Pennsylvania Responds to Boy Scout Policy Change

In the days following the repeal of the Boy Scouts’ former anti-gay policy on members, Pennsylvanians have reacted to the policy change. Central Pennsylvania Boy Scout Councils from Lancaster and Mechanicsburg announced their support of the new policy allowing openly gay scouts to join the organization. Voting in favor of the policy change were Tim Efinger of Manheim Township, Robert Anspach of Lebanon and Paul Ware of Lancaster, all of the Pennsylvania Dutch Council which serves Lancaster and Lebanon county. John F. Pyfer of Lancaster who served as a national delegate also voted in favor for ending the ban.

The executive board of the Pennsylvania Dutch Council told their delegates to vote for the policy change. They released a statement, saying,

“This direction is reflective of the Board’s position that the proposal remains true to the longstanding virtues of Scouting and allows all youth who sincerely want to be a part of Scouting, the chance to experience this life changing program.  We acknowledge people have different opinions about this policy, but we also know kids are better off when they are in Scouting.”

Despite protests from a small group of their scouts, The New Birth of Freedom Council which serves South Central PA, issued a statement saying that the council’s executive board had urged their delegates to vote in favor of reversing the ban. Jeff Lobach, the President of the Council’s Volunteer Executive Board said,

“Earlier this month, after an extensive and open dialogue on the resolution, our Council’s volunteer Executive Board recommended that our four delegates to the national meeting support the proposal allowing youth to participate in Scouting without regard to sexual orientation, but directed each delegate to consider any new information presented at the national meeting and to vote their consciences on this issue.”

The Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition is pleased with the repeal of the ban on openly gay scouts. Executive Director, Jason Landau Goodman, said,

“There have always been gay scouts. It’s an irrational fear based in ignorance that this is something new. Members of the scouting community participate because they care deeply about its mission, to foster responsible citizenship, character development, and self-reliance. That is all that should matter, and its members should be able to serve the organization regardless of their race, religion, or sexual orientation.”

Some representatives of scouting were unwilling to comment on the change. Lehigh Valley’s The Morning Call was unable to get a comment from Craig Poland, director of the Lehigh Valley’s Minsi Trails Boy Scout council.

Scout leaders had mixed reactions to the change. Some fear that they will lose a significant number of their membership, or that funding from religious organizations, which support 70% of Boy Scout Troops, will be revoked.

“I have no problem with it [the policy change]… I don’t know what will happen. We may have phone calls by next week from a half-dozen people saying my child will not be participating,” said Raymond Weaver, a Troop Leader in Whitehall, PA

Others are frustrated by the continuation of the ban on LGBT adult volunteers. National delegate John F. Pyfer of Lancaster called the vote a “hopeful first step,” towards allowing openly LGBTQ leaders into scouting. He indicated that delegates from Baltimore and Los Angeles were considering introducing a policy repealing the ban on LGBT adults next year.

Image from the Associated Press

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