WHEELING - In less than two weeks, Ohio River Valley Scout Executive Robert Drury will submit a recommendation to the Boy Scouts of America National Office as to whether the group should change its national membership standards to permit openly homosexual leaders and members.
In an effort to gauge the feelings of Boy Scout leaders, charter organizations and board members, a questionnaire was given to attendees at an informational meeting Thursday at Wheeling Jesuit University. The meeting, meant to present all the facts and basis for the potential membership standards change, also was meant to clarify any misunderstandings about what could happen to the organization on a national level.
Speaking on the topic was the Rev. David Weyrick, a longtime Scout member and leader and vice president of membership from the Akron, Ohio area. Weyrick said "the issue" deals with challenges to the organization's longstanding choice to not allow openly homosexual individuals to serve as leaders.
In this photo, Scouts with Wheeling’s Troop 6 work to construct a flagpole at the Elm Grove baseball fields. Local leaders Thursday discussed potential changes to the organization’s membership standards that could permit openly homosexual members and leaders for the first time.
Weyrick said as of now, there is not a definite change proposed to the standard. However, he said a 2000 Supreme Court case, as well as a July 2012 statement by the Boy Scouts that the organization would not budge on its standards caused a pushback from some communities and charter organizations.
In explaining where the disagreement comes from, Weyrick said some charter organizations are schools or other educational groups that have strict anti-discrimination policies in place. Those policies have changed over the past decade to now include specific provisions against discriminating based on sexual orientation.
Weyrick said because of these changes, schools have had to stop allowing Boy Scout meetings in their buildings, as the school policies and standards of the Boy Scouts conflict with one another.
In an effort to alleviate the situation, Weyrick said the Boy Scouts are now working to develop a new set of standards that consider allowing homosexuals into the organization, "while minimizing any disruption" the issue may cause.
Dozens of individuals at Thursday's meeting were given questionnaires to be completed and returned to Drury, who will then create the region's stance on the issue to be sent to the national organization. A potential change could be presented in mid-April, with any vote on the matter to take place May 24.
Weyrick said no matter what is decided regarding the standards, the organization's youth protection policy, background checks for all leaders and the organization's "duty to God" will not change.
Drury told those assembled that he spends at least two hours each day discussing the issue, and no matter the outcome, he will be committed to the organization.
"I feel strongly enough about the program (to stay), regardless of change," he said.