GUEST OPINION: Ex-Scout leader cheers potential change in policy

I am overjoyed that the Boy Scouts of America is finally moving toward revoking its ban on gays in Scouting, something I have hoped for for years. It is just the right thing for Scouting now to do.

I was personally kicked out of Scouting in 1998, after 59 years in Scouting because of my support for inclusiveness in the Scout program. The BSA then used this action to devalue my testimony in several court cases by telling the state Supreme Court I was not a Scout leader.

My support for a truly inclusive Scouting program is based on my years as a Scout, leader and parent of a Scout. I have seen the changes in boys' lives because of their participation in my Scout troop. The Scout program is a wonderful way to help youth grow into adulthood.

The proposed policy change is being "discussed potentially," before a vote is taken at the May 22-24 National Council meeting in Texas. Parents of Scouts, Scout leaders and Scouts themselves should make their beliefs in Scouting known to the BSA National Council, to the Redwood Empire Council of the BSA, headquartered in Santa Rosa, and particularly to the delegates from this council to the May National Council meeting.

The proposed BSA policy would allow chartered organizations, 70 percent of them churches or religious organizations, to make their own decisions on whether their Scout units should accept gay youth or adults. However, it would not forbid other chartered organizations and Scout units from excluding gays. It would be a local option.

The Twelfth Scout Law since 1911 has said, in part: "A Scout is Reverent. He .<TH>.<TH>. respects the convictions of others in matters of custom and religion." This certainly should apply to who is admitted into his Scout troop.

The father of twin Scouts from Springfield, Va., whom you quoted ("Scouts' gay ban reconsidered," Jan. 30), should take another look at what the BSA's proposed policy actually says: "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."

In the next paragraph of the news story, a gentleman from Alexandria, Va., says that those who welcome gays should have their own Scout units, exactly what the proposed policy would encourage. Chartered organizations would have the power to follow their own mission, principles and religious beliefs in operating their own Scout units. No organization or parent would be told that their beliefs would have to either include or exclude gays in order for them to have Scouting.

Steven Cozza, an Eagle Scout in my troop, bicycle racer and now a Petaluma real estate agent inspired me to take my stand when he was 12 years old. However, a short time later the BSA dismissed me from serving in a Scout leadership position.

My own United Church of Christ in Petaluma had its Scout troop charter application rejected because of the church's belief in inclusiveness. Many church members signed a resolution for change that was passed by the General Synod of the United Church of Christ and sent to the BSA.

David A. Rice, a Petaluma resident, is a former former elementary school teacher, park ranger, Boy Scouts executive and adult scout leader for Troop 74.