Local Boy Scouts waiting for national decision

PARKERSBURG – It is unknown how possible upcoming changes to the Boy Scouts of America’s national policy regarding gay Scouts would affect the local councils and packs, a local official said.

“It is an awkward subject because of the different attitudes towards gays throughout the country,” said Dale Musgrave, scout executive with the Allohak Council of the organization.

The local council held its annual Pinewood Derby on Saturday at the Grand Central Mall in Vienna. Almost 500 Cub Scouts from throughout the region participated in the annual event.

At this time, the BSA’s national council is discussing a reversal of its policy that excludes openly gay men and women from being leaders and youth members.

“Right now it is an internal discussion on the national level, so it is really not known how it would affect the 280 individual councils and Scouts,” Musgrave said. “We follow the policies of the national organization and as those change, we change with them.”

The national discussion was announced last week with a decision possible as early as Wednesday, following the scheduled meeting of Boy Scouts of America’s national board.

If allowed, the changes will open membership to gays, but allows the religious and civic groups that sponsor individual Scout units to decide how they want to address the issue.

“The fact that the national board is discussing making this change is a sign of the continuing evolution of our society,” Musgrave said. “Thirty years ago women were not allowed to be Scout masters and that has changed, so we recognize we need to evolve as our communities do.”

The Boys Scouts, which celebrates its 103rd anniversary this year, has long excluded both gays and atheists. If the proposed change does occur, atheists will remain banned.

The issue came to national attention in 1990 when an Eagle Scout, who became an assistant scoutmaster at 18, was thrown out of scouting after the Boy Scouts learned he was co-president of Rutgers University’s gay and lesbian organization. He and his family had been active in the Scouts for years.

The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.