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Saying No to bias in BSA, or not?

   On July 19, 2001, the Minuteman Council (Boston, MA) adopted a nondiscrimination policy which included sexual orientation. News reports and editorials portrayed this policy as a move of accepting gay youth/adults into Scouting. As can be seen by later developments, this was just another Public Relations ploy by BSA.
     Both BSA and the Minuteman Council still discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation for both youth and adults.

Area Scout leadership seeks clarity on position
Exhibits its support of inclusion of gays with its choices of MC
By Scott S. Greenberger, Click to go to the top of the page
Boston Globe Staff
6/10/2002

     In a clear signal of its exception to the Boy Scouts of America ban on gay troop leaders, the Boston Minuteman Council has tapped radio host David Brudnoy, who is openly gay, to be master of ceremonies tonight at its fund-raising dinner.
     The Minuteman Council, which oversees more than 18,000 Scouts and 3,300 adults in the Boston area, has been outspoken in its opposition to the national policy, which was upheld two years ago by the US Supreme Court. Last year, the Minuteman Council approved a bylaw explicitly prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
     But many people are not aware of the local group's stance, according to Brock Bigsby, Scout executive of the Minuteman Council. Bigsby hopes choosing Brudnoy will help clear up the confusion, which has hampered fund-raising.
     We believe that it sends a positive statement to the Boston community that scouting is alive and well, and that scouting in the Boston area welcomes everyone,'' Bigsby said.
     ''Locally, people don't understand that we have a policy of nondiscrimination that they'd be comfortable with. We probably have to do a better job of spreading that word.''
     Brudnoy, a former Boy Scout, will also unveil a ''diversity awareness award badge'' for Scouts, Scout leaders, and organizations that promote diversity on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation.
     The 26th annual Salute to Scouting Dinner will be held at the Westin Copley Place in Boston.
     ''They didn't say, `David, we want you because you're gay.' They said, `We want you because you'll be signaling to people our policy, and we hope you'll make reference to this in your remarks,''' said Brudnoy, who hosts a nightly radio program on WBZ (1030 AM) and teaches journalism at Boston University.
     ''It will be in passing, it may be no more than a sentence,'' Brudnoy said. ''But the point will be clearly made.''
     The case that sparked the Boy Scouts controversy began more than a decade ago. James Dale, an assistant scoutmaster in New Jersey, filed a complaint when he was dismissed after being identified in a newspaper article as copresident of the Lesbian/Gay Alliance at Rutgers University. Dale began scouting when he was 8 and became an Eagle Scout at 17.
     Not every Massachusetts council has opposed the ban.
     Shortly after the Supreme Court ruling, Dennis Prefontaine of the Framingham Knox Trail Council said, ''We believe an avowed homosexual is not a role model for values espoused by the Boy Scouts.''
     Leaders of the Boy Scouts of America could not be reached for comment yesterday. But earlier this year, the national Scouts executive board rejected three resolutions that would have permitted gays to serve as Boy Scout leaders, affirming that ''homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the traditional values espoused in the Scout Oath and Law.''
     The board warned ''the BSA's values cannot be subject to local option choices, but must be the same in every unit.''
     But Bigsby said the roughly 300 councils enjoy ''a great deal of local autonomy.'' He said the national organization hasn't expressed a view on the Minuteman Council's choice of Brudnoy as a speaker.
     ''I'm really not sure if they're aware of it, and if they are, what their opinion is,'' he said.

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Is Hub council retreating on gay Scouts?
By Derrick Z. Jackson, Globe Staff, 8/10/2001

AFTER CLAIMING to see the light, the Boston Minuteman Council of the Boy Scouts may be fleeing back into the cave. A former assistant scoutmaster who was kicked out of a New Hampshire council for being gay says he has applied to the Minuteman to be a merit badge counselor. According to a story in today's Globe, the council is preparing to reject his application.

The council recently announced a new nondiscrimination policy that claims to serve youth without regard to sexual orientation. Outgoing Minuteman Council president Dick DeWolfe said in a recent interview, ''If someone raises his hand at one of our board meetings and says, `By the way, I'm homosexual and I just want you all to know that,' the position we've taken is that we're going to do nothing.'' Incoming president Bill Van Faasen seconded that, adding, ''We've basically tried to take a page from the Girl Scouts.''

The page of nondiscrimination may have already been torn up. Last year Mark Noel, an assistant scoutmaster in Hanover, NH., was booted out after he wrote a commentary criticizing the Supreme Court's decision that upheld the right of the Scouts as a private organization to ban gay members. In that essay, Noel said he was gay. Since then, Noel, 31, has become an activist against the ban. Excited about the Minuteman's policy, he mailed an application yesterday to help Scouts work toward their rifle merit badges.

In an interview this week, Noel said, ''Theoretically, I'm perfect for the job.'' In a cover letter to the Minuteman Council, dated Aug. 8, he cited his achievements as an Eagle Scout, a Vigil Honor member of Order of the Arrow, and his teaching of riflery to over 1,000 boys at Scout camps in Georgia. Noel, now an educational software developer, is a former police officer who has taught gun safety in Georgia and New Hampshire.

He said up front that had been kicked out of the Scouts for his essay. ''Never at any time did I bring up the issue of sexuality or orientation within the scouting program,'' he said. ''I can assure you that I do not intend to in the future.

Apparently, that is not enough for the Minuteman Council. When told about Noel's impending application, Minuteman Scout executive Brock Bigsby flatly told the Globe's Catherine Holahan, ''We will not accept anybody who has had his membership revoked by the national council.'' Bigsby added, ''It sounds like he wants to use scouting as a soap box to advance his personal agenda.''

The out-of-hand rejection of Noel was made even more troubling by quotes attributed to Bigsby this week on the far-right Web page of the Culture and Family Institute, which has an avowed animus against gay men and lesbians. On the page, Bigsby now claims that the antidiscrimination policy ''was not a new policy, just a reaffirmation of what our policy has always been.'' Bigsby was traveling yesterday from a regional Scout meeting and did not return phone calls.

In the same Web page, national Scout spokesman Gregg Shields said the Minuteman policy is not in conflict with the national policy. The national office just outside of Dallas says it does not conduct witch hunts for gay members. They just figuratively burn them at the stake when they admit they are gay. ''It's not at odds at all,'' Shields said. ''We don't base employment positions on nonrelevant criteria. We judge people on the quality of their work, not their beliefs.''

Translated, the Scouts might hire a gay person to answer telephones, but Shields said Scout membership is ''different.'' He said, ''We don't extend membership to avowed homosexuals.''

So the Minuteman Council has some explaining to do. Does its new policy apply only to secretaries or to Scouts themselves? DeWolfe and Van Faasen also did not return phone calls to respond to Bigsby's stance.

When the new policy was announced, gay former Scouts were excited. Kirk Thomas of San Francisco, an Eagle Scout and activist against the ban, said the policy was the best news he has heard on the issue in the last 10 years. ''I can't see how it doesn't put Boston on a collision course with Dallas,'' Thomas said. ''It looks like another Boston Tea Party to me.''

Suddenly, Boston appears to be swerving off the road to avoid a collision with Dallas. The party might be over before it started. Noel said, ''It would be pretty hard to turn me down,'' he said, ''if they mean what they say.'' It is now not clear if the council even knows what it is saying.

Derrick Z. Jackson's e-mail address is jackson@globe.com.
This story ran on page A23 of the Boston Globe on 8/10/2001.

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Scouts say no to gay applicant
By Catherine Holahan, Globe Correspondent, 8/10/2001

When New Hampshire resident Mark Noel learned that one of Massachusetts' largest scouting groups had adopted an antidiscrimination policy permitting avowed gays to be Scout leaders, he excitedly filled out an application for the Minuteman Council, a Boston umbrella group for the Boy Scouts of America.

But the Minuteman Council's leader said Noel, who applied yesterday, will be rejected because he was dismissed as a New Hampshire troop leader by the national office last summer after revealing he was gay in a newspaper editorial.

''We will not accept anybody who has had their membership revoked by the national council,'' said Brock Bigsby, the council's executive director. ''I'm assuming they revoked it for a good reason.''

That position seems to contradict the policy unanimously adopted by the council last month that pledged to serve its 18,000 youngsters and 3,300 volunteers ''without regard to color, race, religion, ethnic background, sexual orientation, or economic status.''

Last week, Bigsby and other Minuteman officials told the Globe that the council would not dismiss a Scout leader just because he is gay. Gay Scout leaders would be permitted as long as they did not discuss their sexual orientation ''in scouting,'' which Bigsby said meant any scouting-related function.

''We are concerned about behavior in Scouts, not orientation,'' Bigsby said last week. ''Sexual orientation one way or the other is not an issue.''

But in an interview Wednesday, Bigsby said deciding when sexual orientation is an issue in scouting would be ''determined on a case by case basis.''

''There is no list of do's and don'ts,'' Bigsby said. ''It's an issue if it is brought up in a scouting situation, any scouting function, any scouting scenario.'' That includes newspaper editorials, he added.

''It sounds like he wants to use scouting as a soapbox to advance his personal agenda,'' said Bigsby.

But Noel, a former police officer who has been a Scout since he was 10 and has applied to help Scouts get rifle merit badges, said he just wants to be part of the organization again.

''This is a serious application,'' said Noel, 31, a former Eagle Scout. ''I'm not going to use this as a soapbox; I never have. I said I was gay in a public forum but I never brought it up with the boys in the troop.''

Noel was kicked out of the Daniel Webster Council after writing an article printed in the Valley News in Lebanon, NH., criticizing the US Supreme Court's ruling supporting the Scouts' right to ban gays.

''According to the Minuteman Council's policy, I should be eligible to be a leader,'' Noel said. ''I never brought my sexual orientation into Scouts. I wrote a newspaper article.''

''If he [Bigsby] wants to deny my registration because I said I was gay outside of Scouts in a newspaper, then I am going to appeal it because that policy doesn't make sense,'' he added.

Eric Ferrero, a spokesman for the Lesbian and Gay Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, contended Bigsby is trying to redefine the policy to avoid conflict with the national group while also trying to avoid antagonizing some donors.

''This is a change from what they said last week,'' said Ferrero, whose group applauded the Minuteman Council's anti-discrimination policy when it was reported last week. ''They want to seem more moderate to keep funding and continue to discriminate.''

But Ferrero said they can't have it both ways.

''They need to nail down this policy,'' he said. ''You either have a policy on nondiscrimination, or you don't. It's not fair to leave room for reading between the lines or flip-flopping.''

Some Minuteman Council leaders believe Noel should be hired under the council's policy.

''The policy was put in place to fight the national office because their position against gays was a bad rule,'' said Joseph Henley, 21, an Eagle Scout and assistant Scout master with Troop 56 in Cambridge. ''Sexuality has no place in scouting, so there's no reason to say homosexuals can't be allowed.''

''The Cambridge council has always had gay Scout leaders and we would just say don't mention it in Scouts or if you are at a national event,'' said Henley.

This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 8/10/2001.

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Scout Spokesman Says Boston Didn't Cave - Affirms 'sexual orientation' employment policy
By Robert Knight
Culture & Family Report Exclusive

Boy Scouts of America spokesman Gregg Shields said Monday that Massachusetts' Boston Minuteman Council, which announced a Policy of Nondiscrimination that includes "sexual orientation," is not in conflict with national Scout policy.

"We've suffered once again some rather shoddy media coverage," Shields said. "We don't extend membership to avowed homosexuals. We can't know somebody's heart, and we don't ask the question. But the policy is the same."

Shields told C&F Report that the Boston Globe and other news outlets had mis-reported the issue by conveying the idea that the local Scouts council had lifted the ban on homosexual members or scoutmasters. Minuteman Council Scout Executive Brock L. Bigsby also said that he had been misrepresented.

However, the statement issued July 19 from the Minuteman Council appears to differ substantially from national scout policy:

"The Boston Minuteman Council serves over 18,000 youth through 3,300 volunteers in over 330 Packs, Troops and other units without regard to color, race, religion, ethnic background, sexual orientation, or economic status."

"It's not at odds at all," Shields said of the Minuteman statement. "We don't base employment positions on non-relevant criteria. We judge people on the quality of their work, not on their beliefs." Shields said that the ban on membership, which includes scoutmasters, remains, because "that's different."

The Minuteman Council's Bigsby was quoted in a wire service report saying, "Discussions about sexual orientation do not have a place in the Scouts. The Scouts will not inquire into a person's sexual history, and that person will not expose their sexual orientation one way or the other."

Bigsby confirmed to C&F Report that the July 19 statement was the first time the policy had been put in writing.

"This was not a new policy, just a reaffirmation of what our policy has always been," Bigsby said. "We run a very safe, protective program, and that's not going to change."

The policy statement was written by the board of the Minuteman Council because, Bigsby said, "there was the feeling that people were confused by our policy." When told that issuing the policy might have had the opposite effect and left people with the impression that the Scouts were caving in to homosexual pressure groups, Bigsby said, "That's not our intent."

Bigsby said that the local council does not bar boys from membership over homosexuality unless it manifests itself in provocative behavior. When that occurs, he said, "we steer that kid to his parents and have the family deal with the problem."

Bigsby also said that Scout leaders are chosen by parents, and that "by and large, they do a pretty good job." Asked whether he would bar a man from leadership if he suspected him to be a homosexual, Bigsby responded, "well, how would you know ?" Told by this writer that some men might reveal themselves through conversation or "outward behavior," he said, "You're getting into dangerous generalizations."

Brian Camenker, executive director of the Parents Rights Coalition, based in Newton, Massachusetts — who had a son in the Minuteman Scouting program and was a volunteer assistant — said, "This is incredibly frightening and outrageous. As a Scouting assistant I was shown movies by the Minuteman Council warning us of the dangers of homosexual abuse of boys by Scouting personnel, and we were required as adults to only supervise children in pairs. That meant that a man could not be alone with boys. And now they're telling us that 'sexual orientation' is irrelevant? That's lunacy."

When asked whether Bigsby's reported quote about not revealing "sexual orientation one way or the other" implied that the Scouts would no longer favor the role of men as husbands and fathers any more than men being homosexuals, or to see any particular sexual behavior as right or wrong, Shields said, "Look, we've been all about traditional family values from the beginning. Nothing speaks as a role model more than seeing the Scoutmaster with his wife and kids at church or at a ball game."

Shields said that the Minuteman council was not the only local Scouting group that had adopted "sexual orientation" in its nondiscrimination policy, but did not elaborate. As for accepting the term "sexual orientation" in any official Scout statement, Shields acknowledged that there was rising concern about the abuse of the term, and noted only that "policy is crafted by our volunteer board of directors."

In his August 3 column, WorldNetDaily.com writer Jon Daugherty assailed Bigsby's position: "The Minuteman Council is trying to get away with saying that, as long as nobody asks if gay scoutmasters are gay, then they aren't gay. Sounds like Bill Clinton is leading this council, doesn't it?

"The BSA's prohibition against gay scoutmasters is crystal clear and nonnegotiable. It is a prohibition that is supported by the Constitution and has been upheld by the highest court in the land. Therefore, the national BSA leadership has every duty to contact the Minuteman Council pronto and tell its officials to either rescind their ridiculous new policy or lose affiliation with the BSA altogether."

In June 2000, the US. Supreme Court upheld the right of the Boy Scouts to maintain their moral beliefs as expressed by their ban on homosexual members and leaders. Since then, the Scouts have been under attack in many states, with more than two dozen United Way chapters refusing to include the Scouts in their programs.

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Saying no to bias in the Scouts
By Derrick Z. Jackson's
Boston Globe, 8/8/2001

BILL VAN FAASEN'S soft-spoken words will surely land hard in the office of the Boy Scouts of America in Irving, Texas.

''We've reached a point where we've clarified who we are and how we're going to behave,'' he said. ''We're comfortable with that, and it's consistent, we believe, with the values of the broader community we're serving. So my own perspective is that they have a problem in Dallas. We don't have a problem in Boston.''

Van Faasen, president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, is the incoming president of the Boston Minuteman Council. In the spring, outgoing president Dick DeWolfe, chairman and CEO of DeWolfe Companies, joined the presidents of councils in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Minneapolis in a resolution that would allow councils to have gay members and leaders if they wished.

The Minuteman Council has taken an additional step. It has adopted a new policy of nondiscrimination. Saying that ''bias, intolerance, and unlawful discrimination are unacceptable,'' the council says it will serve its 18,000 members and 3,300 volunteers ''without regard to color, race, religion, ethnic background, sexual orientation, or economic status.''

Earlier this year, the Scouts revoked the charter of seven Cub Scout packs in Oak Park, Ill., when the sponsors of the packs, a parent-teachers organization, held firm to its nondiscrimination policy. But a similar action against the Minuteman Council would represent an unprecedented attack by the Scouts at a time when it is making a big push for urban troops.

In an interview, Van Faasen and DeWolfe say they hope the need for urban councils is more important to the Scouts than enforcing its official policy against gay members and leaders. In a Supreme Court decision last year, the Scouts retained the right, as a private organization, to discriminate against gay boys and men.

''I clearly do not see, in my opinion, the Scouts reversing their own position,'' said DeWolfe, who signed the spring resolution. ''Why go to the Supreme Court unless you really didn't understand there was a mistake here? So I don't see them standing up and saying `We were wrong and you were right.'

''What I do see is probably a situation where while they might have the legal right to enforce that right, they might take a very different perspective. ... If urban scouting represents probably close to a third of all the members of scouting, you could take a position where you say ... `Go ahead and run your business the way you want. Send us the membership reports, send us our money. On an informal basis what would happen is a de facto way in which scouting is run.''

Van Faasen added, ''The folks in Texas are probably smart enough to know that a fight of those dimensions serves nobody's purposes.''

Van Faasen said that his support of the nondiscrimination policy comes from both personal and professional experience. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts was in the first 100 companies in the United States to offer domestic-partner benefits, beginning in 1994. A white man who reached the ranks of Eagle Scout in Detroit, Van Faasen's first experience with African-American and Jewish boys came at 11 and 12 years old at Scout camp.

''In addition to the overall story of scouting, learning to tie knots, make campfires, and do biscuits in your aluminum foil, the implicit lessons of being exposed to different people and different cultures and different perspectives was hugely influential,'' he said.

The issue now is whether the Minuteman Council's declaration of nondiscrimination will influence or inflame the national office. DeWolfe said urban troops, much more dependent on funding from United Ways and businesses with nondiscriminatory clauses than smaller troops, which may be sponsored by conservative churches, have little choice but be open to all.

''The cat [of the national policy] is on our back no matter what, and we cannot proceed without the confidence of Boston businesses,'' DeWolfe said.

''Let's make sure we have our own boat floating in the right direction and have the support of our community and then let that be the light that shines on Irving, Texas. .. . If Greater Boston can be successful in its approach and they don't bother us and they come back a year or two or three years later and say, `Geez, these councils are flourishing and they have the support of the community,' then all of a sudden you may have a different [attitude].''

Derrick Z. Jackson's e-mail address is jackson@globe.com.

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Boston Boy Scouts Ease Policy on Gays
Homosexuals Can Serve Discreetly Despite National Ban
By Pamela Ferdinand
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, August 4, 2001; Page A01

BOSTON -- Despite its national organization's ban on homosexuals in leadership positions, the largest Boy Scout council in Massachusetts has adopted a version of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding gay members.

The Boston Minuteman Council, which represents more than 18,000 youths and 330 Boy Scout troops, packs and other units in the Boston area, unanimously voted July 19 to approve what is believed to be a first-of-its-kind bylaw explicitly forbidding discrimination based on sexual orientation. The policy effectively permits gay youths to be scouts and gay men to serve as scout leaders as long as they do not openly reveal or discuss their sexual orientation.

The decision of the volunteer board comes when many Boy Scout groups nationwide are encountering recruitment and fundraising difficulties amid objections by parents, schools, churches, charitable organizations and businesses to the national organization's ban on gays, which the US. Supreme Court upheld last year. Boy Scout councils from several major cities -- including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia -- recently petitioned the Texas-based national organization to allow them to establish nondiscrimination policies on their own.

The council here has pledged in its new bylaw "to respect all people and defend the rights of others."

"We pride ourselves on the diversity of our members," the bylaw says. ". . . Bias, intolerance and unlawful discrimination are unacceptable within the ranks of the Boston Minuteman Council."

In its careful wording, however, the bylaw reflects the desire of Boy Scout volunteers here and elsewhere to comply with national directives and operate worthwhile programs while weighing what they see as a moral commitment to diversity. The Greater New York Councils' Web site, for instance, declares that "prejudice, intolerance and discrimination in any form are unacceptable" within its ranks. Cub Scout packs in Oak Park, Ill., lost their charter, however, when they took it a step further and admitted gay leaders.

One council member, who asked not to be identified, said local scout groups lost enough money and support from Boston area organizations "to make us stand up and take notice." It also became increasingly difficult for volunteers to personally justify the ban on openly gay leaders, especially in liberal communities such as Boston and Cambridge.

Approving the new policy was "the correct thing to do," the member said.

Neither Brock Bigsby, the council's executive, nor Gregg Shields, national spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America, returned phone calls. However, Bigsby told the Boston Globe earlier this week that the policy was consistent with the stance on homosexuality taken by the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

"Discussions about sexual orientation do not have a place in Scouts," Bigsby said. "The Scouts will not inquire into a person's sexual history, and that person will not expose their sexual orientation one way or another."

The Boy Scouts of America Web site states that the organization believes that "an avowed homosexual is not a role model for the traditional values espoused in the Scout Oath and Law and homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the values we wish to instill."

According to the Web site, the organization "makes no effort to discover the sexual orientation of any person." However, troop members who disclosed they are gay have been expelled from the organization.

"If people don't avow their homosexuality, there is not a way for us to know," Shields told the Associated Press. "If they do, we cannot have them as role models in our program."

To Marianne Ambrose of Milford, Mass., an organization volunteer and mother of two teenage boys, the Boston council's decision came as a surprise. She declined to share her views on homosexuality. But more than anything else, she said, the controversy had left her and her sons feeling frustrated that the only news they hear about scouting is negative.

"We're here to do what we're doing," she said. "We're not going to talk about it. We're not going to bring it into the program at all."

In June 2000, the US. Supreme Court upheld the organization's national policy ban on "avowed" homosexuals after the group maintained it was a private association entitled to restrict its membership. Most Americans supported the ruling, polls showed, and in videotaped remarks last month to the annual National Scout Jamboree, President Bush hailed the Boy Scouts, saying their values "are the values of America."

Since the court ruling, an internal Scout poll also showed that fewer than 100 Eagle Scout badges had been returned to the national organization to protest the ban, representing a tiny fraction of such badges awarded last year.

But 30 percent of parents of scouts do not support excluding homosexuals, according to another internal poll. Enrollment in Cub and Boy Scouts dropped 4.5 percent nationwide and 7.8 percent in the Northeast last year, according to internal documents cited in a recent Newsweek article, and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network says that at least 359 school districts in 10 states have stopped operating Boy Scout programs.

By comparison, membership in the Girl Scouts of America, which has not implemented a similar ban, has increased by 10.3 percent to 2.8 million girls since 1995.

"The Girl Scout organization does not discriminate, but we do not endorse any particular lifestyle," according to its official guidelines on homosexuality. "We do not permit sexual display of any sort by our members. We do not permit the advocacy or promotion of a personal lifestyle or sexual orientation."

It is not clear what repercussions, if any, the Boston Minuteman Council will experience from its decision. Much may depend on what practical effect the policy has on local troops and packs, said Eric Ferrero, spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project in New York, which has filed lawsuits charging the Scouts with discrimination.

"It's really important to note that this is a step forward, but it is not our belief that this is an adequate end goal," Ferrero said. "It continues to restrict the degree to which people can be open and honest about who they are."

Mark Noel, founder of the New England Coalition for Inclusive Scouting and a researcher at Dartmouth College, agreed. Noel, 31, said he was expelled as an assistant scoutmaster from his Hanover, NH., troop after revealing in a newspaper article that he is gay.

"For me, it's not a matter of finding another troop," he said. "It's a matter of changing the policies."

© 2001 The Washington Post Company

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Massachusetts Scout Council to allow Gay Leaders - Says policy will not violate national rule
By Catherine Holahan, Globe Correspondent
Boston Globe, 8/1/2001

One of the state's largest Boy Scout councils has decided to adopt a ''don't ask, don't tell'' policy that would allow gay scoutmasters to be affiliated without technically violating the national ban against them.

The board of the Massachusetts Minuteman Council - an umbrella organization of 330 Scout troops and 18,000 boys in Greater Boston - quietly and unanimously approved the bylaw on July 19. The policy bars exclusion of anyone on the basis of race, religion, or sexual orientation, said Brock Bigsby, Scout executive for the council.

Bigsby maintains that the carefully worded policy is consistent with the National Boy Scouts Council's stance on homosexuality, since the doctrine would permit avowed homosexuals to lead Scout troops - as long as they do not discuss their sexual orientation.

''Discussions about sexual orientation do not have a place in Scouts,'' said Bigsby. ''The Scouts will not inquire into a person's sexual history and that person will not expose their sexual orientation one way or the other.''

Greg Shields, national spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America, did not return repeated phone calls.

A page of the official Boy Scouts of America Web site, titled ''In Support of Values,'' states: ''We believe an avowed homosexual is not a role model for the traditional moral values espoused in Scout Oath and Law, and homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the values we wish to instill.''

Eric Ferrero of the American Civil Liberties Union's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project said yesterday that the Minuteman Council is perhaps the first to draft an anti-discrimination policy within the framework of the Scouts' national bylaws. The ACLU group has filed lawsuits charging the Scouts with discrimination and has been tracking the organization's anti-homosexual policy.

''To have a policy that takes sexual orientation off the table entirely instead of making homosexuality seem like a dirty little secret is encouraging and significant,'' said Ferrero. ''And it sounds like what the group has done is going to be difficult for the National Boy Scouts to oppose.''

Denise Jillson, who chairs the Cambridge district of the Minutemen Council, said the policy is true to the Boy Scouts' traditional values.

''What we are saying is that the Boy Scouts is about embracing all children,'' said Jillson. ''Through the scout oath you pledge to defend all people, and that means discrimination is unacceptable.''

The Minuteman Council and others in major cities - including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Philadelphia - petitioned the national office last month, insisting that individual scouting organizations be allowed to decide the issue of gay Scout leaders and members for themselves. The petition is being reviewed, Bigsby said.

Last year, the US Supreme Court upheld the Scouts' national policy banning gays from leadership positions. In several widely publicized cases, the Boy Scouts have supported revoking the membership of gays.

As a result, the Scouts have lost support nationwide.

Nearly 44 percent of United Way chapters - traditionally the primary supporters of the Scouts - have withheld additional funding because of the policy, which they say violates their own anti-discrimination rules.

According to the Boy Scouts' own internal polls, 30 percent of Scout parents do not support excluding homosexuals.

In Massachusetts, both the Southwick and Northampton school districts decided earlier this year that they could no longer sponsor the Scouts, recruit members, or organize scouting activities because state law prohibits schools from sponsoring discriminatory extracurricular groups.

And last week, Gloucester Mayor Bruce Tobey shut down a city fund-raiser for United Way because of its ties to the Boy Scouts. He told the Gloucester Daily Times the city could not support any organization that discriminates.

Since the Supreme Court upheld the Boy Scouts' ban on gay leaders, enrollment in the group has dropped 4.5 percent nationwide and 7.8 percent in the Northeast, according to a Newsweek analysis of Boy Scout documents published Sunday.

''It's been an issue that has, in some ways, made it difficult for us to recruit,'' Jillson said. Parents in Massachusetts are particularly opposed to the Scouts' opposition to gays, she added.

''We tend to be a little more open to all kinds of lifestyles here,'' said Jillson, whose son Matthew is an Eagle Scout. ''Matthew has grown up with his parents who have good friends who are gay, and it's never been an issue.''

This story ran on page A1 of the Boston Globe on 8/1/2001.

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Boston Minuteman Council                                            Boy Scouts of America

POLICY OF NONDISCRIMINATION

The mission of the Boston Minuteman Council, Boy Scouts of America is to provide character development, citizenship training, growth in physical and mental fitness, and leadership opportunities for the young people of the Boston metropolitan area. We pride ourselves on the diversity of our members, and we are committed to providing young people with an educational and stimulating environment in which to learn and grow. Through the Scout Oath and Law, we pledge to respect all people and to defend the rights of others. Bias, intolerance, and unlawful discrimination are unacceptable within the ranks of the Boston Minuteman Council.

The Boston Minuteman Council serves over 18,000 youth through 3,300 volunteers in over 330 Packs, Troops, and other units without regard to color, race, religion, ethic [sic] background, sexual orientation, or economic status.

Adopted July 19, 2001

/sig/
Brock L. Bigsby
Scout Executive and Secretary
 

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