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Boys will lose the most over NYC Scouting ban, Land says

NEW YORK (BP)–The nation’s largest public school system has severed ties with the Boy Scouts of America complaining that the Scouts discriminates against homosexuals.

New York City Schools Chancellor Harold Levy announced Dec. 1 that city schools and educators can no longer sponsor troops or recruit scouts during school hours on school property. Scouts also will be barred from all facilities except those mandated by federal law.

Levy announced the schools will not renew an $800,000 contract the Scouts have to provide services to its 2 million students. Levy said the schools will allow the Scouts to finish out the contract to provide facilities for summer and winter programs. That contract ends April 30, 2002.

“The policy of the Boy Scouts of American with respect to homosexuals is contrary to the policy of the Board of Education,” Levy said in a written statement.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said he was disappointed but not surprised by the decision.

“After all this is the same school district that has pushed the ‘Heather Has Two Mommies,’ ‘Daddy’s Roommate’ and ‘Gloria Goes to Gay Pride’ curriculum on its young students,” Land said. “This is one more illustration of why the public education establishment is too often part of the problem rather than part of the solution for the growing character deficit in our nation’s children.

“Of course the big losers here are the boys of New York City who because of this ill-advised decision will have dramatically reduced opportunities to be influenced by strong and positive Scouting programs which would help negate the morally corrosive influences to which these children are exposed on a daily basis both by the culture and the city’s public school administrative policies,” Land added.

Levy released a letter addressed from Daniel R. Gasparo, chief executive of the Boy Scouts of America Greater New York Councils, asking the chancellor to reconsider. In his letter, Gasparo insisted that the Scouts’ New York operations did not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

“Most people who have taken time to hear about the true nature of our programs, outside the hype of the media, find that we do not discriminate and that we provide vital services for the city’s young people,” Gasparo wrote. “My concern is that a citywide policy would not serve the interests of many of your children and their families.”

Gasparo told The Times he had been working to change the national organization’s policy toward gays, but he offered no specifics. “In the five months since the Supreme Court ruling, we have made some progress with our national office in broadening their views,” he wrote. “This is a continually evolving issue, both in the Boy Scouts and in society.”

The New York school system is the latest institution to take action against the Scouts since the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision last June, upheld the organization’s policy of excluding homosexuals.

The Scouts’ policy had been challenged by James Dale, an Eagle Scout and decorated assistant scoutmaster, who accused the Boy Scouts of discriminating against him when they dismissed him for being a homosexual.

The New York City Board of Education policy would affect the Boy Scouts dramatically, halting in-school recruitment, depriving the organization of facilities and staff during school hours, canceling its joint summer program and ending the Boy Scouts’ endorsement by the nation’s largest school system.

Boy Scouts of America officials have said previously that the organization must have the right to establish its own standards of membership if it is to continue to instill the values of the Scout oath and law in boys, and avowed homosexuals are not appropriate role models for the values espoused in the Scout pledges.

The cities of Chicago, San Francisco, San Jose and Minneapolis, along with Broward County, Fla., also have ended their sponsorship of Boy Scout troops and prohibit the Scouts from recruiting new members in the public schools.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles City Council on Nov. 28 voted to instruct all city departments to review their relationships with the Boy Scouts because of the group’s legally sanctioned discrimination based on religion and homosexuality.

The council also agreed to support an impending proposal by the Los Angeles Police Commission that would order the Los Angeles Police Department to severe ties with its Explorers unit, a BSA-affiliated police cadet-training program for young people, in favor of an alternative.

Jackie Goldberg, a lesbian who heads the council’s personnel committee, pushed for the city to end its relationship with the Boy Scouts. Other police departments in San Diego, Chicago and Tempe have already taken similar action, she told the L.A. Times.

Two Boy Scout troops in Providence, R.I., meanwhile, have announced they will ignore the Scout’s national policy, saying there is “no valid reason to exclude gay men and boys from scouting.”

However, almost all of the 355 Scout units in the state support the policy, according to Robert Pease, a Rhode Island Scout official.

Citizens wishing to lodge an opinion about the New York City policy can contact the school chancellor’s office at (718) 935-2800.

The Boy Scouts of America, founded in 1910 and chartered by Congress in 1916, has 3.2 million members.

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