A Cub Scout pack in Maryland may lose its charter if it maintains a policy welcoming gay families and members, a Scout official said Friday, raising once more a controversial issue that has roiled the Boy Scouts of America in recent years.
Pack 442 of Cloverly, Md., is conducting a poll of its members on its website about whether to retain its non-discrimination policy, which reads: “Pack 442 WILL NOT discriminate against any individual or family based on race, religion, national origin, ability, or sexual orientation.”
The members have until Friday 8 p.m., to decide if they will keep the policy and possibly not be rechartered, or if they will remove it and return to a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy welcoming all families, according to a statement on the pack’s website.
Les Baron, Scout Executive of the National Capital Area Council, or NCAC, to which the pack belongs, confirmed that the pack could lose its charter if it maintains the policy, which he noted was against the Boy Scouts’ longstanding ban on openly gay Scouts or leaders.
“Hopefully we don’t get to that point. We are working with the pack to try to work out our differences,” he told NBC News. “The policy of the Boy Scouts are what they are and my job is to not bring into (it) my own personal feelings, and all I am trying to do is maintain the quality and integrity of the Boy Scouts of America and its policies.”
The pack said it must submit the chartering application by Saturday. At that point, Baron said, the council would then have to make a decision on the charter bid and would take the non-discrimination statement into account. He said the time to make a decision varied.
On the pack’s website, a statement said the council “contacted us a few weeks ago pressuring us to remove our statement, we attempted to negotiate a rewording of the statement that would represent a compromise on the matter, but ultimately NCAC leadership felt only removal of the statement would be acceptable.” The pack’s committee chair did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
The policy was voted on by member families and “overwhelmingly approved” last August, according to the pack website, which also noted that its chartering organization supported the decision. The matter was discussed in detail with district leaders and the council from August through October 2012.
“As was stated above, it was only recently that NCAC contacted us saying they would no longer ‘allow’ this statement to be posted,” the website said.
The pack committee was split on the way forward, prompting the poll, according to the pack website.
“Some of the leaders feel the principle of non-discrimination is too precious to allow BSA to dictate that we abandon our local policy. Others feel that we should acquiesce to removal of the policy statement and return to a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy,” the website said.
Baron confirmed that he learned of the policy a few months ago. “The only reason that we do this program is try to provide quality opportunities and experiences for young people. It’s not about political issues and I’m sorry that it’s come down to that.”
A national BSA spokesman, Deron Smith, said the private organization "has policies that all councils and local units agree to follow."
"In this instance, this pack will need to evaluate if they agree to the annual chartered organization agreement," he wrote in an email to NBC News, adding that he wasn't aware of any special deadline given to the unit to make the decision. Baron said he was not aware of any deadline.
The Boy Scouts reaffirmed its ban on gays and lesbians in 2012 following a two-year confidential review.
After the Boy Scouts reaffirmed its policy banning gays, dozens of Eagle Scouts said in online postings that they had returned their medals, badges or membership cards in protest. But many other Eagle Scouts said they agreed with the policy. Since then, Smith has said there were no plans to revisit the membership guidelines.
Activist groups stepped up their campaign to end the policy after Ryan Andresen, an 18-year-old California teen, was denied the Eagle rank late last year because he is gay, and following the dismissal of Jennifer Tyrrell last April from her post as den leader of her son’s Tiger Cub pack in Bridgeport, Ohio, because she is a lesbian.
A number of troops have said they don’t follow the policy, and some companies and charities have said they would not contribute to the Boy Scouts because of the ban.