Survey: Local Scouting community opposes gay ban

Survey: Local Scouting community opposes gay ban

Michele Ellson

More than three-quarters of the adults involved in Boy Scouts in Alameda oppose their national organization’s policy of barring gay Scout leaders and members, survey results obtained by The Alamedan show, with parents of the organization’s youngest participants making up the highest percentage of those who think the policy is wrong.

The Boys Scouts of America is set on May 23 to consider a policy change that would allow gay youths to participate in Scouting but would continue to bar adults who are openly gay. The Alameda Council will be holding a meeting Wednesday where the local Scouting community can air its views on whether local representatives should vote in favor of the change.

Council Scout Executive Charles Howard-Gibbon did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment. But in an e-mail to the local Scouting community, he said the objective of the meeting is “to find a way to move forward as a council, unified in purpose” on the issue.

“Although we appreciate that others may wish to attend, this meeting’s purpose is to share information with current members, and gather feedback from members on whether our two council representatives should vote to approve the proposed resolution on May 23,” Howard-Gibbon wrote.

Alameda’s 31 Cub Scout, Boy Scout and Venturing troops boast about 1,000 members.

Local results from the Boy Scouts of America’s Membership Standards Study Report that were released by the Alameda Council to members last week and obtained by The Alamedan showed that 77.5 percent of the 164 adults surveyed locally opposed the national policy barring gays, while 20.2 percent approve of the policy and 2.4 percent are neutral. Nearly 82 percent said they didn’t believe the ban is a core value of Scouting.

The number of people who oppose the existing policy grew after survey respondents were asked a series of questions that laid out scenarios demonstrating different ways gay youths and adults might participate in the Boy Scouts, including scenarios with gay troop leaders and gay youths tenting with straight ones.

Some 81 percent of Cub Scout parent surveyed said they totally opposed the ban on gays, compared with 67 percent of Boy Scout parents. Sixty-eight percent of local unit leaders said they totally opposed the ban, along with half of organizations that sponsor the clubs and 43 percent of volunteers.

Nearly half of the locals surveyed voiced at least some opposition to allowing organizations that charter Boy Scout troops to set their own policies on gays, while about 40 percent supported the idea.

A little less than 40 percent of those surveyed in Alameda said they could find a way to continue in Scouting if the policy didn’t reflect their views while another 40 percent said they hadn’t made up their minds. About a quarter of those who both strongly agreed and strongly disagreed with the policy said they’d drop out of Scouting if the policy on gays did not reflect their views.

The local survey results could prove to be a bellwether for national numbers that showed the rest of the country moving in the same direction on the issue of gays in Scouting, albeit more slowly. Nationally, the survey found that most adults involved in Scouting still support its ban on gays, though a growing percentage of parents and a majority of teens think it is wrong.

Nationally, 61 percent of the 200,000 people and charter organizations that responded to the survey said they still support the Boy Scouts’ ban on gays, and 34 percent oppose it. Only 48 percent of parents of current Scouts surveyed still support the ban, compared with 57 percent three years ago, and it is opposed by a majority of teens. Parents of Cub Scouts voiced the least amount of support for the ban, with 50 percent backing it, while more than 60 percent of Boy Scout parents, unit leaders and volunteers support it and 72 percent of chartered organizations.

Local councils told the national organization that about half of their major donors want the policy barring gays to remain in place, though a majority of both corporations who have sponsored the Boy Scouts and Fortune 500 companies said they don’t support the ban and want to see it changed. Almost all of the 30 national youth-serving government, foundation and community organizations Boy Scouts of America contacted said they though the policy should be changed.

Here in Alameda, the Scouts have lost the backing of one major service club – the Kiwanis – as a result of their anti-gay policy, and a local group has called on the Alameda Council to speak out against the ban.

Nationally, religious organizations that were surveyed by the Scouting organization said their concern is focused on gay adults, and not youth; the churches, which reportedly charter more than 70 percent of the nation’s Boy Scout troops, said they think a wholesale elimination of the ban could cost the Boy Scouts of America up to 350,000 members; there about 2.7 million youths involved in the Boy Scouts and more than 1 million adult members. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints – which sponsors more Scouts than any other organization – has said it supports lifting the Scouts’ ban on gay youths.

More than three-quarters of survey participants in Alameda said they found denying a gay youth his Eagle Award “totally unacceptable.” The decision to deny a Moraga teen his Eagle Award and to kick him out of his Scout troop in 2012 catalyzed a national debate on the Boy Scouts’ ban on gays.

Three-quarters of local survey participants said they believed installation of a lesbian den mother would be “totally acceptable,” while more than 70 percent said the same of installing a gay minister as a Scoutmaster and of a gay leader taking boys camping, the survey results show. A little less than half of the people and organizations surveyed said gay and straight boys tenting together would be “totally acceptable,” while 40 percent said denying a gay youth membership in the Boy Scouts would be “totally unacceptable.”

Comments

Submitted by Jon Spangler on Tue, May 14, 2013

I hope the Alameda Scouting community will not only vote in favor of fully including all youth and adults in Scouting, but also take a public stance for justice and equality.

As a former Scout and Explorer who grew up with and loved the experience, I can no longer participate in good conscience as long as the national Scouting organization maintains exclusionary and discriminatory policies based on prejudice rather than facts or Biblical justice.

Submitted by twinckler on Tue, May 14, 2013

All parents, leaders and adults affiliated with Scouting should make it to the meeting and raise your voice in strong support for ending this policy of exclusion. Terry Winckler

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