IRVING – It may have been a no-decision, but to some of the protestersoutside the Boy Scouts of America headquarters Wednesday, it was stilla victory of sorts because – at least until May – the ban on gayscouts and leaders stands.
Travis Monk hopes it stays that way.
If the organization changes its long-standing policy – and decides toallow gay scouts and adults as members – Monk, a 14-year-old fromArlington, will no longer be part of the group.
The scouts are under a lot of political pressure – from no less thanPresident Barack Obama – to end the policy.
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“If they lift their ban, my dad, brother and I will all leave,” saidMonk, a home schooled ninth-grader who could become an Eagle Scoutwithin a year. “We don’t believe homosexuality is right.
“It’s an abomination to God,” he said. “And it’s against the Scout oath.”
Monk was among the more than 200 people who gathered for a “Save OurScouts” prayer rally outside the Boy Scouts of America’s nationalheadquarters in Irving Wednesday morning, protesting a potentialchange in the more than century-old organization.
The protesters learned that members of the national council delayed adecision on whether to lift the ban, which had been expected thisweek, until May – something Jonathan Saenz, who organized the rally,declared a victory.
“The Boy Scouts of America have decided not to change their policy atthis time,” Saenz, president of Texas Values, a conservativeAustin-based group, said to loud applause and cheers. “But we stillhave a lot of work to do.”
Saenz read to the crowd a written statement the Boy Scouts distributedat the rally.
It said that “the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America’sNational Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of thisissue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of itsmembership policy.
“To that end, the executive board directed its committees to furtherengage representatives of Scouting’s membership and listen to theirperspectives and concerns,” according to the statement. “Theapproximately 1,400-voting members of the national council will takeaction on the resolution at the national meeting in May 2013.”
The organization announced last week that it was considering removingthe ban against gay members, prompting officials nationwide – fromObama, who supports lifting the ban, to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whosupports leaving the policy as it is – to weigh in. The group garneredworldwide attention this week, as members of the executive boardgathered for three days of meetings in Irving.
During Wednesday’s 1 1/2-hour long rally, some supporters of thecurrent policy carried signs that read: “God votes no gays,” “God’sfinal warning,” “What happened to ‘for God and country’” and “Save OurScouts.”
Scouts there prayed, sang, waved small American flags and called oneach other to support the current policy.
Tami Cooke of Richardson said she hopes national leaders do notchange the policy later this year – or ever.
“We don’t want homosexuals around our sons,” said Cooke, who has oneson in Boy Scouts. “We’re not filled with hate. We just feel that ifthey really want to go camping and build a tent, they can start theirown group.”
While those gathered at the prayer rally supported leaving the policyalone, other Scouts spoke out in favor of the change.
David Montague of Fort Worth has spent more than a decade beinginvolved with the Boy Scouts – as an assistant scout master, a scoutmaster, a scout leader and more.
And he believes it’s time for the Boy Scouts to change the way things are done.
“I think it’s long overdue for scouting to recognize that it should beopen to all persons,” said Montague, a former Tarrant Countyprosecutor who specialized in cases involving child abuse. “Anybodythe local group wants to have as a leader, that should be up to thelocal leadership as long as there is no threat to the children. Andbeing gay isn’t a threat.”
He said he believes the Boy Scouts shouldn’t rush into a decision onthe issue and said he hopes leadership finds a balance betweeninclusion and allowing local groups that partner with troops – such aschurches, schools and other sponsors – to have a voice as well.
“I fully support the change in procedure, and the removal of this ban,” he said.
Lee Henderson, who became an Eagle Scout when he was 15, said he alsowould like to see a change in policy.
“I personally do not believe it is the Scout Way to exclude young menor adult leaders on the basis of sexual orientation,” said Henderson,35, of Fort Worth. “I do not agree that the Scout Oath’s ‘morallystraight’ judges a particular sexual orientation as immoral.
“Church denominations don’t all agree either,” he said. “When you getdown to relying on only the Old Testament’s Leviticus as your law ofmorality, then I think you’ve lost already.”
No change needed
During the rally, some speakers said this issue is more than aboutsexuality. It’s about the country’s moral fiber.
“In Texas, we are not afraid to acknowledge, with reverence, that theprinciples we stand on are from God,” said Dave Welch,Ö a Houstonpastor and director of the Texas Pastors Council. “We’re not standinghere against or for, but on those principles.
“We have no choice.”
Many at the rally said they worry national leaders will cave in topressures from those who financially contribute to the organization.Others predict that membership will dramatically drop if leaderschange the anti-gay policy.
For Timothy Baird, a 13-year-old Scout from Arlington, it’s a verysimple issue.
“It’s not right to have leaders that are sexually immoral,” saidBaird, an eighth-grader. “It’s not right for the Scouts.”
Lana Baird, who home schools her son Timothy and two other children,said the debate over the Scout’s anti-gay policy is something herfamily frequently discusses.
“We’ve been very upset about this,” said Lana Baird, of Arlington.“(Those who want the policy changed) are bullying the Boy Scouts intodoing something we don’t agree with.”
But she said the national board’s move to delay a decision on theissue is wrong.
“It’s quite cowardly on their part,” she said. “They have anoutpouring of suggestions. They are not making the hard choice inchoosing.”
So between now and May, she and others say they will be writingletters and emails, and making phone calls, to elected officials andScout leaders alike.
“This is something we really believe in,” Lana Baird said.
Officials weigh in
A group of elected officials in Texas earlier this week signed an openletter encouraging the Boy Scouts to uphold their traditional positionand reject a change in the organization’s homosexuality policy.
“We urge you to be morally and physically strong. We urge you toprotect all that scouting has been and all that it can remain,”according to the letter that includes the signatures of GOP stateSens. Kelly Hancock of Fort Worth and Brian Birdwell of Granbury andGOP state Reps. Giovanni Capriglione of Southlake, Matt Krause andStephanie Klick of Fort Worth, Phil King of Weatherford, Bill Zedlerof Arlington and Jonathan Stickland of Bedford. U.S. Rep. KennyMarchant, R-Coppell, also signed the letter.
Longtime Eagle Scout U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions said it’s a good ideafor the Boy Scouts of America to review its policy.
The Dallas Republican doesn’t want to weigh in on what theorganization should do, but he said he hopes the group follows itsgeneral mission statement.
“The Boy Scouts ... are having a realistic discussion among themselvesand this is healthy and this is good,” Sessions has said.
U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, was a Boy Scout growing up as well –and he believes the policy should stay the same.
“Scouting was an important part of my youth. It taught me theimportance of family, friendship, community service, responsibilityand leadership. It was a great learning experience that I credit withsetting me up for success as an adult,” said Barton, who achieved therank of Life Scout. “I support the Boy Scouts of America’s longstanding stance on sexual orientation and think the national boardshould continue to stand by the family values and morals that makeScouting so special.”