I can’t endorse that position. As I’ve written before, I think the Boy Scouts should embrace equality all the way by admitting both nonbelievers and gay adults (who remain banned).
That said, I appreciate that the people running the local Boy Scout organization face a genuine challenge.
In their first interview since the change was adopted in Texas last Thursday, National Capital Area Council President Hugh Redd and Scout Executive Les Baron described how they’re trying to keep the peace in a sprawling council whose geography places it squarely in the crossfire of America’s culture wars.
Several people already have said they wouldn’t volunteer anymore or make contributions, because of the Scouts’ decision to admit gays up to age 18. One even asked unsuccessfully for a refund of a previous donation.
“We’ve had a few individuals who have absolutely said, ‘I’m out,’ ” Redd, who chairs the council’s board, said Wednesday. “In many cases, this issue strikes at the heart of a person’s religious persona.”
The biggest risk of departure comes from troops chartered by conservative Roman Catholic and Protestant evangelical churches in Northern Virginia.
Redd said the council was urging potential defectors to focus on the fact that the resolution “reaffirmed very strongly our duty to God,” which is part of the Scout Oath.
A principal target will be Bishop Paul Loverde of the Arlington Catholic Diocese. He is known as a conservative within the church. A large majority of the 68 parishes in Loverde’s diocese host Scout units. Loverde warned Friday that the decision to admit gays meant it was necessary “to prayerfully reconsider whether a continued partnership with the BSA [Boy Scouts of America] will be possible.”
On the other side of the political divide, some activists in the District and Montgomery County would like to see troops or Cub Scout packs openly defy the ban on gay adults.
Redd appealed for a respite.
“The only thing I would ask is for people to understand this has been a bit of a traumatic period, and there is some trauma yet ahead of us. I would say, let’s savor the moment,” he said.
Liberal advocates seemed receptive to a truce, at least temporarily.
One of the most outspoken groups that has supported admitting gays, which includes parents of scouts from Troop 52 in Chevy Chase, decided at a strategy meeting Tuesday evening to concentrate for now on helping with the transition rather than pressing to admit gay adults.
“We felt that the [council] might have its hands full trying to implement the new resolution,” said Tracie Felker, a leader of the group. “I’m not sure how long this transition support will go on, but that’s where we will focus for the next several months. That said, we don’t want to lose sight of full inclusion.”
Despite prodding from me and others, Redd continued to refuse to say how he and the council’s other nine delegates to the national meeting had voted. He’d only say that a non-scientific survey beforehand suggested that any change in policy, “generally speaking, was viewed more negatively in our council than no change.”
A controversial fundraising letter in February appeared to signal that the council’s top leaders opposed admitting gays. Signed by Baron, the council’s highest-ranking staff employee, it appealed for contributions by stressing that the Boy Scouts would not “compromise our principles” by admitting gays.
Redd and Baron said it wasn’t intended as a position statement. Making matters worse, the letter was designed to go to potential donors likely to respond to such an argument — but it went to many other recipients, as well, because of a processing error.
“It was purely a fundraising appeal that did not turn out as we hoped,” Redd said. “I don’t think that . . . was our finest hour.”
I discuss local issues Friday at 8:50 a.m. on WAMU (88.5 FM). For previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/mccartney.