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Area leaders look to BSA for gay ban guidance

Updated: March 31, 2013 2:11AM

A day after the Boy Scouts of America announced that it is considering lifting its ban on gay leaders, employees and youth members, a spokeswoman for the organization’s regional chapter said Tuesday local officials are withholding specific comment on the situation until the matter is decided.

“This is an internal national policy discussion, and no decision has been made,” said Kim Weidner-Feigh, development director for the BSA’s Northeast Illinois Council. “ I can say that local councils agree to support the decisions made by the volunteer national executive board. Our united focus is on working together to deliver the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training.”

The Highland Park-based Northeast Illinois Council includes 354 scouting units in Lake County and northern Cook County, and at the end of 2011 it reported a membership total of 17,384 youth, including 6,604 Cub Scouts (boys in the first through fifth grades) and 3,163 Boy Scouts (boys ages 11 to 18).

On Monday, the BSA’s chief scout executive, Wayne Brock, sent a statement to all National Council employees saying the organization would discuss removing the ban during an executive board meeting scheduled for Feb. 4-6 in Irving, Texas. Brock’s statement noted that any change would be a matter of national policy, but not an edict to local chapters.

“Let me be clear that the change under discussion would allow chartered organizations to determine how to address this issue,” Brock wrote. “The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members or parents. Under this proposed policy, the BSA would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization’s mission, principles or religious beliefs.”

The ban on gays has been a written BSA policy since 1991, and a statement was issued in 2012 upholding the stance, saying in part that “while the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA. ... The BSA welcomes all who share its beliefs but does not criticize or condemn those who wish to follow a different path.”

In a statement to the media Monday, BSA national spokesman Deron Smith reiterated that if the policy is overturned, “the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs. BSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families.”

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