“Utah Pride is a catalyst for building and celebrating the strength, equality, dignity and self-determination of the LGBTQ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning] community throughout Utah. We are committed to excellence in execution and the continuing improvement of all programs, services, education and advocacy. We value and support individuals, families, and allies and building partnerships across communities.”
“The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.”
The Scout Oath (or Promise) » “On my honor I will do my best, to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”
The Scout Law » “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.”
But the council, through the national Boy Scouts of America (BSA), has denied the new troop application.
"The BSA is engaged in an internal discussion about its membership standards policy and is working to stay focused on Scouting’s mission," Deron Smith, public relations director for Boy Scouts, said in an email to The Salt Lake Tribune.
"Based on the mission of the [Utah Pride Center], we do not believe a chartered partner relationship is beneficial to Scouting," he wrote.
The BSA is expected to announce after a May vote whether it will keep or change its ban on openly gay members and leaders.
Nile Eatmon, a member of the council’s executive committee, had agreed to lead the new troop committee and said he sees no conflict. The Utah Pride Center is a nonprofit based in Salt Lake City to serve Utah’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
"I was surprised. I thought the Pride Center application complied with the Boy Scouts’ policies," Eatmon said. "All the adult members and youth that were submitted with the application were straight."
The BSA charters local organizations, such as churches, clubs, civic associations, to carry out the Scouting program within their communities. The organizations run the Scout units, which are supported by local councils of volunteers and paid employees.
The applicants said applying for a Utah Pride Center troop was not done as a stunt. The application included the names of 10 middle-school-age children who would join.
Peter Brownstein, the leader of an existing troop in Salt Lake City, said the new troop would reach kids whose parents would not otherwise allow them to join due to of opposition to the gay membership ban.
"I sincerely believe that the current Scout policy is a barrier, and without it, more young men would otherwise be able to benefit from a great program," Brownstein said, "and [I] look forward to the future when more young men will be able to benefit."
The national BSA policy reads: "While the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA."
In 2000, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court upheld the right of the Boy Scouts to expel a gay assistant scoutmaster, saying that as a private organization, it had the right to decide what values it wanted to inculcate.
Rick Barnes, Great Salt Lake Council executive, said he forwarded the Pride Center application on to the national office.
"They called me back, they’ve researched it, and it is not consistent with our mission so we deny their application as a charter partner," Barnes said. "Their mission is not consistent with our mission."
In addition to Eatmon and Brownstein, the Utah Pride Center troop committee would include Fred Wenger, rabbi emeritus of Kol Ami Synagogue, and Rev. Tom Goldsmith of the First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City.
Valerie Larabee, executive director of the Utah Pride Center, said the troop members would understand and accept the BSA "don’t ask, don’t tell" gay policy.
"I think kids deserve an opportunity to participate equally with other kids and I think the Boy Scouts are not there yet," Larabee said. "You’re not setting a child up for a life of integrity — be one thing one moment, and lie about who they really are another. They can be out to their family but not out in Boy Scouts."
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