Parents debate status of charter with local unit of Boy Scouts


An Ottawa Hills parent organization will vote next week on whether it should renew its charter with a Boy Scouts troop, brought on by concerns of some parents about the Boy Scouts of America’s policy of excluding gay members.

Members of the Ottawa Hills Schools Parents Association met Wednesday in the library of Ottawa Hills High School to debate the charter for Troop 27, which runs out in January. Association president Margo Estes told members some parents had raised concerns about the BSA’s policy. The association endorsed neither side but opened the debate up to members to decide.

Dozens of parents crowded the library, and while comments seemed passionate at times, they were mostly civil. Many have children in the scouts, were former members, or are leaders in the local organization.

Those who spoke noted that the local troop does not discriminate. Everyone who spoke also said they think the discriminatory policy of the national organization is wrong. So the debate centered on this question: What should people do when they agree with an institution as a whole but disagree strongly with one of its policies?

Brad Johnson, an Ottawa Hills Board of Education member and Troop 27’s leader, said none of the local scout leaders agrees with the national policy. And many parents said the local troop is inclusive, allowing gay parents to volunteer.

Ron Rybarczyk, who said he thinks Ottawa Hills’ parents group should keep its charter, disagrees with the BSA’s policy on gay members but ending the charter would eliminate the opportunities Troop 27 provides for boys in the village. The time will come when the policy will change, he said.

“The sands of time will run out on the Boy Scouts of America,” Mr. Rybarcyk said.

Many said the right way to change the national policy was to stay with the scouts and change the organization from within. Others said they didn’t want to sign an agreement with an organization that performs, as Jim Trumm put it, a form of bigotry.

“Whether they are enforced here or not is not the issue,” he said.

Members of OHSPA will vote on the charter from 6:30 and 8 p.m. Tuesday in the Ottawa Hills Elementary community room.