Tonawanda News


February 8, 2013


Tonawanda News — The Boy Scouts of America convened its national meeting this week, in part to ponder its relevance in the 21st century, specifically its attitude on inclusion.

Gay Scouts is something of an oxymoron, discounting and ignoring the needs of a minority, and an organization such as this one likely must display extra vigilance when it comes to certain adults preying upon, and not leading, its membership. But a challenge is something a Scout is taught to embrace.

There are Scout troops throughout Kenmore and the Tonawandas. Troop 539, sponsored by Kenmore Presbyterian Church, has a long history; one of America’s oldest, it was organized the month after the Titanic sank. I’ve met many local Scoutmasters, worked with Eagle Scouts, spoken at their banquets and ceremonies. Good people, fulfilling community service in ways unlike any those of any other group, and I am pleased they and I are associated.

Easing the ban on gay Scouts is a coming out of the closet for the Scouting movement. From what I understand, it was motivated, at least in part, by protests from gay groups; from straight Scouts and Scout leaders leaving in solidarity, out of principle; and a crimp in the donation pipeline from several large and serious underwriters. The anticipated change of policy, though, is more like kicking the can down the road.

Something of a home-rule policy is anticipated, with individual troops deciding who is welcome under the tent and who isn’t, presumably with the counsel of the sponsoring agency, and that’s often a church wrestling with a similar issue. Although the Scouting movement is non-denominational, the influence of religion is a strong one. Scouts can be found at American Legion halls, schools and municipal governments, but it’s typically a church, even a mosque, which sponsors the core unit of Scouting.

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