Monday, Jul 25, 2016
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Ottawa Hills parents vote to maintain ties with Boy Scouts

Policy of excluding gays, others debated

Ottawa Hills parents voted Tuesday to renew a charter between a parents’ group and a Boy Scouts troop.

The debate about the Ottawa Hills Schools Parents Association’s involvement with Boy Scout Troop 27 and two affiliated groups centered on some parents’ concern about the Boy Scouts of America’s policy of excluding gay, atheist, and agnostic members.

Parents filed into the Ottawa Hills High School library between 6:30 and 8 p.m. to cast paper ballots. A vote tally wasn’t complete Tuesday night, but parents association leaders said the majority of members voted affirmatively that the group was “equipped to fulfill the requirements” of the charter.

Based on the vote, the group will renew its charter with the Boy Scout troop, and related Cub Scout and Venture Scout troops.

“The Executive Board commends members for the thoughtful and constructive dialogue in last week’s forum and for participating in tonight’s vote,” the group said in a statement.

Members crowded the library last week to debate the issue, and most appeared to back keeping the charter with the Scouts. However, there was also a unanimous agreement among speakers that the national Scouts’ exclusionary policies were wrong.

Many who spoke last week and voted Tuesday said the local Scout group has a history of inclusion and does not discriminate, and said they hope the national Scout organization’s position on gays, atheists, and agnostics soon changes. But the best way to change those positions was from within, many said, not by ending an agreement with the Scouts and either closing down the troop or forcing it to reopen with a church or other organization.

Bill Wolff, who has children in the local Scout troop, said the Boy Scouts has a strong history of community support in Ottawa Hills, and there would be no winners if the charter agreement ended.

’I believe the greater good and the positives completely outweigh the negatives,” he said of keeping the charter.

Liz Sheets, who lives in Ottawa Hills with her partner, said she’s been welcomed into the community and never felt uncomfortable because of her sexual orientation. She has children who participated in the Scouts, and she volunteered with and was welcomed by the troop.

She said she was torn on the issue: During last week’s debate, she noted that she would be discriminated against by the Scouts under the national policy, but the local troop had been supportive of her.

“I really struggled,” she said Tuesday.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086.

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