"Is all this stuff the adults are talking about just weird?" the journalist asked the Tiger Cub Scout, while 32-year-old Jennifer Tyrrell continued to make her case for allowing homosexuals to serve in Boy Scouts leadership.
Staring at the ground, tugging at the scarf of his uniform, the little boy nodded, "Yeah."
Burns' participation in an Ohio Cub Scout pack was short-lived. His mother, a lesbian, pulled him from the unit after she was dismissed as its den mother after seven months of service. The local leader who enlisted Tyrrell ignored the long-standing policy that prohibits homosexuals from official roles, telling her instead that it would be fine, Tyrrell said.
But after someone complained to the next level of leadership, the pack was asked to comply with Boy Scouts of America (BSA) standards and removed Tyrrell from her post. Homosexual parents may accompany their kids to scout meetings or show support, but the leadership limitation stands, the BSA said, recognizing that many parents do not want their children led by homosexuals in an organization that promotes character qualities often associated with Judeo-Christian principles.
"The Boy Scouts of America treats everyone with courtesy and respect," BSA spokesperson Deron Smith said, after giving Tyrrell about half an hour to speak with scout officials in the July meeting.
"Today, representatives from the BSA accepted an online petition from Jennifer Tyrrell and her family," he said, noting it was the second time the Ohio woman had delivered petitions to the 102-year-old organization. "The BSA values the freedom of everyone to express their opinion and believes to disagree does not mean to disrespect."
A few protesters standing on the edge of BSA property argued for Christian family values. Long-time Southern Baptist Scout R. Chip Turner of Fort Worth, Texas, wasn't surprised by the small show of support for the BSA. He serves as chairman of BSA religious relationships.
"Opponents to these policies are relentless and highly vocal," Turner said. "Unfortunately, the silent majority remains largely unheard."
The U.S. Supreme Court in June 2000 upheld the Scouts' membership policy as constitutional.
Tyrrell praised BSA as "a huge cultural institution in America.
"It just has this one policy that is outdated and needs to be changed," she said. "... Really, as a parent, we just want to be involved in our kids' lives. He shouldn't have to live with this."
Independent Baptists from Mansfield, Texas, hoisted signs applauding the BSA decision as "a stand for biblical morality" and "that which is normal." Joined by three laymen from his church, pastor Joey Faust spoke of another organization with Christian roots, recalling the influence of the YMCA on his own life as he received "a good, moral foundation" as a camper and later as a counselor.
Whether the YMCA remains as committed to those foundational principles as do the scouts Faust couldn't say. For now, his concern is for the Boy Scouts of America to remain true to its convictions.
Turner, past national president of the Association of Baptists for Scouting, hopes Southern Baptist churches and members will send statements to BSA affirming the group's moral and ethical commitments.
"The Boy Scouts of America remain committed to the moral and ethical standards which have been affirmed several times in Southern Baptist Convention resolutions," he said. "Scouting remains one of the finest evangelism, family ministry and religious education tools available for established churches as well as new church plants. Scouts and their families involved in the religious emblems program are often reached for Christ and it is not uncommon for youth participants to clarify their calling to vocational ministry."
Frank Cardwell is a writer for the Southern Baptist Texan (http://www.texanonline.net/), the news-journal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
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