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Posts for October, 2012

Scouts Honor: Files Reveal Scope of Boy Scouts Sexual Abuse Scandal

Jim Burroway

October 17th, 2012

The Los Angeles Times looked at nearly 1,900 files that the Boy Scouts of American kept between 1970 and 1991, along with case summaries from an additional 3,100 files from 1974 and 2005 describing some four decades of child sexual abuse which rivals the Catholic Church’s clerical scandal in breadth and scope:

The thousands of men expelled from the Boy Scouts of America on suspicion of molesting children came from all walks of life — teachers and plumbers, doctors and bus drivers, politicians and policemen. They ranged in age from teens to senior citizens and came from troops in every state.

…Many of the men who were ultimately expelled from the Scouts were highly decorated troop leaders and respected members of the community. Dozens had been honored with Scouting awards such as the Silver Beaver, a distinguished service award for adult troop leaders. John McGrew was a Dallas scoutmaster who had been recognized as teacher of the year and received a proclamation from City Hall for his work with disadvantaged youths. Two months before he was arrested on molestation charges, he was featured in Scouting Magazine, where his supervisor praised his “personal dedication and genuine love for these kids.” In 1988, 16 boys testified in court that McGrew had abused them. He was convicted on several counts and sentenced to life in prison.

Darrald Timmie Ostopowich, an assistant scoutmaster in Los Angeles, told a psychiatrist that over four years he sexually assaulted more than 50 boys, most of whom were Cub Scouts, according to his file. Scouting officials only learned about the abuse years later after news of his 1981 conviction was published. He is now in jail.

In the early 1990s, child abuse experts on an advisory panel urged the Boy Scouts of American to study the files for patterns in order to try to prevent abuse from occurring. David Finkelhor, a widely-published child abuse expert from the University of New Hampshire said that they raised the issue “pretty regularly every year or two” but was routinely ignored. Instead of mining the data to gain a scientifically-valid insight into the problem, the Boy Scouts instead used the not so subtle homosexual-as-predator subtext as part of its justification in keeping gay people out of Scouting altogether — even though research has consistently shown that openly out and proud gay people are no more likely to molest children than anyone else.

To illustrate the BSA’s insistence on equating the two, Seattle’s KING discovered that the Boy Scout’s files (which BSA called the “perversion files”) intermingled files of accusations of sexual abuse with those of Scout leaders who were merely suspected of being gay without any allegations of any kind of misconduct being made against them. Of the fifty files KING looked at, two fit that latter bill:

One file is about a scoutmaster form Ellensburg who was outsted from Scouting in 1974 after the organization had collected evidence he was gay. A memorandum from a Scout Executive in Yakima to the organization’s Registration and Subscription Executive at BSA headquarters in Texas explains they’d “become aware of a suspected moral problem” with (the Scout leader). The Yakima executive recieved information that the man had previously been discharged as a Scouting camp counselor “on suspicion of homosexuality.” The Scouts continued to build their case in the file by obtaining “proof” of their suspicion. The record is a four page letter handwritten by the scoutmaster where he confides to a friend, “Yes, I am gay (homosexual)”. It’s unclear from the file how BSA obtained the letter. The following month BSA leaders in Texas completed their file with a lifetime ban on the scoutmaster. Their “Confidential Record Sheet” lists one reason for the move: “homosexuality”.

In 1990 a Chapter Chief from Seattle was removed from the Scouting program for being gay. The Scouts launched an investigation and created a file on the man after a parent wrote to complain the leader was “effeminate”. The parent was concerned the Chapter Chief was “exerting influence over impressionable boys”. The Scout Executive of the Chief Seattle Council, Dean Lollar, requested written proof of the man’s sexual orientation from a Chapter advisor who had befriended the suspected gay leader. The friend documented a conversation with the Chapter Chief in which he stated “I am gay. In no way have I or will I ever force myself on any Scouts or Scouters that I work with. The Boy Scouts have done so many wonderful things for me and have given me purpose and goals to work for. I couldn’t think of ever doing something the Boy Scouts would be upset with.”

The Scouts were upset. They removed the man from the organization a month after recieving the written account of his admission.

The Times has published an interactive map and database where you can enter a name or city to find out about abuse allegations in your area. You can read more about the science of child sexual abuse in our 2006 report, Testing the Premise: Are Gays A Threat To Our Children?

Eagle Scouts live up to the title

Timothy Kincaid

September 5th, 2012

As we noted earlier, the Boy Scouts of America says that five Eagle Scouts have sent back their pins and resigned their membership over the dishonorable decision by the BSA to continue its discriminatory anti-gay membership policy. However, Eagle Scouts Returning Our Badges has a growing list that is much much longer than five:

September 4 – 1; total 155
September 3 – 1; total 154
September 2 – 1; total 153
September 1 – 1; total 152
August 31 – 2; total 151
August 30 – 1; total 149
August 28 – 1; total 148
August 27 – 2; total 147
August 26 – 1; total 145
August 25 – 1; total 144
August 23 – 11; total 143
August 22 – 1; total 132
August 21 – 2; total 131
August 20 – 1; total 129
August 19 – 2; total 128
August 18 – 3; total 126
August 17 – 1; total 123
August 16 – 1; total 122
August 15 – 7; total 121
August 14 – 1; total 114
August 13 – 9; total 113
August 12 – 1; total 104
August 10 – 3; total 103
August 9 – 5; total 100
August 8 – 6; total 95
August 7 – 1; total 89
August 6 – 3; total 88
August 5 – 2; total 85
August 4 – 1; total 83
August 3 – 7; total 82
August 2 – 7; total 75
August 1 – 10; total – 68
July 31 – 10; total – 58
July 30 – 12; total – 48
July 29 – 10; total – 36
July 28 – 10; total – 26
July 27 – 4; total – 16
July 25 – 1; total – 12
July 24 – 2; total – 11
July 23 – 5; total – 9
July 22 – 2; total – 4
July 20 – 1; total – 2
July 17 – 1; total – 1

UPDATE: You have to read some of these letters. All of them (that I’ve seen) from straight men. And all of them credit their decision to disassociate from the BSA to the values they learned as Eagle Scouts.

Sacto Scouts: we fired him for looking and acting gay, not for being gay

Timothy Kincaid

August 15th, 2012

The administrators within the Boy Scouts who try and enforce their anti-gay policy must all have been bitten by the SayStupidThings bug. Because repeatedly they open their mouths and out comes nonsense that is just about guaranteed to make them look oppressive and out of touch.

Take, for example, the Golden Empire Counsel in the Sacramento area which operates Camp Winton, southeast of Lake Tahoe.

In July, the national council reaffirmed their “no gays allowed” policy. So 22 year old Tim Griffin, an nine-year employee, asked the program director what they could do about it.

Well, it seems that what they could do about it was to fire Tim. But, perhaps not wanting to look like bigoted troglodytes, they decided that another explanation was better.

The Golden Empire Council, Boy Scouts of America recently found it necessary to dismiss an individual from his position on camp staff due to an issue with performance, violation of expected camp behavior and camp standards.

As this is a personnel matter, I am not a liberty to discuss details but I can tell you that, contrary to other reports, this incident has nothing to do with our membership policy. The camp director has no knowledge of this individual’s sexual orientation. As our policy indicates, the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers or members.

And as for that “expected camp behavior and camp standards”,

Glen Goddard, program director for the Golden Empire Council, told The Sacramento Bee that Griffin was dismissed because he refused to adhere to uniform guidelines.

At issue were the nail polish and earring Griffin wore, although someone also had complained about his mannerisms, Goddard says.

It’s not that he’s one of them there homoSEXshulls, nosirree, it’s cuz he looked and acted like one of them there homoSEXshulls.

I’m sure that they thought that would be the end of it. Well, not exactly. Because that explanation – while it might sound scary on the news (ooooh, fingernail polish! girly! girly! girly!) – it didn’t fly with his fellow scout employees who also were wearing fingernail polish (presumably to object to the ban). In fact, a third of the other employees – including his supervisor – quit in protest. And then went on change.org and started a petition with a somewhat different explanation:

Tim was loved not only by his fellow camp staffers, but all of the Boy Scouts who participated in programs he ran at the camp. The Golden Empire Council claims he was fired because he violated the camp’s dress code. But as his direct supervisor at the Camp Winton, I know this isn’t true. He was fired because of his sexual orientation. The men who fired Tim haven’t even stepped foot on Camp Winton this summer.

And now that about 80,000 people have signed their petition, they caught the attention of the local Fox News affiliate. In an interview with Tim and his supervisor the “no, no, no it was his nail polish” explanation seemed, well, absent of any truth. Instead what appears is that some scoutmasters didn’t like that Tim “presented himself” as too gay and wrote the council to complain. (And I think it’s fair to guess that it wasn’t the Methodists)

But, in response to all the press attention, the Golden Empire Council has decided to double-down on their explanation.

Contrary to media reports, the Golden Empire Council did not remove this camp staff member because of his sexual orientation or the BSA’s membership standards policy

Because why look like a bigoted troglodyte when you can look like a stupid lying bigoted troglodyte that kowtows to one church.

Obama joins Romney in opposing Boy Scout gay ban

A Commentary

Timothy Kincaid

August 9th, 2012

In 1994, Mitt Romney took a position in opposition to the Boy Scouts of America’s ban on gay scouts and said:

I feel that all people should be able to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of their sexual orientation.

On Saturday, the Romney Campaign confirmed that “this remains Romney’s position today.”

Yesterday, President Obama joined his opponent in expressing his disagreement with the policy: (CSMonitor)

“The president believes the Boy Scouts is a valuable organization that has helped educate and build character in American boys for more than a century,” the White House statement said. “He also opposes discrimination in all forms, and as such opposes this policy that discriminates on basis of sexual orientation.”

The Boy Scouts responded with a brief statement from their national headquarters in Irving, Texas.

“The Boy Scouts of America respects the opinions of President Obama and appreciates his recognition that Scouting is a valuable organization,” it said. “We believe that good people can personally disagree on this topic and still work together to accomplish the common good.”

I feel disappointed. President Obama’s position is weaker and more conciliatory than that of Mitt Romney. The President basically validated the “oh we can all disagree amiably” nonsense that the BSA has been throwing at the media. The existence of gay people, our validity as human, whether one’s innate attractions makes them inherently immoral, that’s all just a matter of opinion. Good people can disagree about that, you see.

No. They cannot.

This is not about a controversial issue, or even one for which counter arguments can be presented. This isn’t about whether civil unions provide adequate protection. It isn’t about military unit cohesion. It isn’t even about adoption policy.

This is about whether gay people can be let in the door. It’s just plain unvarnished discrimination: we won’t let you in because we don’t like you. That’s it. And I’m sorry, Mr. President, but both sides of that opinion are not equally moral. This is not an agree to disagree situation.

Either it is immoral and wrong to exclude gay youth for no reason other than their orientation, or it is not. And if it is immoral and wrong – so immoral and wrong that a growing number of people with deep devotion to the Scouts are breaking a tie that means the world to them – then a moral person cannot dismiss this so cavalierly.

I respect and appreciate the President. He has taken steps that have greatly advanced our equality. But it frustrates me to no end that every effort, every step has been long after others in his party have advanced and – in some instances – after Republicans have already gotten there. It should embarrass the President to lag behind Dick Cheney or Ted Olson; it should shame him to lag behind Mitt Romney.

President Obama, like all US Presidents over the past century, is the token president of the Boy Scouts. We know – there is absolutely zero question about it – that if the Boy Scouts banned members based on race that the President would refuse to hold that title. He would step away from the organization and explain that as President of all Americans in the political life of the country that he cannot be president of only some Americans in the life of scouting.

How is this different?

UPDATE: Mitt Romney’s full 1994 quote was:

“I believe that the Boy Scouts of America does a wonderful service for this country. I support the right of the Boy Scouts of America to decide what it wants to do on that issue. I feel that all people should be allowed to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of their sexual orientation.”

I was unaware of the “wonderful service” component of that quote which makes the two statements much more similar, though 18 year apart.

Eagle Scouts Returning Badges Over Anti-Gay Policies

Jim Burroway

July 30th, 2012

The Chicago Tribune reports on Rob Breymaier, an Eagle Scout and ten-year Scout leader who is returning his Eagle award in protest over the Boy Scout’s double super-secret committee which reaffirmed Scouting’s anti-gay policies:

Breymaier, who put his medal in the mail Friday, said he spent 10 years as a Scout in his native Toledo, Ohio, and another 10 years as an adult leader of the same troop. As a leader, he said he never enforced the anti-gay policy, but it was difficult to do more than quietly flout the rule in his own group.

“It was a family, and it was hard to pull away from it,” Breymaier said. “I was fully aware that it was wrong, but speaking out against that could have gotten you kicked out.”

A Boy Scouts spokesman acknowledges that they have received five medals which have been returned in protest. A Tumblr, naturally, has been created featuring letters from 37 (so far) former Scouts and Scout leaders turning in their Eagle badges.

Which “Good People” Did the Boy Scout’s Double Super-Secret Panel Talk To?

Jim Burroway

July 18th, 2012

Well, for one, Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, an SPLC-certified hate group. Jeremy Hooper has this clip of Fischer bragging about getting a call from “Boy Scouts headquarters”:

So many of you called that I got a call from the Boy Scout Headquarters. “Call off the dogs! We’re not going to do it! We’re not going to change our standards. And now we find out today that what we were told… You know that the head of the boy scouts called me, and called me after the program from Boy Scout headquarters and… it’s a testament to your listening audience how many of them have called in, we’re not doing a poll and we’re not thinking about changing the policy. And today we get official confirmation, unanimously, this panel decides that the Boy Scouts are going to maintain their ban. We are fighting a winnable war.

The Boy Scouts’ coming confrontation

Timothy Kincaid

July 17th, 2012

There are a lot of “firsts” when it comes to Boy Scout troops. There’s the “first Boy Scout troop”, the first to be chartered under the Boy Scouts of America, the oldest continually chartered, and Los Angeles’ Troop Ten which “is said to be the oldest Boy Scout troop in the United States sponsored continuously by the same organization.”

It’s sponsor is St. James in the City Episcopal Church, which has been shepherding boys to manhood on campouts and badge earning exercises since 1914. You may recall that I mentioned St. James before as an example of a church that is thriving and joyous and teaching the sort of Christian values that you would want your children to learn.

They also have this emphatically stated on their celebration of their long Boy Scout tradition:

In keeping with the policies of Saint James’ Church and School, Troop Ten and Pack Ten do not discriminate against any person on the basis of race, religion, national origin or sexual orientation in the conduct of their activities or choice of leadership.

So far the BSA has not ousted Troop 10, nor has St. James kowtowed to bigotry. I get the feeling that St. James feels that it answers to a higher authority than the current leader of the Boy Scouts of America.

And this raises an interesting situation.

Many of the oldest troops in the Boy Scouts were started by churches that are part of denominations that are increasingly finding that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a violation of God’s commandments. It’s not just the 1,200 Episcopal Church sponsored groups or the 1,800 UCC troops, who have an official policy of pressuring the BSA to drop their bigoted position. Growing segments of Lutherans (with 3,900 troops), Methodists (with 11,000 troops), and Presbyterians (with 3,600 troops) will soon find that they are being required to teach their youth values that are in contradiction with their beliefs about Justice, Mercy, and the message of Christ. And devout believers take such matters very seriously.

And then there are the secular troops. Thirty percent of the boy scouts are affiliated with civic or educational groups. Without the demands of a prophet in Utah or a Holy Father in Rome directing their position, they will increasingly find discrimination masked as moralizing to be distasteful.

Sure, the 38,000 Mormon troops (about 16% of all Boy Scouts) dominate the organization. And with their new political allies, the Catholic Church, there are another 8,500 troops that at least nominally can back the LDS. But they may want to tread softly. With their obsessive drive to be considered mainstream and to fit in as “real Christians”, the Mormon Church probably doesn’t want to be known as “The Church that Destroyed the Boy Scouts”.

Another thing about “good people”

Timothy Kincaid

July 17th, 2012

The Boy Scouts of America:

Scouting believes that good people can personally disagree on this topic and still work together to achieve the life-changing benefits to youth through Scouting.

The Boy Scouts of America specifically state that gay people may NOT “still work together to achieve the life-changing benefits to youth through Scouting”. Guess who the BSA does NOT consider to be “good people”.

Can good people disagree?

Timothy Kincaid

July 17th, 2012

“Scouting believes that good people can personally disagree on this topic…”

But can “good people” personally disagree “on this topic”?

The careful wording euphemistically avoids mentioning what “this topic” we are discussing. In fact, “this topic” is not explicitly stated anywhere within the Boy Scout’s press release. As a piece of diversionary and obfuscatory rhetoric, it is brilliant. It says almost nothing:

After careful consideration of a resolution asking the Boy Scouts of America to reconsider its longstanding membership standards policy, today the organization affirmed its current policy, stating that it remains in the best interest of Scouting and that there will be no further action taken on the resolution.

This decision follows a nearly two-year-long examination, started in 2010, of the policy commissioned by the Chief Scout Executive and national president. Under their leadership, the BSA convened a special committee of volunteers and professional leaders to evaluate whether the policy continued to be in the best interest of the organization.

The committee included a diversity of perspectives and opinions. The review included forthright and candid conversation and extensive research and evaluations – both from within Scouting and from outside the organization. The committee’s work and conclusion is that this policy reflects the beliefs and perspectives of the BSA’s members, thereby allowing Scouting to remain focused on its mission and the work it is doing to serve more youth.

“The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers, and at the appropriate time and in the right setting,” said Bob Mazzuca, Chief Scout Executive, Boy Scouts of America. “While a majority of our membership agrees with our policy, we fully understand that no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society.”

Following the recommendation to affirm the BSA’s membership policy, the executive committee of the BSA National Executive Board released the following statement: “Scouting believes that good people can personally disagree on this topic and still work together to achieve the life-changing benefits to youth through Scouting. While not all Board members may personally agree with this policy, and may choose a different direction for their own organizations, BSA leadership agrees this is the best policy for the organization and supports it for the BSA.”

Resolutions asking the BSA both to affirm and reconsider this policy have been raised throughout the years. With any resolution, regardless of subject, the BSA may or may not refer it to a committee for review or may immediately determine no further action is necessary. [emphasis added]

This policy, the policy, WHAT policy?

The only semi-direct reference would suggest that there was some question about whether or not parents value the right to address issue of same-sex orientation. The uninformed could be forgiven for assuming that the Boy Scouts chose not to incorporate a new sex education program. Or maybe they have chosen not to end their policy of opposing bullying. Or their policy supporting bullying. Or their policy of creating intentionally vague and deceptive press releases.

The Boy Scouts of America have good reason to be less than direct. Because the policy to which they take great strides to hide is shameful and an embarrassment and if stated plainly is offensive.

Not that they ever put that policy in words. In fact, the words “homosexual” or “gay” (other than as a name) are no where to be found on their website. Instead it is a policy that exists in insinuation, an understood but unstated policy, one which relies on long held exclusion of those who know full well that they are unwanted.

So let me do the BSA a little favor. Let me put their policy in words (as honestly as I can based on the comments of the Boy Scouts of America and their actions).

The Boy Scouts of America believes that possessing the quality of being attracted to the same rather than to the opposite sex is an indication of insufficient moral character. The BSA therefore forbids any same-sex attracted persons, irrespective of relationship status – even if committed to celibacy – from participation in any way in the Boy Scouts or its programs. This blanket exclusion applies to all aspects, troops, groups, or subsets of the BSA and includes –

– Boy Scout members
– Troop leaders
– Den mothers
– Participation by parents
– Scout Sponsors (for example, an MCC church)
– Any other conceivable connection whatsoever to the BSA, its leadership, or its programs

Put in honest and unambiguous language, this is a reprehensible policy. And contrary to the assertions of the BSA spokesman, I very much doubt that it is supported in its entirety by “a majority of the parents”. And I think few boys would smile and agree if told, “Should any of your friends turn out to be gay, we will consider them to be undesirable and will kick them out.”

This unstated policy makes no pretense to being based on any connection to the interests of the boys involved. They don’t even quote the usual collection of bogus fear claims or trot out the ookie-spookie “HOMOSEXUAL MEN with LITTLE BOYS in the WOODS”. They simply run with, “we don’t like you, and we don’t have to, so go away”.

Which brings me back to my original question, can “good people” personally disagree “on this topic”?

If the topic is generically about homosexuality, its etiology, culture, social position, expression, morality of expression, history, political standing, structure of relationship and matters along that line, then sure. Good people can and do differ on a whole host of aspects of understanding about human sexuality.

But when it comes to a blanket exclusion of a group of people based on an benign attribute, that’s a different matter. That is bigotry. And no, bigots don’t count as “good people”.

Boy Scouts Affirm Gay Ban

Jim Burroway

July 17th, 2012

…after a “confidential two-year review“:

An 11-member special committee, formed discreetly by top Scout leaders in 2010, “came to the conclusion that this policy is absolutely the best policy for the Boy Scouts,” the organization’ national spokesman, Deron Smith, told The Associated Press.

Smith said the committee, comprised of professional scout executives and adult volunteers, was unanimous in its conclusion — preserving a long-standing policy that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000 and has remained controversial ever since.

…The Scouts did not identify the members of the special committee, but said in a statement that they represented “a diversity of perspectives and opinions.”

Why such a closeted review? Why the secrecy? Why is such an important decision being made literally in the dark? And why were there no opportunities for opponents of the gay ban to weigh in — or to even know that a “confidential review” was taking place? The Dallas Voice has some inside-baseball which may explain today’s announcement:

The outgoing (Boy Scouts of America) president was Rex Tillerson, better known as CEO of ExxonMobil, a company with the lowest possible rating on LGBT equality from the Human Rights Campaign.

The incoming BSA president is Wayne Perry, who is retired from McCaw Cellular, which became a part of Dallas-based AT&T — a company that receives the highest possible score from HRC.

Today’s announcement smells like Tillerson’s trying to shut off the debate before Perry takes over.

This so-called two-year review comes on the heels of an announcement by James Turley, global chairman and CEO of tax firm Ernst & Young, who also sits on the board of directors at Boy Scouts of America, that he will fight to lift the gay ban. AT&T’s chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson, who also sits on the board, is also on record as being against the ban. Stephenson and Turley both reiterated their opposition to the ban last week.

Boys Scouts Board Member: Drop the Gay Ban

Jim Burroway

June 13th, 2012

James Turley, global chairman and CEO of tax firm Ernst & Young, also sits on the board of directors at Boy Scouts of America. In an interview with CNBC, Turley said that his experience led him “to believe that an inclusive environment” was “important throughout our society”:

“I support the meaningful work of the Boy Scouts in preparing young people for adventure, leadership, learning and service, however the membership policy is not one I would personally endorse,” he said in remarks made to CNBC. “ … I intend to continue to work from within the BSA Board to actively encourage dialogue and sustainable progress.”

Another board member, AT&T’s chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson, was supportive, but less willing to go out on a limb:

“Diversity and inclusion are part of AT&T’s culture and operations, and we’re proud to be recognized as a leader in this area,” he said in a statement to CNBC. “We don’t agree with every policy of every organization we support, nor would we expect them to agree with us on everything. Our belief is that change at any organization must come from within to be successful and sustainable.”

Boy Scouts To Review Anti-Gay Policy

Jim Burroway

June 6th, 2012

Zach Wahls

The Boy Scouts of America has announced that it will consider a resolution that would allow individual troops to accept gay adults as troop leaders. BSA spokesman Deron Smith however cautioned that he doesn’t expect the ban on gay scout leaders to be lifted anytime soon.

The resolution, submitted by a Scout leader from the Northeast, was presented last week at the Scouts’ national meeting in Orlando, along with a petition by presented by former Eagle Scout Zach Wahls. You may remember him as the Iowa college student who delivered a moving statement about being raised by two mothers before the Iowa House Judiciary Committee, which was considering a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Wahls presented a petition from Change.org bearing more than 275,000 names protesting the Boy Scouts’ decision to bar an Ohio lesbian mother from serving as a cub scout den mother.

Smith said that the resolution would be referred to a subcommittee, which would make a recommendation to the national executive board. He estimated that the process would probably take until May, 2013.

Judge: anti-gay activist can’t be kept out of pride event

Timothy Kincaid

June 25th, 2010

In a truly mind-boggling decision, a judge in Minneapolis has decided that an anti-gay activist must be allowed to distribute anti-gay literature within the park which the gay pride event has rented from the city.

A federal judge ruled Friday that a restraining order would violate Johnson’s First Amendment rights.

The city’s park system fought Pride Fest in court.

Since the Fest is held in a public park, attorneys for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board argued on Johnson’s behalf, although they insisted they were merely trying to clarify the rules and were not advocating one viewpoint over another.

To recap, just so we know the law,

  • The Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which marches down public streets, has the right to exclude gay people from marching so as to protect its “message”
  • The Boy Scouts of America, who recruit in public schools, have the right to exclude gay people because they have a freedom of assembly right
  • The Boy Scouts have the right to insist that their discriminatory policies can’t be used to deny them taxpayer-funded free rent
  • BUT

  • The Twin Cities Pride Fest doesn’t have the right to deny entry into a park that they rented to someone who is there for the sole purpose of working against their message.

Yeah. And we’re the ones who they say want “special rights.”

UPDATE: WCCO provides additional information:

In a footnote, Tunheim proposed a compromise in which Twin Cities Pride could designate content-neutral “free speech zones” where anyone could distribute literature or display signs.

Pragmatically, they may be smart to allow such a zone. It would minimize disturbances and confrontations and would allow those who are there to seek a space where they can feel safe and free from hostility can avoid the area.

Johnson, of course, doesn’t want to be restricted in any way.

You can’t even buy a right

Timothy Kincaid

June 23rd, 2010

Two stories today reflect how issues of justice, rights, fairness, and civil responsibility are often presumed to disappear the minute that gay folk arrive. Far too often it is assumed, indignantly, that civil governments belong to heterosexuals.

Take, for example, the situation in Philadelphia.

In 2000, the US Supreme Court found that the Boy Scouts of America are a private organization and that their freedom of association allowed them to exclude gay and/or atheist boys and men from participating. And I agree with that decision; the Boy Scouts should be able to limit their membership in whatever manner that they choose.

However, if they choose to operate as a private organization, they are not entitled to preferential treatment from the taxpayers, who include a large number of gay people, atheists, and their family, friends, neighbors, and allies. In other words, discriminate however you like, but don’t do it on my dollar.

In Philadelphia the city counsel had passed protections that banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. But they found that they were in conflict with this policy when it came to the Boy Scouts. The Cradle of Liberty council has been leasing nearly 2,000 square feet of office space from the city at the cost of one dollar per year. So Philadelphia said that the local group either needed to renounce the discrimination policies of the national group or they were not going to get any more freebies.

But the leadership of the Boy Scouts believe that they are entitled to have it both ways. It’s discrimination, they cried, to not give us free rent. We can exclude who we want, and to insist that we open our city funded doors to all residents is a violation of our free speech rights.

So they went to court arguing that not only are they entitle to free assembly and free speech but that they are also entitled to free rent.

And a jury agreed. (WHYY)

A jury in Philadelphia has decided the city cannot evict a local Boy Scouts group from a city-owned building because of a national policy that bans gays.

Cradle of Liberty Council lawyer Jason Gosselin says the ruling means one simple fact: the Scouts can stay in their building in Center City rent free.

Meanwhile in Minneapolis, it seems like gay people don’t have a right to assembly, even if the city isn’t subsidizing them. (Tribune)

The gay pride organization paid the city more than $36,000 for the use of a park. And they are trying to keep an evangelist from coming into the festival and disrupting the event.

But the city thinks that the preacher has a right to free speech – something that is startlingly missing from gay folk.

But Pride Festival organizers say they have the right to keep Johnson off the grounds because they paid more than $36,000 for the use of the park. Festival manager Jim Kelley says Johnson is free to preach his message across the street.

The Minneapolis Park Board is backing the activist on free speech grounds, so the festival organziers are going to court Wednesday seeking an injuction to reverse that decision.

Mormon/Boy Scout sexual abuse problem

Timothy Kincaid

March 19th, 2010

mormonscoutAcross the country boys bond in scouting, enjoying the experience of nature, learning social values, and earning recognition for doing good deeds. And the Boy Scouts of America provide a memorable and often rewarding experience for boys – provided that these boys are not same-sex attracted or skeptical about the Abrahamic God.

But for fourteen percent of Scouts, their experience could be more accurately described as religious training in the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the “Mormons”). Unlike a scouting group hosted by the local Methodist Church which meets in their basement, for the Mormons scouting is a part of the church, an official teaching mechanism that places theology as a higher priority than socialization. It serves not only for inculcating the beliefs of the church, but as an outreach tool.

Elder Robert Backman was recognized by the Boy Scouts of America in 1986 for his efforts in incorporating Scouting into the LDS Church’s Young Men organization. He is quoted in the Aaronic Priesthood Boy Scout Guide:

As you know, we are vitally concerned about our youth and feel that with the proper attention we can save many more than we are doing at the present time. I am convinced that Scouting is a mighty activity arm to hold these boys close while they learn to appreciate the honor of holding the priesthood of God.

If we do all else and lose the young man, we have failed in our sacred stewardship. We must not allow a separation of priesthood, Scouting, or athletics.

Every phase of the Scouting program should help young men and their leaders understand that Scouting activities are carried out to accomplish priesthood purposes.

For Mormons, family is a valued concept. But part of the definition of “family” is the concept of church brotherhood and the expectation that Mormons will raise their children to be integrated into the faith at a young age. Scouting is more of an expectation or obligation than an optional club.

And evidence is arising that the Boy Scouts of America may have taken steps to hide evidence of sexual abuse. And they may have done so for decades. (No. County Times)

The “perversion files,” a nickname the Boy Scouts are said to have used for the documents, have rarely been seen by the public, but that could all change in the coming weeks in an Oregon courtroom.

The lawyer for a man who was molested in the 1980s by a Scout leader has obtained about 1,000 Boy Scouts sex files and is expected to release some of them at a trial that began Wednesday. The lawyer says the files show how the Boy Scouts have covered up abuse for decades.

And it further appears that the Mormon Church may have played a roll in giving some predators access to children.

The lawsuit also named the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because the Mormons acted as a charter organization, or sponsor, for the local Boy Scouts troop that included the victim. But the church has settled its portion of the case.

The Mormon bishop who also served as head of the Scout troop, Gordon McEwen, confronted Dykes after receiving a report of abuse by the mother of one boy in the troop in January 1983.

In a video deposition played for the jury, the bishop said Dykes admitted abusing 17 boys. But McEwen said he contacted the parents of all 17 boys and the boys themselves, and none would confirm any abuse.

Dykes was arrested in 1983 and pleaded guilty to attempted sexual abuse, received probation and was ordered to stay away from children.

Clark told the jury Dykes continued with his scouting activities until he was arrested in July 1984 during a routine traffic stop while he was driving a van full of Scouts on a camping trip.

It has yet to be determined whether Mormons are a significant segment of the thousands of Boy Scout sexual abuse cases. But this is not the first time that the Church has been accused of enabling predators.

SF Appeal, November 2009,

The three men, who are brothers now aged 39, 41 and 43, claim that William E. Knox, 65, a Mormon church and Boy Scouts leader, molested them repeatedly in Sunnyvale between 1977 and 1987.

A brother identified as John Doe 2, who now lives in Georgia, said, “I’m a victim and a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. It was devastating to me. I’ve been abused hundreds of times over several years.”

The brother alleged, “During the abuse, I told the church leadership responsible to protect me and they did nothing to protect me.”

The Idaho Falls Post Register chronicles a story of abuse at an LDS scouting camp in the 1990’s which boggles the mind.

1988 Brad Stowell, 16, admits to Blackfoot police, his mother and his LDS bishop that he molested a 6-year-old neighbor. He is sent to LDS Social Services counseling.

1988 Stowell is hired to teach first aid at Camp Little Lemhi. He has testified he started preying on campers that summer.

1991 Richard J. Scarborough reports to the national Boy Scouts of America that a child molester has been hired to work at Camp Little Lemhi.
January 1994 Richard Scarborough writes to the LDS church president, complaining that local church leaders are ignoring his warning about the pedophile in the LDS Scout troop.

January 1995 Carol Scarborough tells Camp Little Lemhi program director Jim Summers that Brad Stowell molested a neighbor boy.

1995 Camp Little Lemhi director Richard Snow hires Stowell as aquatics director.

It continues in horrifying detail until Stowell is arrested in 1997 after repeated abuse.

And such abuse will continue for as long as the Scouts (and the Mormons and the Catholics and a whole host of other) continue to focus on and exclude gay people while ignoring the true source of the problem. They fear and expel gay men who are attracted to other adult men while ignoring the married, church going, men who secretly prey on available children of both sexes.

Now advocates for victims of child abuse are eagerly awaiting what the newly opened files will tell them. I’m certain that the Scouts are worried. I wonder if the LDS Church has reason to be concerned.

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