Local Scouts unruffled by vote to lift ban on openly gay youth

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Forest Groves large ceremonial flag is hoisted into place Monday by local firefighters and Boy Scouts. Delegates to the Scouts national convention voted May 23 to admit openly gay youth to the century-old organization. Less than a day after a societal earthquake shifted the tectonic plates supporting the Boy Scouts of America, Dan Jordan was gathering up supplies for a Memorial Day weekend backpacking trip with Troop 355.

“We’re headed to Eagle Creek,” said Jordan, who lives in Banks and leads the group of 35 boys age 12 to 17. “Hopefully it won’t rain on us, but that’s part of the experience,” he said of their foray into the Columbia Gorge wilderness.

The Scoutmaster and member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — a longstanding major sponsor of thousands of troops within the BSA — barely blinked an eye after the Scouts reversed a century-old policy last week.

At their national convention in Grapevine, Texas, 1,460 delegates voted 61 percent to 39 percent May 23 to admit openly gay youth.

“It’s a non-issue,” said Jordan, who has three Eagle Scout sons and a fourth who’s involved in Troop 355, which is sponsored by the LDS’ Dairy Creek Ward and meets every Tuesday evening at the Forest Grove Mormon stake.

Despite Mormonism’s strong doctrinal stance against homosexuality, “the issue of sexuality has no place in Scouting,” Jordan said.

The point of the 103-year-old youth development organization, he insisted, is “to help young men become better young men, and to help them develop skills so they know how to deal with things that come up in life.”

It isn’t, he said, to exclude anyone — for any reason.

“We never ask kids about their sexual orientation,” said Jordan. “That’s not what Scouting is about.”

‘It’s a good program’

Likewise, Cornelius Mayor Jef Dalin, whose Troop 213 is sponsored by the Forest Grove Noon Rotary Club, thought the BSA’s decision to admit gay youth was beside the point.

“I’m OK with it, sure,” he said last week. “I’m a huge supporter of Scouting, and I don’t think it matters if a boy matures and realizes he’s gay.

“The bottom line is, it’s a good program. It builds the youth leadership of the future.”

Dalin, who has held leadership positions within the regional Cascade Pacific Council of the BSA, including a stint as Tuality District chairman, emphasized that Boy Scout programs “are designed to be youth-led,” lessening the significance of the watershed vote even NEWS-TIMES PHOTO - Boy scouts look on at the bugler on Memorial Day.

“Being a senior patrol leader is a big deal,” Dalin said of the privilege that goes to a small percentage of young men who demonstrate the dedication and aptitude necessary for the job. “They organize the boys and help deliver a weekly program. On camping weekends, they plan details for supplies and food.

“Kids get the opportunity to learn ‘practice makes permanent.’”

Dalin has been an adult leader of the 32 boys in Troop 213 for five years. His sons Kody, 16, a Glencoe High School student, and Robyn, 13, who attends Evergreen Middle School in Hillsboro, are both members.

Dalin and Scoutmaster Andy Cummings accompanied their group to a Memorial Day gathering at Forest View Cemetery in Forest Grove Monday morning, where the boys conducted a flag ceremony before a quiet crowd fending off Oregon’s springtime drizzle.

“Where else do they get the opportunity to develop good leadership skills?” asked Dalin, who has dedicated “easily 100 hours per year” to Scouting. “Maybe they’re not going to be the next president or a congressman, but maybe they’ll be a PTA leader or a city councilor. This is a chance for an expanded family.”

Last week’s vote — which goes into effect Jan. 1 — “will have no effect on our troop at all,” Dalin said, pointing out that Rotary included a non-discrimination clause in its sponsorship documents with Troop 213.

Dalin recalled a 17-year-old who approached him several years back, saying he thought he might be gay. “He asked me, ‘Do I have to quit Scouts?’ My response was, ‘Not because of that.’ It’s not a problem with the troop.”

It’s not a problem with Scouts in Hillsboro Troop 855 either, according to Christian Geddes, a senior at Century High School and the troop’s Assistant Scoutmaster. “An overwhelming majority either doesn’t care or is in favor of the resolution,” Geddes said prior to the BSA vote.

New boys’ organization?

Immediately decrying the national delegation’s vote, leaders of, a coalition of Scouting gay-ban supporters, announced they planned to meet in Louisville, Ky., next month to “discuss the creation of a new character development organization for boys,” according to the group’s website.

“We hoped to keep sex and politics out of Scouting. Now we grieve for those young boys who will not have the wonderful traditions and experiences that so many of us have had in Scouting,” wrote John Stemberger, founder of the Washington, D.C.- based group, which is linked to the National Christian Foundation of Tampa, Fla.

Dalin isn’t friendly toward the idea that any religious organization — including Catholics, Mormons or United Methodists, traditionally some of the BSA’s strongest supporters — might try to impose its will on Scouting.

“It’s OK to have your beliefs, but don’t ram it down anyone’s throat,” Dalin said. “The Scouts accepts any faith — we have merit badges and awards for exploring religions of all types.”

He’s disappointed that despite lifting the ban on gay youth, the BSA held onto its longstanding policy barring gay adult leaders.

Geddes, too, thinks it’s “absurd” that a gay Scout who turns 18 — even an Eagle Scout — could be barred from being an adult leader.

Dalin has had gay friends ask whether they can volunteer with the Scouts, “and I said, ‘Are you good with carpentry? I need someone to teach my boys wood shop.’

“It’s about the skills and ideas you bring to the table.”

He rejects the concern voiced by some socially conservative groups that changing the policy on gay youth will cause a mass defection from Scouting.

“It could cause a fracture within some troops, sure,” said Dalin, “but I don’t by any means think this signals the end of Scouting after 103 years.”

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