Brad Frey, a dentist from Mason, teaches Owen Russell of Mason, left, and Gretchen Bush of Mason, how to put up a tent during a Navigators USA Mason Chapter 18 meeting at Pine Hill Lakes Park in Mason. Frey is gay and therefore is not allowed to be a Boy Scout leader. The Enquirer/Carrie Cochran
John Johnston reports:
A group of youngsters has gathered in a park for an introduction to camping.
Adult leaders guide them through the do’s and don’ts of backpacking, then assist as the kids practice pitching tents. To top it off, everyone gets a taste of that campout staple, s’mores.
Their smiles say the kids are enjoying the scouting experience. But these are Navigators, not Boy Scouts. If they were Scouts, Brad Frey couldn’t be a co-leader.
The Mason resident, a former Eagle Scout, is gay.
He has long wanted to be a Boy Scout leader but has been unable to get back into the organization “because there wasn’t acceptance there.”
This week the Boy Scouts of America reaffirmed its policy of excluding gays. An 11-member special committee formed in 2010 concluded that the policy “reflects the beliefs and perspectives of the BSA’s members…”
However, the Scouts’ chief executive, Bob Mazzuca, did acknowledge in a statement that “we fully understand that no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society.”
It’s perhaps a way of saying that the issue will be raised again, as it has a number of times since 2000 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Boy Scouts can bar gays from being troop leaders.
“Are there some out there who say, ‘I won’t be part of the Boy Scouts because of this position?’ Yes. Are there others who say, ‘I want to be part of the Boy Scouts?’ Yes,” said Tom Dugger, the scout executive/CEO of the Boy Scouts’ Dan Beard Council, which has a membership of about 35,000 youth in 12 Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky counties.
Nationally, participation in traditional Boy Scout programs has declined by about 15 percent in the past decade. But Dugger said that reflects the stiff competition scouting faces from many other youth activities, rather than dissatisfaction with Boy Scout policy.
Parents, kids debate gay ban
Still, some parents are taking a stand.
“My wife and I decided we wouldn’t even consider letting our son join the Scouts unless their ban (on gays) was lifted and the organization was more accepting of all individuals,” Rodger Pille, a former Scout from Hamilton County’s Miami Township, said in an email.
His son, at age 4, is still too young for Scouts. But when he’s a bit older, Pille said, the topic will provide a teachable moment on the importance of diversity.
Others are adamant that the policy shouldn’t change.
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