Chuck Wolfe was an ideal Boy Scout. He made Eagle Scout; he was voted national president of its young-adult program, the Explorers; he toured the country promoting the Scouts; he then served on the organization's national board for two years.
But now Wolfe is probably not the ideal Scout leader, because he admits that he is gay.
Lesley Stahl reports on the Scouts' policy of disallowing openly gay members, a right upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Wolfe says that he would probably not be allowed to join the Scouts today, and that this hurts him. But the Boy Scouts are losing out, he says. "Scouting is about character development and building good citizens. You can't build good character by teaching people to exclude folks…as long as Scouting does that, Scouting will suffer."
Some Boy Scout troops already have suffered over the no-gay policy. Eight Scouting groups in Oak Park, Ill., were ejected by the national Boy Scout organization in Dallas for vowing to flout the rule.
"I was kind of angry because we're the ones paying money to the Boy Scouts," says 10-year-old Thomas Lei, a now-former Cub Scout in Oak Park. "We don't get a say…if we want to discriminate or not," he says. An adult Cub Scout leader in the town is more blunt. "Who are these people in Texas telling me how I have to live here in Oak Park," says Kathy Egan.
But to leaders and supporters of Scouting in Broward County, Fla., who have lost funding and free-of-charge access to public facilities for supporting the no-gay policy, it's a religious matter of right and wrong.
"We're excluding based on…qualifications to be a leader," says Scott Schroeder of Sunrise, Fla. Schroeder and other adults in Scouting say they should have the right to choose leaders according to their own criteria. "Because [homosexuality] is a sin, it's immoral," says Schroeder.
Religion has become a major force in Scouting, providing leadership, funding and facilities. The ejection letter the Boy Scouts sent to the Oak Park Scouts mentioned the organization's respect for its religious partners as a central reason for maintaining its no-gay policy.
Says Wolfe, "There's no doubt that those churches have undue influence on the policies of Scouting. I think Scouting's fear is they couldn't [survive without religious support]."
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