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Philadelphia Boy Scouts drop plan to defy national policy

PHILADELPHIA (BP)–One of the nation’s largest Boy Scouts councils has backed down from a plan to defy the national organization’s policy prohibiting homosexuals as troop leaders.

A release posted on the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) website said the Cradle of Liberty Council has affirmed that it will not depart from policies maintained by the BSA. The council has a membership of 87,000 in three counties — Philadelphia, Montgomery and Delaware.

“I suspect that the national organization of Boy Scouts made it clear that they don’t believe in autonomy of local councils and that there is a hierarchy in Boy Scouts and that if the Philadelphia council wanted to remain a Boy Scout [council] it would have to [change],” said Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Richard Land.

In May, the council had submitted a non-discrimination disclosure statement to the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania regarding funds used for its Learning for Life program. Those are the only funds the council receives from that United Way branch, the release said.

However, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported June 13 that soon after the policy was adopted, BSA’s national council threatened to revoke the Cradle of Liberty Council’s charter and replace its board. The newspaper said the national council would not publicly back the decision to address local United Way concerns.

“We thought we had a deal,” David Lipson of the Cradle Council’s executive board told the newspaper. “We thought we won this major victory, and we were all happy.”

“Lipson has expressed disagreement with the BSA’s membership policies, as is his right,” the BSA release said. “BSA members are free to hold their own opinions, but we ask that they respect the values of the organization and abide by its policies, which they have agreed to by becoming members.”

It remained unclear whether the Cradle of Liberty Council will allow homosexuals to serve as long as they remain quiet about their sexual orientation — a form of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

An eight-point position statement issued by the council included a point that “applications for leadership and membership do not inquire into sexual orientation.”

“However, an individual who declares himself to be a homosexual would not be permitted to join Scouting,” it continues. “All members in Scouting must affirm the values of the Scout Oath and Law, and all leaders must be able to model those values for youth.”

In an interview in late May, BSA spokesman Gregg Shields told the Inquirer that parents of scouts overwhelmingly agree with the organization’s policy. Shields told the newspaper the group has about 5 million members and numbers remain high.

“The traditional American family is our role model, and a homosexual would not be a role model for those values,” Shields said.

The decision has been controversial, with the Inquirer criticizing it on its editorial pages and other groups calling for the public to stop giving money to BSA.

The controversy included the ouster of Gregory Lattera, 18, a former Life Scout and one step away from the rank of Eagle Scout. Lattera publicly declared he was a homosexual and an atheist at a news conference held during BSA’s annual meeting.

“In succumbing to pressure from BSA National, the Cradle of Liberty Council violated its own Scout Oath and did not have the strength or character to stand by its newly adopted policy,” said Scott Cozza, president of Scouting for All, a pro-gay group.

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