Badge Of LGBT Inclusion

Amid national Boy Scout debate, Jewish committee is prepared to welcome gays.

02/20/13
Staff Writer
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Although the Boy Scouts of America opted to delay until May 24 a vote on whether to end its controversial ban on gay members, the National Jewish Committee on Scouting wasted no time in voting for the change.

Just three days before the recent Boy Scouts meeting in Dallas, A.J. Kreimer, chairman of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting, held a phone meeting of regional chairs at which the subject was discussed.

“It wasn’t an issue about gays but of leadership and national standards,” explained Rabbi Peter Hyman, the group’s national chaplain.

After a lengthy discussion, he said he recalled that the vote was 27 to end the ban, one vote to keep it and one abstention.

Kreimer said the leadership was “overwhelmingly in favor of providing for inclusion” and that he would suspect that “individual members of the committee are going to be actively engaged in changing the position” of the Boy Scouts. He said there are an estimated 40,000 Jewish Boy Scouts.

“I believe this was the first time we discussed it,” he said.

Rabbi Hyman, who is Reform, said he attended the Scouts’ Dallas meeting on February 6 and made the Jewish Scouts’ position known at the Religious Relationship Task Force he attended.

“The National Jewish Committee did not offer a resolution,” he said. “I merely reported the results of the vote. The task force, comprised of members of different religious communities, did not vote. … People are divided on this issue. The decision to postpone a vote was made so that everybody who feels passionately on either side of the issue will be able to share their concerns with the national leadership and have their voices heard.”

Rabbi Hyman, who is also spiritual leader of Temple B’nai Israel of Easton, Md., said he voted for the change “because cultural values evolve.”

“The question I asked is what is best for temples or the Boy Scouts of America,” he said. “What is best for the institution, for the organization? It is clear to me that the national perspective on values and attitudes has evolved. All we have to do is ask the secretary of defense or the Joint Chiefs of Staff to see how the evolution has worked itself out.

“The military has gone from no admission [of openly gay soldiers], to ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ to nothing. But sexual orientation doesn’t tell you anything about a person’s character or about a person’s commitment to God and allegiance to country. It tells us nothing about a person’s bravery or loyalty and dedication to others.”

Elliot Klugman of Great Neck, L.I., a national conference chair for the Jewish Committee who has served in a leadership position for more than three decades, said he questions whether the deliberations of the Boy Scouts of America “is about doing the right thing or about finance.”

“They are afraid they will lose sponsorships,” he said. “It has always been about the Catholic religion and Mormons. The Mormon Church changed its position recently about gays, and they are a key membership in scouting. … That change may have prompted the Boy Scouts to take a different position.”

Klugman was referring to a new Mormon Church website unveiled in December that encourages church members to be compassionate in discussions about homosexuality. It includes also an appeal to gay and lesbian Mormons to stay in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the official name of the religion.

But among those leading the effort to keep the ban on gays are scout leaders in Utah who say they have the support of more than three-dozen other scouting groups across the country. In Utah, the Mormon Church sponsors nearly all scout troops. Nationally, it is said to sponsor 37,000 troops with 420,000 scouts.

Kreimer said the Mormon Church is the largest religiously affiliated faith-based group in the scouts, representing about 60 percent of the 2.7 million scouts nationally.

The 103-year-old Boy Scouts has lost one-fifth of its members since 2000, when a 5-4 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court upheld its right to ban gays. It has been under increasing pressure ever since to lift that ban.

Following the court ruling, the Reform movement’s Commission on Social Action mailed a memo to congregations recommending “that congregations withdraw sponsorship and/or housing of Boy Scout troops and Cub packs. It also “encouraged” parents to withdraw their children from non-Reform affiliated troops/packs.

“However, in understanding the long-standing relationship between Jews and the Boy Scouts, as well as the many positive aspects of scouting, the memo does not require this decision to be made,” according to the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. “Each congregation and parent has autonomy in choosing how to define their relationship with the Boy Scouts of America.”

“Scouting is an outstanding program and ought to be open to all young people,” Kreimer said. “My father was an Eagle Scout and I am and my son is and my brother and his son are. Jews have been involved in scouting since the very beginning in 1910, and we will be actively engaged in lobbying to support the change in leadership and membership standards.” 

Stewart@jewishweek.org

Last Update:

02/23/2013 - 15:59

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I would just like to state that just because your gay doesn't mean we constantly want to flirt and "try it on" with other men, or woman for that matter! Young or old! So please! Have a bit of respect! We are equal in this world and we should have the same rights as every other single person! No one has the right to judge on colour, sexual orientation!! I respect your beliefs so please respect mine!!

I'm an Eagle Scout, a former Scoutmaster, a Mormon, and one who dearly loves the Jewish people. I cherish my personal interaction with one of the few remaining holocaust survivors. I also appreciate the civil tone of this piece on a current topic. May I make just one observation? The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has not made any substantive position changes regarding gays as the article intimates. The internet site referred to is, rather, an excellent place to explore one's own feelings in a venue where multiple views on a complex issue are expressed by knowledgeable contributors in a civil fashion. Gays are our brothers and sisters and, as such, they should feel our love. Some behaviors of our gay brothers and sisters do not comport with the teachings of many cultures, religions, and societies. Loving someone while not approving of their behavior based on sincerely held mores forces one to walk a fine line; something very few of us feel adequate or comfortable doing. The Mormon Church has always taught that we love our neighbor, but we don't abandon what is right. Those, like the author of this piece in Jewish Week, who present their dearly held views without rancor help us all to travel together peaceably down the road of life. Shalom!

The comment above makes it sound as though all the pedophiles that have preyed on Scouts are "gay". We all know that this is a misconception. Pedophiles have a mental illness. Homosexuals do not. I am, however, less concerned with the Scout Master issue and more concerned with the issue of not allowing scouts who have earned all the appropriate ranks,but have also "come out" the ability to become Eagle. That is ridiculous.

indeed... not just those that completed the work for becoming an Eagle Scout and then having the honor not given or taken away because they came out... A kid who is just starting to realize they are gay should not feel they need to give up their efforts and leave the scouts.

I was a scout. There is no way on G-d's green earth that I would allow my son on an overnight with a gay scout leader.

You seem to think gay equals pedophile. Statistics show that 10% of the population is homosexual. That means 1 out of every 10 people you know is probably gay. In the last year we have heard many stories of scouts who were abused by their leader. Are you assuming that they were all gay? Have you bothered to try and find out? Or are you making an assumption and judging all gays by that assumption. I believe the Bible warns us against judging others. Be careful of God's green earth may be the only thing of God you get to see...and by sharing this attitude with your son, you may condemn him to your legacy of fear and hate.

And I wouldn't let my child go anywheres with a close minded ass-hat like yourself! Do you even know any Gay people? Probably not, which means you have no room to to judge anyone!! I bet you think your a Christian too!

Then your son would miss out on the experience of an overnight, just because of your close-mindedness. God created us ALL in his image, and I hope that your son grows up to be more tolerant and accepting than his ignorant father.

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