Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Boy Scouts Anti-Gay Policy: Will St. Louis Organizations End Discrimination?

Posted By on Wed, Jan 30, 2013 at 6:00 AM


Last summer, we wrote about Eric Jones, an Eagle Scout at a camp in St. Joseph who was forced to leave the organization after twelve years, because he told the camp director he was gay. That violated the Boy Scouts of America's clear anti-gay policy, though Jones, a sophomore at Missouri State at the time, said that being open about his sexuality went along with Boy Scout pledges to be "morally strong."

But now, an individual in Jones' position might not have to choose between being open or being out the door. This week, Boy Scouts of America nationally announced that it is reconsidering its ban on gay members with a possible policy change that would allow local organizations to decide whether to be discriminatory.

If given the opportunity, will the Greater St. Louis Area Council of the Boy Scouts become more inclusive?

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Reached by Daily RFT yesterday, Joe Mueller, spokesman for the Greater St. Louis Area Council, gave only a vague response when asked about future St. Louis policy.

That's likely because the national statement, full version on view below, does not include any clear commitments of change. That statement released on Monday from Deron Smith, BSA director of public relations, says, in part:

Currently, the BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation. This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization's mission, principles, or religious beliefs. BSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families.

The statement reiterates that the change is "under discussion."


In response, Mueller has posted a statement on the St. Louis local website, which says in part:

Any changes or updates to the National Council's policies will be communicated by the Greater St. Louis Area Council to its chartering organizations, volunteer leaders, parents, youth members and the general public. Our council will continue to focus on working with a wide range of organizations to deliver a program of character development and values-based leadership training to more than 57,000 young people.

Mueller tells Daily RFT, "This is something that is being reviewed at the national council level.... The local council has a charter with the national council. We will abide by the programs and policies that are set forth by the nation council."

It appears that if the whole organization does remove its ban -- leaving it up to local groups to decide -- there could still potentially be a range of policies in the St. Louis Council groups.

Mueller says that the BSA Greater St. Louis Council works with a wide range of "chartering organizations," such as schools, churches, community groups and others that under new policy could all in theory make their own individual decisions about banning members based on sexual orientation.

Asked whether the St. Louis Council overall supports this change -- the opportunity not to discriminate -- he says, "We are just waiting to see what is communicated [from the national level]."

Continue for more of our interview with Joe Mueller and the full Boy Scouts statements.

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