As the Boy Scouts prepare for their national convention in Philadelphia, a local Scout council is defying the organization’s policy after voting unanimously not to discriminate against homosexuals who wish to be members.

The Philadelphia area’s Cradle of Liberty Council, the nation’s third largest, added “sexual orientation” to its policy of nondiscrimination, setting up a conflict at the convention, which begins today, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

From the national organization’s standpoint, however, the issue is clear.

“No council is allowed to depart from Boy Scouts policy,” spokesman Gregg Shields told WorldNetDaily in a telephone interview from Philadelphia.

“We have a national policy that has been in existence since we were formed,” he said. “The Boy Scouts have taught traditional, American family values. A known or openly avowed homosexual would not be accepted for membership nor would an atheist.”

Shields said a meeting is planned with representatives of the Philadelphia council.

“We need to meet and talk with them about exactly what this means,” he said.

No time has been set, according to Shields, “but it may take more than one meeting.”

David H. Lipson Jr., board chairman of the Cradle of Liberty Council, said his colleagues are “not comfortable” with the stated national policy.

“That’s why we’re working on a solution that works for everyone,” he told the Inquirer.

Lipson’s council serves 87,000 boys in the Philadelphia area.

The Scouts’ national policy was upheld in June 2000 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the group had the right to bar homosexuals as troop leaders.

Shields said shortly after the ruling, the organization’s polling of parents of scouts and of scout-aged youth showed “overwhelming support for our existing policies.”

If a local council wants to change a policy, he said, it must adhere to the established process, which is to submit a resolution to the national meeting.

A few years ago, he said, resolutions recommending a change in membership standards were read into the record at the national meeting. The board referred the resolutions to a committee but decided to maintain the policy, he said.

Shields said the Philadelphia council has not proposed any resolutions regarding the policy, noting the deadline for submission has passed.

Philadelphia’s council is not the first to defy the national policy. In July 2001, the Boston Minuteman Council approved a bylaw that allows homosexuals to become a scout or leader if they do not reveal or discuss their sexuality.

Shields said that move essentially is not an issue.

“We don’t inquire into anyone’s sexual orientation,” he said.

Began with United Way

The Scouts’ policy has prompted some charities to cut off their funding. In December, the United Way chapter of Ventura County, Calif., stopped its allocations to the Scouts after funding the group for 57 years. The charity said it would only fund agencies that did not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

The Philadelphia council’s Lipson said the local United Way served as a catalyst for a meeting two years ago that led to its vote this month. The council met with the charity’s representatives, local Boy Scout executives, community leaders and homosexual activists.

David L. Cohen, who chaired the local United Way from May 1998 to 2001, said the Philadelphia leaders regarded the Scouts policy as harmful to young people.

“We were not prepared to allow our kids to be casualties on the battlefield of adults who should know better,” Cohen told the Inquirer.

Christine James-Brown, president of the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, said the agency tried to understand the national policy.

“In the very beginning, people knew very little about why the national had that policy,” she said, according to the Philadelphia daily. “There was anger about the policy. I think people set that aside and said, ‘Let’s try to make it work in this community.'”

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