US: Scout Masters would allow gay scouts but warn of schism in the Boy Scouts

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Scout Masters of some Boy Scouts of America troops in Illinois have said that they would probably allow gay members, volunteers and staff, if the BSA were to lift its ban. However they warned of potential rifts in the organisation between those for and against the ban.

The Boy Scouts of American recently delayed a vote on whether or not to lift a ban on gay scouts, volunteers and staff, until 20 May “due to the complexity of the issue”.

1,400 voting members will then decide whether the BSA’s National Council will lift its national ban on gay members, volunteers and staff. If it does so, individual scout troops will be able to decide on whether or not to allow gay members.

In July 2012, after a two year review, the Boy Scouts of America announced it would retain its ban on gay members, volunteers and staff.

Adam Malak, an Eagle Scout whose congregation at Faith United Presbyterian Church sponsors Troop 385 Tinley Park, Illinois, said he did not look forward to the controversy, although his congregation would ultimately accept a lift on the BSA’s ban. He said that he looked forward to “the growth that will come through the controversy.”

“I think the congregation would (support lifting the ban on gay scouts) … but it would not be a unanimous decision or an easy decision, and it would require some people to struggle deeply with their faith,” said Malak, who grew up in Homer Glen and earned his Eagle Scout badge in high school.

“I will say that this is not an issue that has come up with our church to date,” he told the Chicago Tribune.

He did, however, go on to say that he worried that the BSA would be divided over the issue, if it were to lift its national ban, given the choice by individual troops.

He asked: “Would a gay-friendly troop be allowed to camp with one that wasn’t?”

“I don’t know how much it matters to [scout masters],” Malak said. “I think they just want to go out and do some camping and earn some merit badges.”

Bill Brady, the committee chairman for troop 911, named after the Tinley Park Police Department, its sponsor, questioned whether it could allow discrimination based on sexual orientation, because it was chartered by a government entity.

He said he didn’t have a problem with allowing gay people into scouting, but that other, more conservative troops would be likely to leave the ban in place, given a choice.

“It would be like the fight over Obamacare and abortion, where the churches don’t want to have to provide (abortion) under their insurance because of their religious values,” he said.

Religious opposition to the lifting of the ban noted that out of 2.7 million members across the US, around 70% of Boy Scout groups are hosted by churches and other faith-based groups, including the Catholic and Mormon churches.

A poll released last week, found that a majority of US voters think the Boy Scouts of America should drop its ban on gay scouts, volunteers and staff.

President Barack Obama said earlier this month that he thought gay people should be allowed in the Boy Scouts of America, and that “nobody should be barred” from the experience of being a scout.

A rally delivered a petition with 1.4 million signatures pushing for the Boy Scouts of America to drop the ban.

Texas Governor Rick Perry, however, said that he though the Boy Scouts of America shouldn’t remove the ban.

Earlier this month, the head of a Christian legal firm in the US said that the reason that the Boy Scouts of America may make moves towards dropping its ban on gay scouts was “spiritual pressure” from Satan.

In January one US radio host said the scouts should “shut down” rather than allow gays in, and that these are signs of the “end times”, and another said that allowing gay scout masters would allow “gay activists” to “spread deviant sexuality”.

A father of two from Brooklyn, New York, recently started his own Boy Scouts troop, inclusive of gay members, and girls, to allow his son to be a member without having to accept the Boy Scouts of America’s anti-gay policy.