01/30/13 — Local Scouts eyeing gay ban proposal

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Local Scouts eyeing gay ban proposal

By Dennis Hill
Published in News on January 30, 2013 1:46 PM

Local Boy Scout officials offered no immediate comment about the news that the national organization is considering lifting its ban on admitting openly gay Scouts and Scout leaders.

The measure, which will be voted on at the national Scouting board meeting next week, would give individual Scouting units the right to decide whether to uphold the restriction or to do away with it.

The ban on gays was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court as constitutional in 2000 since the organization is a private one and not sponsored by public contributions. The proposal is likely the biggest controversy in the history of the century-old institution.

Wayne County is part of the Tuscarora Council of the BSA, which also includes Johnston, Duplin and Sampson counties. It is included in Area 7 of the national organization. The area includes all of Virginia and North Carolina east of Winston-Salem.

There are 144 Scouting units in the Tuscarora Council, said council Executive Tim Harper. They contain about 6,500 boys, including Tiger Cubs, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Varsity and Venturer Scouts, and about 1,400 leaders.

The statement issued by the national organization says that if the measure is approved, the charter organizations of each unit will be given the right to determine its own course. Scout units are not self-sustaining. They must have a chartering organization behind them. Most are churches. Harper estimated that about 70 percent of the Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs in the Tuscarora Council are sponsored by churches, a figure that is in line with national statistics.

There are more than 2.6 million boys across the country in the various stages of Scouting, according to the national organization's website.

The national organization's directive says that if the measure is approved, the chartered organizations will continue to accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization's mission, principles or religious beliefs, meaning that if a church that sponsors a troop does not accept homosexuality it does not have to accept openly gay Scouts or leaders into the unit it sponsors.

Scouting now strongly adheres to a policy of protecting boys from abuse and leaders are required to undergo training that enables them to recognize possible abuse in any form. Another requirement is that boys cannot be left alone with a single adult in any situation. Two adults must be present at all times to ensure regulations regarding abuse are being followed.

The Tuscarora Council is currently celebrating its 90th year and for the past three years has been recognized as a Gold Level council -- the highest honor afforded by the national BSA. It is the only council in Area 7 to be so recognized.