Sunday, November 20, 2005

After 55 years of service they told him to leave, but (ex-)Scout David Knapp continues to do his "good turn daily"

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From the Hartford Courant: Ex-Scout Seeks Change To Allow Gays By DAVID OWENS Courant Staff Writer November 20, 2005 EAST HARTFORD -- As protests go, the gathering outside the Boy Scouts of America council office in East Hartford on Saturday seemed awfully polite. People opposed to the Boy Scouts' exclusion of gays and atheists arrived about 11 a.m. and planned to demonstrate for about an hour. Inside, Eric Magendantz, the director of field service for the Boy Scouts' Connecticut Rivers Council, was catching up on some work. When he learned that the protesters were outside, Magendantz - no doubt mindful of the portion of the Boy Scout Law that says a scout is kind - headed out to welcome them and to offer to make them coffee and use of the building's restrooms. The protesters - about a dozen carrying signs with slogans such as "Discrimination Belittles Scouting," "Bigotry Dishonors Scouting," "Equality for all kids" and "Former Cub Scout leader says Boy Scout policy hurts all families" - welcomed Magendantz with smiles. Protest organizer David Knapp told him, "We'd really like for you to change your policy." "I understand," Magendantz replied. There were no raised voices or hot tempers. The demonstrators believe that the Boy Scouts of America is a great organization that has much to offer the nation's youth, Knapp said. They just wish the organization would welcome gays and atheists. Knapp, as a youngster in New Jersey, joined the Boy Scouts and rose to the rank of Eagle. He worked for 10 years as an executive for the Boy Scouts of America, then left the organization when he married and started a family. Later in life he realized that he was gay and told his wife. They divorced. Knapp said he remained "deeply closeted." Retired and living in Guilford, he returned to the organization he loved as a recruiter and trainer of adult leaders. But a family member wrote a letter to the downstate Boy Scout council that Knapp worked with, outing him. Scouting officials responded to the letter by expelling him. He was 67. Now 79, Knapp continues working to get the Boy Scouts to change its policy. He is active with an organization called Scouting for All, which was founded by a scout opposed to the exclusion of gays. And Knapp remains a proud scout, each year wearing his uniform, complete with Eagle Scout patch, in the New York Gay Pride parade. "I grew up in scouting and loved it," Knapp said. "I came back into scouting because I loved it and believed passionately in it, and also because it would have been fun to do in retirement." The Boy Scouts have much to offer young people, especially when so many youngsters grow up in single-parent families and may find themselves attracted to drugs, violence, sex or negative media, he said. Among other things, the Boy Scouts teach problem-solving skills, leadership, how to deal with adversity , interpersonal skills and patriotism, Knapp said. And for those scouts who achieve the ranks of star scout, life scout or eagle scout, "their life accomplishments are way above average," Knapp said. "I still believe the Boy Scouts' program is the best program in the world, that we need it now more than ever, particularly for its values in the scout oath and law," Knapp said. If every boy were in a good Cub Scout pack, Boy Scout troop or Explorer post, "we would have a better country," Knapp said. And that is the reason the Boy Scouts' exclusion of gays and atheists is so troubling, Knapp said. The Boy Scouts went to the U.S. Supreme Court and in June 2000 won the right to set standards for membership and leadership that excluded homosexuals. In 2002, after being asked to reconsider its positions on gays and atheists and to allow local councils to adopt their own policies, the organization's board of directors reaffirmed its position. "An avowed homosexual cannot serve as a role model for the traditional moral values espoused in the Scout Oath and Law and that these values cannot be subject to local option choices," the board said. In excluding atheists, the board said "duty to God is not a mere ideal for those choosing to associate with the Boy Scouts of America; it is an obligation, which has defined good character throughout the BSA's 92-year history." The scouts have not, however, excluded gays throughout their history, Knapp said. During his decade of work as a scout executive, homosexuality was never discussed and simply was not an issue. Knapp and others opposed to the Boy Scouts' policy said it came about in 1978. A copy of a document provided by Knapp on Boy Scout stationery says the Boy Scouts would not accept as a volunteer leader, a unit member or an employee a person "who openly declares himself to be a homosexual." The document further states that an employee who did so would be terminated. Further, a 1991 position statement developed by the Boy Scouts and a public relations firm said: "We believe that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the requirements in the Scout Oath that a Scout be morally straight and in the Scout Law that a Scout be clean in word and deed, and that homosexuals do not provide a desirable role model for scouts. Because of these beliefs, the Boy Scouts of America does not accept homosexuals as members or as leaders, whether in volunteer or in professional capacities." Harry Pokorny, the executive director of the Connecticut Rivers Council in East Hartford, said Saturday that the Boy Scouts does not exclude any boy from its program. And if a boy were to raise the issue of his sexuality, he would be referred to his parents, a clergy member or a counselor. "We are not prepared in our program to deal with those kinds of things," Pokorny said. And although Boy Scout policy continues to say "an avowed homosexual cannot be a leader," the Boy Scouts do not ask about or investigate sexual orientation. How people conduct themselves is the standard, he said. "If, in fact, they become involved in the program and it becomes a behavioral issue or a disturbance in the troop, regardless of sex or sexual orientation, they will be asked to leave the program," Pokorny said. According to a position statement for the Connecticut Rivers Council, it asks its members to "subscribe to its programs, policies, principals and standards in support of scouting's mission." It also notes that the council reserves the right to "exclude a member if his or her behavior becomes publicly inappropriate." Knapp said he plans to continue his campaign to get the Boy Scouts to change their policy. And he said he intends to continue conducting his life in a manner consistent with what he learned as a scout. "I still try to live my life by the Scout Oath and Law and do a good turn daily," he said. Original source ====== I thought I had been done a disservice when I was kicked out as a 14 year old Boy Scout after being involved in my Troop for five years. David Knapp is a true Scout... he embodies the principals of the Scout Oath and Law better than some of the people the BSA hires down at their Texas headquarters. For more information about my past history with the Boy Scouts of America click here or here