Boy Scout policy change hits home

— By PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot

The result of a vote by the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) National Council in Grapevine, Texas on May 23 has impacted the status of scout troops in the Greencastle area. A controversial topic was watched closely by the nation, as the 103-year-old youth program grappled with the issue of membership. The scouting family at large, and the public, weighed in on whether openly gay boys should be allowed to join Scouts.

The 1,232 delegates approved a resolution to remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone. It carried by a 61 percent margin.

BSA issued a statement after the vote: “Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting. A change to the current membership policy for adult leaders was not under consideration; thus, the policy for adults remains in place.”

BSA calls its program one of character development and values-based leadership training. It serves nearly 2.4 million boys across the country, represented in 116,000 Scouting units. The qualifications for membership take effect Jan. 1, 2014.

Retain charter?

Three of four local chartering organizations have decided to continue to sponsor their scouting units. Greencastle VFW Post 6319 will remain responsible for Troop 99, Greencastle American Legion Post 373 for Pack 13, and Shady Grove Ruritan for Troop 95. Otterbein United Brethren Church, Greencastle, chose to discontinue its charter for Troop 287 at the end of the year.

Charlie Try, charter representative for Otterbein, said the Board of Administration decided the action after much discussion.

“Under our church discipline, we are not affiliated with organizations that support or accept what the Bible, God, declares sinful. Homosexuals are allowed in Scouts now.”

The church leadership was looking at alternative programs for the boys, including Awana, Christian Service Brigade and Alert Cadet.

“Some people will stay with Scouting,” Try said. “A great number will be interested in our program, which is more Bibically based. This is without a doubt the most critical issue since I've been involved these past four years.”

He said Otterbein chartered the Cub Scouts 23 years ago, and the troop the past 15 years.

Carry on

The largest troop in the Tuscarora District, within the Mason-Dixon Council, is Troop 99, with approximately 60 boys participating. VFW members voted to renew the charter, active since 1958, during a meeting on June 3. The vote was unanimous.

Bill Blair, Troop 99 committee chairman, was pleased with the outcome.

“I'm very thankful. The boys just want to be in Scouts. That's all that matters.”

He explained that chartering organizations essentially “owned” their Scouts, including all equipment. They carried the insurance and approved the leaders. He found Dale Sheller, the active VFW representative, very supportive.

Blair continued, “You want to keep that 53 year relationship going. You want to keep the troop going. Boy Scouts are a great thing.”

Sheller said since the role of adults was not part of the package, the VFW members favored tradition.

“I'm glad the vote came out the way it did,” he said. “We shouldn't turn our backs on them. It's all about the boys.”

Linda Witmer, active in scouting leadership, was also happy.

“As a parent, I'm tickled. This really hit home because the VFW is very proud of Troop 99. Our livelihood is very dependent on them.”

The younger boys, in Cub Scout Pack 13, feed into Troop 99. The American Legion did not make any changes to its charter.

Cubmaster Michael Mummert was grateful for the decision. He found it sad that BSA had to address the issue, but thought ramifications would hit large cities and church sponsors the most. Groups that lost their charters might have a tough time finding a new community organization to pick them up, he said.

In Greencastle, with Troop 99 so large, parents who preferred small troops would be out of luck.

“Some boys will simply drop out,” he said.

He strongly supported the goals of Scouting.

“It's a good organization. It really teaches boys how to go into the world better prepared.”

Mummert thought if BSA adult leadership standards were up for change, the resolution would not pass so easily. Any change to that policy would impact Scouting more.

Terry Stine, committee chair for Troop 95, said the Ruritan members did not so much vote as choose to let things stay the same. They discussed the issue.

“The program hasn't changed,” he said. “They agreed (the resolution) didn't matter.”

Both Troop 99 and Troop 95 said their doors were open to any boys who did not have a scouting home.