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Groups react to Boy Scouts' non-decision on gay membership

February 06, 2013|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske

IRVING, Texas -- Several hundred Boy Scouts, parents and supporters gathered outside Boy Scouts of America national headquarters in the Dallas suburbs Wednesday to rally against lifting the ban on gays in Scouting.

They came toting American flags and homemade signs that proclaimed “Don’t invite sin into the camp!,” "God votes no on gays!" and “Save our boys from homosexual acts!”

When news broke that the group’s national board, meeting at a nearby hotel, had voted to postpone a decision on the ban until May, organizers made an announcement that was greeted with applause. No one emerged from the building to address the crowd, but a security guard standing outside next to a statue of a Scout distributed copies of an official statement.

RELATED: Some Californians regret decision delay

“The BSA have decided not to change their policy,” organizer Jonathan Saenz, president of the Austin-based Texas Values conservative advocacy group announced. “We still have a lot of work to do.”

Many at the rally said they felt blindsided by the board’s sudden decision to reconsider the ban this week, and vowed to mobilize in the months ahead to uphold it and potentially oust board members who want it lifted.

A local county commissioner said it felt like the Boy Scouts "have been under attack this past week."

“I would expect that more time would allow us to have our voices be heard,” said Chuck Helms, 55, a Dallas lawyer and assistant Scout master who attended the rally in uniform. “It gives us time to organize.”

Helms said that like many who support the ban, he was surprised to see the Boy Scouts board take up the issue, after reaffirming the ban last July following a two-year internal review and a U.S. Supreme Court decision in their favor in 2000.

He said he thinks the board has been swayed by pressure from the United Way and other groups that have withheld funding. As one sign said: “It’s about the boys, not the donations  — hold the line.”

“We have a board that seems to be more concerned with United Way donations than the messages we’re sending to our young people about character formation,” Helms said. “The Scouts are under moral threat. We have some serious misunderstandings in our upper echelons that they’re even willing to consider this.”

Saenz said many who support the ban have been unaware that particular companies pulled funding from the Boy Scouts over the issue, pressuring the board.

“It’s a concern that you’ve got corporations trying to bully them,” and in coming months those who support the ban may fight back, he said. “People are going to take a look at who they do business with.”

Cub Scout Rory LeGrand, 10, of Allen, Texas, also attended the rally in uniform carrying a homemade sign “Keep BSA morally straight,” a reference to the Scout Oath, which he and others recited at the rally.

“If it passes, I’d be really kind of mad and sad, because I really want to get Eagle Scout,” he said.

His mother, Marie LeGrand, has vowed to remove him from Scouting if the ban is lifted and enrolling him in a Christian-affiliated group (his troop is sponsored by a  local Catholic church). Officials with the Southern Baptist Convention have said their youth group, Royal Ambassadors, was gearing up this week for an influx of new members if the ban was lifted.

“I have four Eagles and two more to go, but we will drop Scouting if this goes through,” said LeGrand, 55, adding the delayed decision “is frustrating, disappointing because we’d like closure. We’ll probably go ahead and plan in case it does go through.”

Tami Cooke, 49, of nearby Richardson, has a 12-year-old son in Boy Scouts who she brought to the rally. Cooke said she enrolled her 10-year-old daughter in American Heritage Girls, a Christian group whose policies are similar to the Boy Scouts, instead of the Girl Scouts, which has a nondiscrimination policy. She’s not sure what she’ll do about her son, whose troop, like 70% nationwide, is sponsored by a faith-based group.

“I just feel like they’re trying to infiltrate a religious group,” Cooke said of those who want the ban lifted.

Melissa Harley, 41, from nearby Plano, who brought her Boy Scout son to the rally, said she worries that if the ban is lifted, local troops that choose to exclude gays will get sued.

“One of our concerns is that there’s a lot of lawyers lying in wait with the gay agenda, that if you leave it to the local units they’ll pounce and we don’t have the funds” for a legal battle, she said.

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