Scout council takes a stand against ban

The Associated Press
Wednesday October 11, 2000

PIEDMONT, — Boy Scout leaders in this quiet suburb have entered the debate over the national organization’s anti-gay stand with a letter to parents saying they won’t discriminate. 

After deciding at a retreat that they do not think being gay violates scouting principles, the Piedmont Scout Council sent a letter to parents in September explaining it opposes discrimination based on religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation. 

At issue is the national organization’s ban on gays in leadership.  

The policy survived a legal challenge when the Supreme Court ruled last June that the private volunteer group has the right to pick its own leaders, but it is still opposed by many as unfair. 

It was not clear how far the Piedmont council planned to go in opposing the ban. Council leaders did not return several telephone messages left by The Associated Press. 

At Boy Scouts of America headquarters, spokesman Gregg Shields said officials haven’t seen the Piedmont letter so they couldn’t comment on it. 

However, he said if the council does flout the ban, it will be the first in the country to do so.  

Two other councils, in Providence, R.I., and St. Paul, Minn., have formally requested the national organization review its policy. 

Josephine Pegrum-Hazelett, executive director of the Piedmont Scout Council, told The Oakland Tribune earlier that leaders didn’t “see anything in the scout oath and law that would seem to sanction discrimination.” 

The San Francisco Bay area scouting council, by contrast, does not oppose the anti-gay policy. 

Spokesman Michael Dybeck said the larger council tries to focus on the children it serves rather than national debates. 

“Our focus is delivering a quality scouting program to the community,” he said. 

On the Net: http://www.bsa.scouting.org/