'Morally straight' doesn't mean straights only, scout troop says San Jose troop rejects policy banning gays.

February 05, 1992|By Knight-Ridder

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- San Jose Boy Scout troop 260 has sent a message to its national headquarters: It is possible to be "morally straight" and gay at the same time.

The troop is apparently the first in the country to openly proclaim that it will not honor a Boy Scouts of America policy barring gay scouts or gay adult leaders.

"We feel that their policy is inappropriate," said troop 260 Scoutmaster Michael Cahn. "We're saying this is our business, not theirs."

The troop, which meets in a Willow Glen church, has no openly gay members or leaders, Mr. Cahn said. But a dozen members of the adult committee that runs the troop unanimously passed a resolution in December outlining its position.

Though Mr. Cahn said the move was not intended to spur a public protest, it is likely the message will intensify a long-simmering debate over the Boy Scouts' ban on gay members.

It is not clear what action, if any,the national Boy Scouts of America will take against the San Jose troop, which has 26 Scouts from throughout San Jose.

The resolution has not been received yet by national officials. But Blake Lewis, a national spokesman for the Boy Scouts, said simply passing the resolution is not necessarily against national rules.

"If they were to act on those thoughts that they've shared, that would clearly put them at odds with the policy," he said.

Mr. Lewis said he could not speculate about what would happen if the troop admitted an openly gay member. In the past, national Boy Scout leaders have said the ban rests in part on a section of the Scouts' oath that requires members to be "morally straight."

The ban against gays has been met with opposition before.

Last fall, the San Francisco school board barred the Boy Scouts from public schools, citing the anti-gay membership rule. Weeks later, the Alum Rock (Calif.) School District ended an in-school program the Scouts ran. It was later taken over by the Girl Scouts, which has no similar rule. In November, the Santa Clara (Calif.) County Council of Boy Scouts created a committee to look into the anti-gay policy. The area United Way created its own committee the same day to review its own anti-discrimination policy and those of groups it funds, including the Boy Scouts.

It was publicity about just such actions that prompted Mr. Cahn and his adult son, a member of the troop committee, to draft the resolution.

Mr. Cahn, 59, said the resolution means that no person will be turned away as either a Scout or an adult leader on the basis of sexual preference. No gays have asked to join the troop, he said.

"We do not agree that sexual orientation, such as male or female homosexuality, is immoral," Mr. Cahn said, reading from the resolution. "Sexual preference is a private issue."

Not as far as the Boy Scouts of America is concerned, Mr. Lewis said. "Scouting has always reflected traditional or historic family values," he said. "We continue to believe that homosexuals don't provide a role model consistent with that focus."

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