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Scouts’ gay policy leaves many conflicted

The Seattle Times

SEATTLE — At a recent meeting at a church gym in Bothell, Wash., Boy Scouts in identical blue neckerchiefs and “Troop 574” patches discussed summer camp as their parents arranged carpools and cookout recipes for a weekend trip.

The boys heard rules for what to bring — no iPods — and what time to be ready for the ferry — 9 a.m.

What was not on the agenda, at least not officially: recent changes to Boy Scout policy allowing openly gay Scouts to join.

Still, the topic was unavoidable, and one cluster of boys found themselves talking about it on the sidelines.

Troop 574 is sponsored by Bothell’s evangelical Cedar Park Church, which, like some other congregations, has decided to part ways with the Boy Scouts over the policy change.

The same decision by a Roman Catholic Church in Bremerton, Wash., Our Lady Star of the Sea, has prompted an online petition by a national advocacy group, Catholics United, that views the church’s decision as discriminatory and likely to alienate young people from the faith. The group was planning to petition the Archdiocese of Seattle.

Most sponsoring churches in the Puget Sound area appear to be sticking with the Boy Scouts, some saying the new policy is consistent with their beliefs about inclusion.

But other churches — and some Scouting families — are conflicted, saying the policy forces a clash between their religious beliefs about homosexuality and their support for an organization that has served children well.

“One little rule and bghhhh,” said Troop 574 member Kyle Horne, 17, making the sound of a bomb exploding.

Scout troops typically are sponsored by churches, civic organizations and groups of parents that pay the Boy Scouts of America for charters that are renewable each year.

Faith-based organizations are the most common chartered organizations, with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the United Methodist Church and the Catholic Church holding the highest numbers.

Chief Seattle Council Executive Sharon Moulds has heard murmurs of churches dropping out. Moulds has fielded phone calls from a handful of parents unhappy about the policy change.

She tries to explain that there have always been gay Scouts — the only change is now it’s out in the open. Losing Scouts saddens her, but as a mother herself she can’t tell others how to raise their kids.

“We want to keep everybody, but we’re not going to be able to,” Moulds said.

In Bremerton, Father Derek Lappe of Our Lady Star of the Sea was already considering an end to troop sponsorship when BSA voted May 23 to remove its restriction denying youths from joining solely on the basis of their sexual orientation, effective in January.

Gay Scouts wouldn’t have been an issue before the policy change, Lappe said. “We would have never kicked a kid out because of this.”

But Lappe felt he had to end the relationship with the organization after it approved a policy he believes encourages young people to come out or to identify as gay.

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