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May 25, 2013

Vote divides area scoutmasters

By Mark Boshnack Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — Local scouting leaders interviewed Friday were on both sides of the recent decision by the Boy Scouts of America to allow openly gay boys into their ranks.

The Scouts’ longstanding ban on gay adults remains in force. The vote was conducted by secret ballot Thursday during the National Council’s annual meeting at conference center not far from Boy Scout headquarters in suburban Dallas.

Of the roughly 1,400 voting members of the council who cast ballots, 61 percent supported the proposal drafted by the governing Executive Committee. The policy change takes effect Jan. 1.

Thomas Wright, scout executive of the Otschodela Council, that covers Otsego, Delaware and Schoharie counties, is at the annual meeting. He said in email “the information our Council provided on this issue helped provide perspective to the process, and we respect the integrity of the national decision-making process. I believe this update to our policy will allow all kids who sincerely want to be a part of Scouting to experience this life-changing program while remaining true to the long-standing virtues of Scouting.”

While people may have different opinions about this policy, “we can all agree that kids are better off when they are in Scouting. We believe good people can disagree and still work together to accomplish great things for youth. Going forward, we will work to stay focused on that which unites us.”

However, Franklin Troop 8 Scoutmaster Rich Costello said he thinks the decision is “horrible.” It’s not because he is against homosexuals, he said, but since it is goes against the teachings of the Bible, it violates the Scout Oath and Law.

“If you don’t follow that, you shouldn’t be a Boy Scout,” he said, adding that the change is “unfair” to those who do.

He said he has choice but to follow the ruling but isn’t sure how it will work on such activities as camping trips, and some people will leave Scouting because of it.

“It’s too bad it comes to something like this,” he said.

Unadilla Troop 1 Scoutmaster Brian Danforth said he supports the decision. There are a lot of “good people” who are gay, he said.

“We have a lot of things to offer in our programs about citizenship and community to all of them,” he said.

It raises some questions about accommodations on trips, but “I’m sure we can work on it. I’m ready to be more inclusive.”

Danforth said it wouldn’t bother him if the change applied to scoutmasters as well.

“There never should be a single youth alone with a single adult no matter what,” he said, adding the national organization probably sees this as a small step.

“It won’t make everyone happy,” he said.