Boy Scouts gay policy worries some Tampa area leaders
Scoutmaster Greg Roe has enjoyed the five years he has worked with Scouts. He likes the meetings and the camping trips, and his 15-year-old son should soon complete his Eagle Scout project.
But after Thursday's vote to allow openly gay boys to become Scouts, Roe is thinking of stepping down.
“I think they're getting pressured from outside the Scouting family,” said Roe, the Scoutmaster for Troop 402 in Dade City. “I have seen this wave of social change. That outside pressure put on the Scouting delegates was huge.”
Roe said he wasn't surprised by the vote, but doesn't like it. He said homosexuals have been a part of the Scouts for years, but not openly.
The rule change allowing gay Scouts will cause problems, Roe said. Many Scouts and Scout leaders will quit, he said, and he predicts many sponsors — usually churches and civic organizations — will cut ties.
He also thinks the ban on gay adult leaders won't last. Many leaders are recruited from the organization after they turn 18, he said.
“It's going to be challenged in a heartbeat,” Roe said. “You can be a gay boy, but you can't be a gay man?”
Meanwhile, the Gulf Ridge Council of the Boy Scouts of America, which covers much of West Central Florida, released a statement Thursday evening saying the council will honor the vote.
“By charter we are required to follow the directives of the National Board, and that is what we intend to do,” George McGovern, Scout executive of the Gulf Ridge Council, said in the statement. “We hope the community will continue to support the important work we are doing in the Gulf Ridge Council to help our youth grow to become community leaders.”
The Catholic Church sponsors several troops in the Tampa Bay area. Frank Murphy, spokesman for the Diocese of St. Petersburg, said Bishop Robert Lynch hasn't decided what steps to take.
Lynch likely will review the decision from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and use that information as guidance in making his decision, Murphy said.
Jeff Moch, an associate adviser with Venturing Crew 221 in Tampa, said he disagreed with the policy change.
“I feel if people of different beliefs want to start their own groups, they're welcome to do as they please,” Moch said.
Moch's 17-year-old son, Alan Moch, is involved with Venturing Crew 221, a coed Boy Scouts of America organization for 14- to 20-year-olds. His son also is an Eagle Scout.
Jeff Moch wonders how the organization will handle an openly gay person in the Venturing program.
“It really makes it more difficult to function,” Moch said.
Moch, said, though, that Scouting will survive the controversy.
“Scouting has been around for a very long time, and we'll figure this out,” Moch said.