By Riley Manning/NEMS Daily Journal
While the national Boy Scouts of America’s vote to allow openly gay Scouts may cause some disaffection, Northeast Mississippi’s Scout executive says program leaders are prepared to move ahead.
Rick Chapman of the Yocona Area Council said the vote at this week’s National Council was not as close as he anticipated. Some 61 percent of the 1,400 representatives voted in favor of the change; Chapman voted against it.
“I’ve started receiving e-mails from a number of volunteers who are disappointed, but are still committed to supporting the 4,000 Scouts in Northeast Mississippi,” he said. “But I’ve also had a number of people say they are seriously weighing the decision to remain in Scouting or not.”
The new measures will allow openly gay Scouts, but not gay leaders. However, while a Scout may be forthcoming about his sexual orientation, acting on it within the context of Scouting will not be tolerated.
“We’re asking our leaders to continue to be good role models and show examples of the Scout Oath and Law in their actions,” Chapman said. “The Boy Scouts have fantastic youth protection guidelines that I’m sure will be evolving after this decision. Parents should rest assured, the Boy Scouts is a safe place for their boys.”
Such safety measures may not be enough for some involved in Scouting. Greg O’Quinn, Scout Master for Troop 85 in Tupelo, said he is already seeing the ramifications of the policy change.
“I have already heard from parents who are pulling their boys out,” he said. “They are in disbelief. It’s an issue of principle.”
O’Quinn expects things to get worse. In addition to volunteer leaders leaving the program, O’Quinn said some churches would drop their charters. As for his own troop’s sponsor, Harrisburg Baptist Church, O’Quinn said the committee in charge of the Scouts would meet to discuss the issue sometime next week.
Some are more optimistic. The Rev. Jim Curtis, pastor at First United Methodist Church in Tupelo, said before the Scouts’ national meeting he expected minimal fallout from the decision.
“I really don’t think it’s going to be much of a disruption for our Scout troop here,” he said. “We’re committed to keeping our troop active, and I really don’t think it’s a big deal for our congregation members either.”
First Methodist’s Troop 12 is one of the largest and longest-running troops in the 12-county Yocona Area Council.