published Thursday, February 7th, 2013

Boy Scouts' national board delays decision on ban of gays

  • photo
    Clockwise from left, Boy Scouts Eric Kusterer, Jacob Sorah, James Sorah, Micah Brownlee and Cub Scout John Sorah hold signs Wednesday at the “Save Our Scouts” Prayer Vigil and Rally in front of the Boy Scouts of America National Headquarters in Irving, Texas. The Boy Scouts of America said Wednesday it needed more time before deciding whether to move away from its divisive policy of excluding gays as scouts or adult leaders.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

After debating its ban on openly gay members for three days, the Boy Scouts of America decided not to decide.

The BSA announced last week that it might soon reverse its three-decades-old stance on excluding homosexuals, but instead the national council on Wednesday pushed the decision to its next meeting May 22.

This means Chattanooga-area Scouts, leaders, parents and former members still don't know what their organization's future looks like, or how they will be involved in the decision.

"Due to the complexity of the issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy," BSA Director of Public Relations Deron Smith wrote in a statement Wednesday morning. "To that end, the executive board directed its committees to further engage representatives of Scouting's membership."

For the last week, Scott Fosse's phone has rarely stayed quiet. Fosse, the Scouting executive of the BSA's Cherokee Area Council in Chattanooga, said volunteers and parents and everyone else involved with the Scouts -- even in the smallest ways -- have called him. They're asking what will happen to their son's troops and if they can do anything about the ban, whether to strengthen it or break it down. Fosse doesn't know what to say.

Council President Tim Spires, Council Commissioner James Barott and Fosse wrote a letter to their volunteers last week.

"The Cherokee Area Council is not involved in the decision-making process," the letter stated. "At this point, we do not have any information beyond what is being reported in the media."

Fosse did not return a call seeking comment after the national council's announcement Wednesday.

In Chattanooga, like in every other city, people are split on the current ban.

Allen Gruice, a 36-year-old tile mason, became an Eagle Scout in 1995 with his Sale Creek troop. The BSA's ban caused a big fuss in the early '90s, but Gruice's troop leaders didn't press the issue. They knew some scouts were gay. They just didn't bring it up.

Gruice returned to the BSA in 2003 to volunteer with his nephews' troop in Soddy-Daisy, and he noticed the other leaders felt differently about gays. Some boys couldn't join, he said, because their mothers are lesbians. And one boy was in line to become an Eagle Scout -- until the other leaders found out he is gay. Gruice, who is not gay, left the BSA and hasn't come back.

"This totally goes against the entire premise of the Scouting organization," he said. "We are supposed to accept all brethren."

Ryan Ogle disagrees. Ogle volunteers in Cleveland as a chaplain, assistant Scoutmaster and Eagle Scout adviser, which means he helps soon-to-be Eagle Scouts get their awards. He earned that honor himself in 2007.

Ogle, 23, takes online classes with New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and is in his second semester working toward his master's degree in divinity. He wants to be a counselor for middle school and high school students one day.

"To openly allow something that strongly contradicts our beliefs is wrong," he said. "We believe in God. We see in the Bible that homosexuality is wrong. ... Not to sound bigoted, but I don't think we should allow gays."

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