The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) will start accepting openly gay youths starting today.
The historical change to the organization may cause controversy to begin with, but Todd Walter, scout executive for the Central North Carolina Council, does not see the change as a significant impact to BSA.
“The same thing that is impacting us is impacting the nation,” Walter said. “I don’t see it really changing anything. It is just business as usual.”
There are currently 427 scouts in the Richmond County District, Walter said. That number is made up of a total of 16 packs, troops and adventure crews.
Across the council there have been leaders that have decided to leave the BSA and take their scouts with them, Walter said. Fortunately, it has not impacted the organization as a whole.
“There is so much misinformation and miscommunication concerning this issue,” Walter said. “We have the same policy we’ve always had. The reality is there is no place for sexuality in scouting period, whether you are heterosexual or homosexual. The debate is between the parent and the child. Not child and boy scout leader.”
Greg Shelley, assistant district commissioner for Richmond County, agreed with Walter in not seeing a change in the policy.
“Everything stays the same,” Shelley said. “We still got the same little boys. It’s all about the kids.”
The new acceptance of openly homosexual youths however has caused some churches to back away from the BSA. There have been instances where some baptist churches in Richmond County have decided to ban boy scouts from meeting at those churches. Some parents and leaders have even switched to Trail Life USA as an alternative according to an article in USA Today.
“There is going to be a mixed response,” Walter said. “There are going to be people that haven’t thought this through or understand initially the reasoning behind the decision, but we need to separate ourselves from this polarizing issue and focus on the children of this organization.”
Ultimately, social issues and politics should never play a role in the BSA, Walter said.
“Our program is not a place to promote anyone’s social agenda,” Walter said. “It’s not about promoting political parties. It’s simply about helping young people make the right choices in their lives.”
Walter said that the success of Richmond County is in the outstanding board members for the district that have reaffirmed their commitment to the organization. The board includes Tom McInnis, Wiley Mabe, Tommy Deese, Joe Everett and Laverne Schultz.
“They are great and Richmond County’s boy scouts would not be the same without them,” Walter said.
Mabe, of Rockingham, believes in the importance of focusing on the youth specifically.
“We, as a supporter of Boy Scouts, want to help all youths,” Mabe said. “That is what we’re about. Our mission is to provide life skills to youth and that is what we’re going to do to the best of our ability.”
Despite some of the debate that has sparked from the issue, Walter is very hopeful when considering all the feedback he has been receiving.
“For the most part (feedback) has been very positive,” Walter said. “There are those that think we’ve endorsed homosexuality, but the truth is we’re here for these boys. We’re here to make a difference in the lives of these boys and that’s all we’re focused on.”
Efforts to contact the Pee Dee Baptist Association, based in Richmond County, before deadline were unsuccessful.