Some local Boy Scouts troop leaders and a spokesman for the local gay community welcome the decision by the Boy Scouts of America to end discrimination against openly gay boys and accept them into the organization.
“Every kid should have the opportunity to be in scouting,” said Walter Janoski, leader of Boy Scout Troop 311 in Exeter, sponsored by Group of Citizens.
“I don’t believe in discrimination,” Janoski said. “I will be accepting any kids that feel they want to be a part of the organization.”
Charles Dieso, leader of Boy Scout Troop 143 in Swoyersville, sponsored by Swoyersville Volunteer Hose Co., said he has no problem with the new policy.
“I don’t feel they should be segregated. On the same token, I feel (sexuality) is a private thing. … There’s a time and a place for everything, and there’s no place for that in scouting.”
Dieso said the scouts should understand that sexual “advances” should not be made on scouting trips or during any scout-related activities.
Some leaders of local troops sponsored by Catholic churches deferred comment to the sponsoring organization. A spokesman for the Diocese of Scranton was unable to provide comment prior to press deadline Thursday evening.
Previously, when the Boy Scouts of America were considering the proposal, diocese spokesman Bill Genello released a statement saying that organizations affiliated with the diocese, its parishes and institutions “are expected to function in harmony with the teachings of the Catholic Church” and that the church teaches “that all people, including those of various sexual orientations, must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”
The statement went on to say that “It is hoped that the Boy Scouts will continue to abide by the Christian principles under which they were founded.”
John Dawe, executive director of local Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender organization the NEPA Rainbow Alliance, said in an emailed response that the Boy Scouts of America took a significant step in becoming less discriminatory.
“It’s great that all youth will now be able to join scouting, regardless of their sexual orientation. But the new policy still leaves LGBT adults — including parents, Eagle Scouts and community leaders — out.”
Dawe acknowledged that one of the fears with admitting gay scouts was that the organization would see a significant decline in donations from anti-gay organizations.
“If the policy change had been sweeping and inclusive of adult volunteers and staff, perhaps the Boy Scouts would see that revenue replaced by potential donors who did not give because of the prior policy. Now, that is unclear,” he said.
Ted Martin, executive director of Equality Pennsylvania, said the decision to lift the ban on gay children is “an important step in the right direction” but that maintaining the ban on gay adults “sends a dangerous message” to young people that gay adults, some of whom might be their friends’ parents or even their teachers, “can’t be trusted” and gives credence to “long-debunked myths and stereotypes that promote fear, misunderstanding, discrimination and hate.”