National Boy Scout policy against openly gay members flouted by local councils

A Catholic parish in Minnesota was recently blindsided when they learned the Boy Scouts' reputation for Christian conservative values didn't bear out in the case of their local Council.
Tue Aug 7, 2012 - 5:36 pm EST

August 7, 2012 ( - Although the Boy Scouts of America recently reaffirmed a policy against having open homosexuals as members, at least some local councils say they don’t consider the policy actually binding on their own operations.

A Catholic parish in Minnesota was recently blindsided when they learned the Boy Scouts’ reputation for Christian conservative values didn’t bear out in the case of their local Council, which declared last month that it would continue admitting individuals who were openly homosexual.

“Every council is reflective of their community,” said Kent York, spokesman for the Twin Cities-based Northern Star Council, Minnesota’s largest Council with 75,000 Scouts. “Our commitment has been to reach out to all young people and have a positive influence.” When asked how they could differ from the national policy, according to the Twin Cities Star Tribune, York said that it had “worked for us.”

The policy of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) states that youth organization does not “proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers or members,” but also does not “grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.”

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The Tribune quoted a statement by Chief Scout Executive Bob Mazzuca that, “While a majority of our membership agrees with our policy, we fully understand that no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society.”

After the Tribune report emerged, Rev. John Echert, pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in South St. Paul, Minnesota, told LSN that he immediately broke his church’s ties with the Twin Cities group, and announced the rupture to his congregation, after learning the group had permitted open homosexuality “for years.” Although the split was amicable, he said, he was alarmed not to have known about the Council’s divergence from national policy earlier.

“I wonder how many other Councils or lower levels before the national are not doing that, and parents and pastors are not even aware of that,” he said.

The sentiment of the Northern Star Council appeared to be echoed in at least one other local Council: a woman who answered the phone at the Chicago Area Council declined to speak officially, but indicated local leaders didn’t feel an obligation to hold to national standards on the issue. “This is a national policy. Each council is run separately, so what they do, we might not do,” she told

Despite pressure from gay rights advocates, the Boy Scouts of America in June issued a clarification stating that, although a resolution had been submitted to either amend its policy on homosexuality or allow local councils to decide their own, the group had “no plans” to change its current policy. The BSA also announced last month that it decided against a change after an 11-member committee conducted a two-year review of the matter.

“The BSA is a voluntary, private organization that sets policies that are best for the organization. The BSA welcomes all who share its beliefs but does not criticize or condemn those who wish to follow a different path,” it said.

An official with the Boy Scouts of America referred to the clarification and said that, “All local councils agree to follow national BSA policy.” LSN was invited to submit further questions electronically, but did not receive a response to multiple emails.

  boy scouts of america, homosexuality

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