Wednesday July 10, 2013

The Boy Scouts of America’s recent decision to allow openly gay youth to join its ranks is threatening to cause a local troop its Catholic-based sponsor.

In May, the BSA voted to change its long-standing policy and allow gay boys into its ranks, starting next year.

The local chapter of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal service organization, has for more than a decade served as local Boy Scout Troop 353’s charter organization. Lifting the ban on openly gay Boy Scouts is likely to end that relationship, Grand Knight Bill Center recently told the Banner.

"I gave them a heads up there’s a great possibility that we might be dropping them so they can aggressively look, just in case. I didn’t want to leave the boys hanging," said Center, whose son is a member of the 18-member local troop.

Scout leader Paul Doucette, who is chief of the Bennington Police Department, said he was forewarned that the sponsorship might be terminated if the national organization made the decision to allow homosexual Scouts.

"When it came to fruition that gay Scouts would be allowed to actively participate in the scouting program, a representative from the Knights of Columbus did inform us that in fact, when our charter expires on Dec. 31, 2013, they would not be renewing our charter," he said.

Loss of the Knights of Columbus’ support will be a blow to the local Scouting program, according to Doucette.


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Father of a scout in the troop, Doucette is hopeful the troop can find new sponsorship.

The national BSA decision to allow gay youth is having repercussions elsewhere as well.

On Tuesday, a faith-based group, as yet unnamed but affiliated with the coalition OnMyHonor.net that’s opposed to the Scouts’ new membership policy, announced that it has formed an alternate program for boys and teens. This program will allow gay boys and adults to participate, but just not "flaunt" their homosexuality, according to an NBC News story.

"If a young man has a same-sex attraction he would not be turned away in the program, but he’s not going to be allowed to kind of openly flaunt it and carry a rainbow flag," John Stemberger, founder of OnMyHonor.net, of Orlando, Fla., told NBC News. Stemberger said he left the Boy Scouts along with his two sons over the decision in May.

He added, "There is not going to be any kind of a witch hunt in our organization for people and what their sexual orientations are. We’re going to focus on sexual purity not sexual orientation."

Have Scouts historically needed to focus on sexual purity?

According to the Boy Scouts of America’s website, the group’s mission "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."

There’s a lot of room for interpretation as to what’s ethical, what’s moral, and how to interpret the law.

It’s a sign of the times, and it’s extremely unfortunate that a local Catholic-based organization is considering pulling support of the local Scouting troop over the national BSA’s policy change to allow gays.

Sadly, many other faith-based organizations that sponsor Boy Scout troops are also struggling over whether to continue to support Scouting following the recent BSA policy change, and there are parents debating whether to pull their sons out of the organization.

Baptist leaders were set this week to encourage the denomination’s nearly 46,000 U.S. churches to stop sponsoring the Boy Scouts, according to a recent Washington Post article.

Some other religious organizations are taking a stand in the opposite direction. The Mormon Church, the nation’s largest sponsor of Scout troops serving 430,000 boys, has said it will continue its sponsorship, per the Washington Post.

The BSA’s decision has people divided, that’s for certain. But the resulting debate is missing the important life lessons about leadership and service that are encouraged and fostered through scouting.

The life lessons scouts are learning from the ongoing debate include division, hate and prejudice.

Modern survival skills, these are not.

~Michelle Karas