Local Boy Scout leaders weigh in on new policy on gays
SALISBURY — Local Boy Scout leaders say the recent decision to allow openly gay boys into scouts doesn’t affect the primary goals of the program.
But some fear it could lead to the loss of sponsors and partnerships.
The Boy Scouts of America approved a plan Thursday to accept gay scouts, but not scout leaders, in a policy change that will become effective Jan. 1.
“I’m fearful for the future of the program. We don’t know what the effect is going to be yet,” said Marny Hendrick.
Hendrick is a member of the Central North Carolina Council, the district board and the Eagle board of review. He’s also an advancement chairman for Troop 443, based out of St. John’s Lutheran Church.
Hendrick said the decision won’t change the basic principles of the program.
He said there has not been a scout meeting since last week’s decision, and his local troop has not had any discussions with parents or scouts. He’s sure the issue will be come up at some point.
Parents did receive a copy of the resolution approving the change and some talking points, he said, but there has yet to be a formal discussion about the policy on sexual orientation.
“We have to figure it out how to address it with our boys,” Hendrick said. “Our kids are 10-and-a-half to 14 years old. They care about going camping. It just doesn’t come up.”
He said leaders’ intent is to make sure the program doesn’t suffer.
“Nothing we do with scouts on a daily basis has anything to do with sexual orientation. We do have codes of conduct for boys and adults, like don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t bully,” he said.
Hendrick said this is an issue they’ve not had to deal with before.
“Some people won’t deal with it. Some will pull their kids out, and I hate that,” Hendrick said.
Prior to approval at the national level, Boy Scout leaders and officials were asked their opinions on the matter and whether they believed it would impact giving and sponsorships, among other potential issues.
“We came up with an internal consensus,” Hendrick said.
Of the more than 200,000 leaders, parents and youth members who responded, 61 percent supported the current policy of excluding gays, while 34 percent opposed it. The proposal approved Thursday was seen as a compromise.
Todd Walter, Scout executive for the Central N.C. Council, which covers seven counties, said the constituents across the council were not in favor of the change, and that position was represented at the meeting.
He said although the council was not in favor of the change, the program’s primary focus is the boys.
“Our job is to make sure we deliver high quality programs to that young boy,” Walter said.
He said the Boy Scout program is not about sexuality, but values and young people.
“It’s gonna hurt, but at the end of the day it’s about our boys,” Walter said.
Longtime Scout Leader David Wilson said he’s been a Scoutmaster for 27 years, and his primary goal is to provide a fun and challenging program for the boys. Wilson said he would continue to provide a program that will “guide them as they develop in character, citizenship and personal fitness.”
Wilson said they’ve not had discussions with scouts and leaders because “we felt it would be premature to discuss a lot of what ifs.”
Wilson said it’s unclear if this decision will impact membership.
“That’s really hard to say. There’s been a lot of speculation in that area. We have to see what effect the decision will have and how scouts or parents might react to that,” he said.
His troop is based out of First United Methodist Church of Salisbury and “as a youth program of a church, we seek to conduct a scouting program in a way that meets the ministry goals of the charter organization,” Wilson said.
The AP contributed to this story.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253. Twitter: www.twitter.com/salpostpotts Facebook: www.facebook.com/Shavonne.SalisburyPost.