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eisely

Charter pulled

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This news item just popped up. For those not familiar with Northern California, Sebastopol is a town in Sonoma County, North of San Francisco. Among other things, Sebastopol declared itself a nuclear free zone many years ago, and if I understand correctly, as a matter of policy will not cooperate with federal agencies in the movement of nuclear materials. Not that it matters, since Sebastopol is not near any major route or military base. Just another symbolic gesture.

_______________________

 

Sebastopol Scouts' charter pulled over anti-bias policy

 

Boy Scouts of America says no leeway in ban against gays

August 14, 2003

 

By GUY KOVNER

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

 

A Sebastopol troop has lost its Boy Scouts of America charter for refusing to drop an anti-discrimination statement that Scouting officials say conflicts with the organization's national policy banning homosexuals.

 

Bev Buswell, lead adviser to the 16-member Venture Crew 488, said her application for charter renewal was denied because it included a statement she wrote pledging the crew would not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation and other factors.

 

Local and national Scouting officials say there is no leeway in adhering to the 93-year-old organization's membership standards.

 

"The policies of the Boy Scouts of America are not pick and choose," said Ralph Voelker, who takes over Friday as executive of the Redwood Empire Boy Scout Council, covering Sonoma, Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties.

 

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2000 that the 3.3 million-youth-member Boy Scouts, as a private organization, has a right to ban gay members and leaders.

 

On its Web site, the Boy Scouts of America states: "We believe an avowed homosexual is not a role model for the values espoused in the Scout Oath and Law."

 

The Scout Oath, including a commitment to stay "physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight," often is cited as justification for prohibiting gay Scouts and leaders.

 

Critics, including Buswell, say Scouting's opposition to homosexuality is dictated by conservative national leadership and by churches that sponsor more than half of Scout troops and packs.

 

"I feel like they stole Scouting," she said.

 

Involved in Scouting since age 16, Buswell said she was troubled by the ouster of gay Scout leaders and Scouting critics, including Dave Rice of Petaluma, a 59-year Scouting veteran removed as an assistant Scoutmaster in 1998.

 

Buswell said she drafted her first anti-discrimination statement three years ago and included it in her charter renewal application in December, knowing it might prompt the crew's termination.

 

"I actually felt it was my Scout duty," Buswell said. "I feel strongly that a terrible injustice is being done with this policy."

 

Buswell said she told crew members about the statement, but did not ask for their opinions. "I've been pretty careful not to involve the youth," she said.

 

Mariana Thorn, a former Crew 488 member, said she was dismayed by the fate of the group, which she said was "absolutely the highlight of my high school life."

 

But Thorn, an Analy High School graduate and now a junior at UC Santa Cruz, said she agrees with Buswell's protest. "A gay person can be a perfectly good role model," she said.

 

The anti-discrimination statement was approved by a parent committee that helps run Crew 488, said Merryl Mendelson of Sebastopol, the committee's chairwoman.

 

Mendelson said Scouting was "very close-minded" about prohibiting homosexuals. "It needs to be open to everybody," she said.

 

But Voelker said any Scout unit or regional council would risk loss of its charter by adopting an anti-discrimination statement, as Buswell proposed to the Redwood Empire Council.

 

"We would no longer exist as an organization," he said.

 

In June, Roy L. Williams, national Scout executive, issued a memo stating that no local council "is permitted to depart from BSA membership policies."

 

Williams said he was "unaware of any council that is not in compliance."

 

Buswell, 44, a Sebastopol real estate broker, said a meeting last month with a Scouting official failed to find common ground. "We agreed to differ," she said.

 

Buswell, a veteran Scouting leader, said 65 teen-agers and 21 adult leaders had participated in Crew 488 since 1996. The crew, which engages in such high-adventure activities as backpacking, caving, whitewater rafting, surfing and snow camping, is now in limbo because it lost the insurance provided by the Boy Scouts.

 

Buswell said she hopes to revive the crew through affiliation with the YMCA, Camp Fire, West County Community Services or some other organization.

 

Venturing, a Boy Scouts of America youth development program for men and women ages 14 to 20, has 315,296 members, nearly 10 percent of Scouting's total youth membership.

 

Buswell, a former Boy Scout troop leader, joined Crew 488 when her daughter, Alyssa, turned 14. "We turn it up a notch," she said, referring to the crew's involvement in rugged outdoor activities.

 

"You learn survival and self-reliance," she said.

 

Laurie Stoumen, a Sebastopol landscaper whose daughter was in Crew 488 two years ago, said she supports Buswell's stand.

 

"I don't believe in discriminating against anybody," said Stoumen, whose deceased brother was gay. "The whole thing is very personal to me."

 

To protest Crew 488's loss of charter, Buswell and others said they will stage a protest Aug. 21 in front of the Redwood Empire Council's office.

 

She holds little hope of a resolution, but Buswell said that in training Scouts for citizenship merit badges she advocated "standing up for what you believe in."

 

The current Scouting controversy is not the first in Sonoma County.

 

Steven Cozza, 18, a Petaluma Eagle Scout and now a world-class junior bicyclist, launched a national protest against Scouting's ban on gays in December 1997. Cozza still attends rallies when his bicycle training schedule permits, and his petition asking Scouting to change the policy has more than 90,000 signatures, said his father, Scott Cozza.

 

Scouting groups can maintain a no-discrimination policy only if they keep quiet about it, said Scott Cozza, who was ousted as a Petaluma assistant Scoutmaster in 1998.

 

VENTURE CREW 488'S STATEMENT

 

The Leaders of Venture Crew 488 hereby state that we will not discriminate in accepting membership applications from youth or adults on the basis of race, creed, gender, color, religion, marital status, sexual orientation, physical handicap, income, ancestry, or national origin.

 

We will instead judge on the integrity and character of each applicant...

 

 

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Nice lady, she screwed her crew without even telling them that she was doing it. I could respect the stand if she had approached the youth and asked them if they wanted to make such a statement.

 

 

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I am always disgusted when people like her use youths to achieve their own ends. Just like Mr. Cozza using his son to spout his own claptrap.(This message has been edited by slontwovvy)

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I agree completely with FOG (I did not think I would ever say that!)

 

Buswell said she told crew members about the statement, but did not ask for their opinions. "I've been pretty careful not to involve the youth," she said.

 

Not involve the youth in Scouting there's a novel approach.

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Not involve the youth? What she meant was she didn't involve them on the front side, but did on the backside when she managed to get their crew shut down.

 

I knew what the BSA's stand was on atheist and homosexuals when my son joined Cubs last September and when I joined as a Scouter this April. If I was against their stand, we wouldn't have joined. Or we would have joined and I'd bite the bullet knowing full well that these are the membership standards and I had to live with them.

 

My best friend from college is gay. I have a family member who is gay. I love them both and care for them deeply. I don't like or agree with their lifestyle, but I do love them.

 

I fully support the BSA's policy and will abide by it. If I didn't, I would leave the organization. I would not make a personal stand and knock a bunch of good kids out of the program in the process. That is just plain selfish.

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So, I'm wondering...if they were able to get a new leader, would the charter be restored? What happened is very wrong to the youth, but the BSA isn't to blame here, it's the woman who took a stance that she knew could jeopardize the youth. That is not leader material, IMO. Being a leader takes more selflessness than this person showed. It means that if one feels compelled to take a stand, he/she should do so without risking they youth. God forbid that I put my agenda ahead of the youth :(

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How can this woman pull this off without the consent of at least the chartering organization? Someone else had to sign off on the recharter, too.

 

If she's acting on her own, the SE should have approved the charter, declaring the statement moot since it violates BSA policy, then revoke the woman's membership.

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twocub,

 

Unfortunately there are charter organizations that don't have a clue what is going on in the unit they sponsor and rubber stamp whatever comes across their desk.

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Twocubdad, you bring up a good point. Where IS the accountability here? It seems as though this was a one-person action, and my thoughts were that she alone should lose. But somehow it had to go through the process as a unit decision. Our CO has virtually no knowledge of what we do, and how I wish that were different. However, we are working at establishing accountability at the committee level, knowing we never have a CO who is one in more than name. So, if I decided to try what that leader did, what IS the process that should have stopped it before the charter was revoked? Anyone know?

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The really sad part about this entire episode, is the effect it will have on the youth. If this were a Pack or Troop, I could see the lack of youth input as even a "boy run" troop the adults do a lot of the actual administration duties. But a Crew is supposed to be totally run by the youth, from check book to charter, my kids do that actual work, I just advisor when asked or see something that violates G2SS. Right now, all of my youth are actually adults, so I would have never placed my views above theirs. Unfortunately, she has decided to use the youth to grind her own axe. Perhaps the committee approved and the COR, which wasn't mentioned in the article, may have gone along knowingly. More than likely, the COR either didn't know or didn't care.

 

I find the comment by Scott Cozza quite interesting regarding the ability to maintain non-discrimination policies. I didn't know that people kicked out of scouts were making policy decisions for the rest of us scouters.

 

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In re reading the original article, it states that the subject was discussed in the unit committee and that the committee approved including the non discrimination statement in the recharter application. This still leaves the youth out of the decision making process. One does wonder if at least some of the youth members aren't looking for a different home in scouting as we speak.

 

I suspect if different leadership stepped forward and the CO was willing, the unit could be rechartered if it chose to comply.

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Eisely writes:

 

> This still leaves the youth out of the decision making process. One does wonder if at least some of

> the youth members aren't looking for a different home in scouting as we speak.

 

The youth in this unit were not in the decision-making process -- the parents and unit committee were. And as I understand it from the people involved there, the youth members generally share their parent's views on the issue, which is that they vary between frustrated with the BSA and outright disgusted. Rather than look for a new Scouting home, the crew members are sticking together but are looking to re-form under another organization, such as Campfire or 4H.

 

Furthermore, it is a mischaracterization to assume -- as several have on this forum -- that this was the action of one adult using the youth "to achieve their own ends." Simply re-reading the article from the Press-Democrat should show you that there was a pretty good consensus among the members of this unit.

 

You could make a better argument that it was actually the BSA in this case that is using the youth to achieve their own ends. When the youth and parents of a given unit are in agreement, and there is no immediate test case, what interest is served by the local BSA council kicking all these kids out of Scouting?

 

YiS,

-Mark

 

 

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However, Mark, Venturing is supposed to be 100% run by the youth with the adults there only to advise. This woman and the other adults, if they were involved, didn't even give the youth a chance to buy in on the idea or say, "well, we don't want to rock the boat until we find a new place to roost" (how's that for a mixed metaphor?). The woman in question acted as if she was in charge when, in fact, she isn't.

 

 

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It wouldn't surprise me if the reporter got Bev Buswell's title wrong -- I've been in several articles and have almost never had a reporter get my title correct. They usually try to translate it into somethine easily understood by the public -- which is perfectly understandable.

 

Lead Advisor isn't a title in the BSA. Institutional Head is -- and perhaps that's what Ms. Buswell is. It sounds like it with the reference to "her charter."

 

Now to the youth led thing. I agree wholeheartedly. The charter, however, is adult owned. The charter belongs to the chartered organization. Three signatures (all adult) are required on unit charters. Each of the three has a different purpose:

 

The Crew Advisor, Scoutmaster, Cubmaster, sign off on the charter at the bottom to verify the membership of the youth listed.

 

The council representative signs the charter to renew the agreement between the chartered organization and the Boy Scouts of America. (The goldenrod carbonless Chartered Partner Agreement forms available for free from your council office.)

 

The chartered organization head (Institutional Head) signs that it will abide by the above-mentioned agreement and uphold the policies of the Boy Scouts of America.

 

In essence, if the chartered organization does not want to agree to uphold the policies of the Boy Scouts of America, as was done in this case, the charter will not be approved by the local council.

 

Just for the sake of clarification -- take a deep breath and pretend that the IH of a troop chartered to a Church wrote next to his/her signature on the line on the charter:

 

"We fully support the Boy Scouts of America on the issues of religious belief and sexual orientation. However, we will set our own requirements for rank advancement, guaranteeing that every boy will receive Eagle Scout after 5 years tenure with our troop."

 

Would you expect a charter to be granted or renewed to such an oragnization?

 

I'd yank it.

 

DS

 

PS -- Ralph, congratulations! Sorry you had to see the elephant before you even started.

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The Man of Steele makes a very good point about media errors. When we post these kinds of articles we have to keep in mind that we are merely posting somebody else's version of the facts. Even in news media that I really respect, I always find errors when they are reporting about subjects that I feel that I really know a great deal about.

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