Boy Scout Troops Defy Ban on Homosexual Leaders

By Lawrence Morahan | July 7, 2008 | 8:19 PM EDT

( - Two Boy Scout troops in Providence, Rhode Island, announced they will ignore the Scouts' national policy to exclude homosexuals as Scout leaders, saying there is "no valid reason to exclude gay men and boys from scouting."

Some 21 people with Boy Scout Troop 28 signed a letter that was sent to the statewide council of the Boy Scouts in Narragansett, saying "neither religious beliefs regarding homosexuality nor unwarranted fears of abuse justify excluding thousands of committed, talented, moral boys and leaders from the Boy Scouts."

Troop 28 joins six members of Cub Scout Pack 88, in Providence, who sent a similar letter two weeks ago. Since the Supreme Court ruling last summer upholding the Scouts' right to exclude homosexuals as troops leaders, about a dozen troops nationwide have said they will defy the policy.

David Preston, a spokesman for the Narragansett Council, said he has forwarded the letters from Troop 28 and Pack 88 to the headquarters of the Boy Scouts of America in Irving, Texas.

The Scouts' actions come after Robert Pease, president of the executive board of the Narragansett Council, released a statement saying the council and the majority of Americans support the ban on homosexuals in the Boy Scouts.

The Supreme Court ruled in June that the Scouts had a right to free association under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, and that homosexual behavior is incompatible with the requirement in the Boy Scout Oath that Scouts be "morally straight."

Despite protests against the Scouts' policy - and the cancellation of donations to the Scouts by some charitable and youth-oriented organizations around the country - scouting is flourishing in the United States, according to officials with the Boy Scouts of America.

"Membership overall is solid," Preston said. "The adult volunteers for the Tiger Cubs, which is the youngest group, have actually surged in the last year. In terms of fundraising, they're about to have their biggest year ever. They had a major fundraiser in June, when they raised over $250,000, which is unheard of in Rhode Island."

Some 198 companies participated in the fundraising event, 70 of which participated for the first time.

"Scouting is something kids want and what the parents are really looking for," he added.

There are 355 Scout units in Rhode Island, Preston said. Almost all of the correspondence - about 100 letters received - supported the Scouts, compared with two letters to the council and the media taking a different point of view, he said.

Gregg Shields, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America in Irving, Texas, said his organization hadn't yet received the letter from Troop 28.

"Those individuals, like everyone else, are guaranteed freedom of speech and they're certainly entitled to do whatever their conscience compels them to do. But we hold fast to our policies and our standards for membership, and that's not going to change," he said.