Boy Scouts of America president ponders lifting hiring ban for gay adults

The president of the Boy Scouts of America said Thursday the organization should consider lifting its ban on openly gay adult leaders — before the courts make them do it. “We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be,” Robert Gates said at the Scouts’ National Annual Meeting. “The status quo in our movement’s membership standards cannot be sustained.” RELATED: LEADERS ASK BOY SCOUTS TO END BAN ON GAY ADULTS Noting that the New York and Denver chapters have already defied the BSA’s ban, Gates warned “we can expect more councils to openly challenge the current policy.” “Moreover dozens of states — from New York to Utah — are passing laws that protect employment rights on the basis of sexual orientation,” he said. This, said Gates, “makes us vulnerable to the possibility the courts simply will order us at some point to change our membership policy.” “The one thing we cannot do is put our heads in the sand and pretend this challenge will go away,” he said. Gates, the former Secretary of Defense under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, stopped short of asking the BSA’s board to lift the ban. Gates’ words were received with stony silence in the main room where most of the BSA big shots were sitting, but there was cheering in the overflow room where the other participants watched the speech on video feed. “It was one of the few things that the room actually applauded,” Michael Schuenemeyer, a United Church of Christ liaison to BSA, said of Gates’ remarks about the gay leaders. “They were sitting on their hands until that moment.” Any move by the BSA to lift the ban is likely to face stiff opposition from the conservative religious groups that sponsor many Scout troops. Continue Reading

New York branch of Boy Scouts of America hires gay adult employee — defying national leadership

The New York chapter of the Boy Scouts of America has made history by hiring an openly gay adult — and telling bigotry to take a hike. They have hired a gutsy 18-year-old Eagle Scout named Pascal Tessier to work as a camp counselor this summer at the Ten Mile River Scout Camp in upstate New York. And nobody is prouder than his mom. “I am,” said Tracie Felker, who lives in Hagerstown, Md., when asked about her boundary-breaking boy. “It’s not a brave thing he is doing,” she added. “It’s something necessary, something that needs to be done.” Legal eagle David Boies, best known for leading the fight against California’s anti-gay marriage law, said Tessier “embodies the best qualities of an Eagle Scout, and of America.” “Permitting him to continue his service to scouts and to scouting is the right decision for the Boy Scouts, and for our community,” said Boies, who is also a former scout. “In the past, barring boys and adults from being scouts and scout leaders solely based on their sexual orientation hurt them, hurt scouting, and hurt our communities. Ending that discrimination is an important step in putting an ugly chapter of American history behind us.” Zach Wahls of Scouts for Equality called the hiring of Tessier a "watershed moment." "For the first time in the history of the Boy Scouts, an openly gay adult will join their ranks as a camp counselor," he said. “Pascal Tessier was the first out gay scout, and now it appears that he will also be the first out gay leader.” New Yorkers interviewed said Tessier deserves a special merit badge. “It’s like the civil rights movement all over again,” said Kimathi McKay, a 20-year-old St. John’s University student and a former scout from Framingham, Mass. “I’m really happy the New York chapter is standing up against the national Continue Reading

Police arrest father of Minnesota boy, 10, found in river by Boy Scout troop

CRYSTAL, Minn. — Police on Monday arrested the father of a 10-year-old boy who had been missing for nearly a month before his body was found in the Mississippi River over the weekend. Pierre Collins was arrested on suspicion of second-degree murder in the death of Barway Collins, Crystal Police Chief Stephanie K. Revering said in a news release. The Hennepin County Jail online inmate roster listed Pierre Collins, 33, in custody Monday afternoon. The Hennepin County Attorney's office received the case from police on Monday, said Chuck Laszewski, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office. Charges could be filed as soon as Tuesday afternoon, he said. Pierre Collins has said he is innocent. A message left by The Associated Press on his home telephone Monday for comment was not immediately returned. Volunteers had helped search for the missing fourth-grader in recent weeks. His body was found Saturday by searchers from a Boy Scout troop, who then notified authorities. Officials said the body was discovered about 10 feet from the river's edge in Brooklyn Center. Revering said authorities have electronic evidence that shows Pierre Collins was in that area of the river at the time the boy disappeared. Barway was last seen after school on March 18. Video surveillance from his apartment complex shows he was about to go inside, but then turned around as if he was called over to the parking lot by someone he knew, and he walked away, police said last month. Video from a school van shows that right before he was dropped off, he had said that he saw his dad and a man who he referred to as his "uncle" nearby. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner has said the cause and manner of Barway's death are still being investigated. Barway Collins' school, Evergreen Park World Cultures Community School in Brooklyn Center, sent a letter to students' parents and guardians about Barway's death and brought in social workers Continue Reading

Scouting values: Leaders call on Boy Scouts of America to end ban on openly gay adults

Were all the merit badges for naught? For Brian Peffly, a life teaching eager Boy Scouts to tie knots, start fires and build their character ended with a phone call. The vague communique told him that the Boy Scouts of America didn’t want a gay man in their midst. “I didn’t learn that discrimination was a scouting value when I was growing up,” said Peffly, 35, who has been both scout and scout leader for the better part of 20 years. “Being told I can’t be a part of my family is very devastating,” Peffly said of Troop 192, the Westerville, Ohio, group with which he has been active for much of his life. Two years after the storied organization amended its standards to prevent the expulsion of any youth member on the basis of his sexual orientation, openly gay adult members and volunteers are still in a bind. The organization made an explicit distinction between youth and adults, and leaders from the Boy Scouts of America have said there were no plans to subject the membership standards to further review. That doesn’t stop Peffly and others from praying that the topic comes up for discussion this week when more than 1,000 voting members of the Boy Scouts of America National Council converge on Atlanta for their annual meeting. “We’re really hoping that’s the case — we’re thinking and hoping and crossing our fingers that’s what they’re doing with their silence,” said attorney Josh Schiller, whose openly gay client Pascal Tessier, 18, has been hired by the Boy Scouts’ Greater New York Councils to be a camp counselor this summer. The Boy Scouts provide only a broad outline of their agenda for the private council meeting, which begins on Wednesday, and none of the proceedings will be public, but recent scrutiny of the organization’s practices has renewed activists’ expectations that the topic will be broached. I didn't Continue Reading

Boy Scouts badge of courage: So a New York camp wants to hire a gay counselor. Deal with it.

Knock, knock, Boy Scouts of America. It’s history calling — a turn of tide toward acceptance of gays in society. Fully and rightly protected by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, the Scouts adhere to banning openly gay employees and volunteers. But now, the Greater New York Council is defying the Texas-based national organization’s employment bar while honoring New York civil rights law, which forbids discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation. The Council has hired an impressive 18-year-old Eagle Scout named Pascal Tessier to work this summer as a camp counselor at the Ten Mile River scout camp in Sullivan County. Here was one more indication of how remarkably attitudes toward homosexuality are coming into line with the famous question posed by Pope Francis: “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?” The Council hired Tessier the same week that corporate giants like Apple and Walmart led the charge toward amending Indiana and Arkansas religious freedom laws that were widely seen as sanctioning anti-gay discrimination. Officials from national Boy Scouts HQ say they “are looking into the matter,” as if the hiring of a highly capable leader is a problem they must solve. Get over it. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Boy Scouts of America to meet in Times Square for the Pinewood Derby World Championship

This time, it’s personal. Two of the biggest names in small car racing are poised to face off once again at the Pinewood Derby World Championship on June 27 in Times Square. Brooklyn Cub Scout Lerrod (Roddy) Smalls II has lost two consecutive races to bitter rival Giancarlo Costa — but promises a different outcome this time. "I want to beat him!" says Roddy, 7. “I’ve gotten this far and I really don’t want to lose. I worked really hard.” In this model car version of the Thrilla in Manilla, 8-year-old Giancarlo is playing the Joe Frazier role, declining all interview requests as he, presumably, focuses on tweaking his design for the upcoming faceoff. His victories speak for themselves — but Roddy said he’ll avenge his losses at the “Showdown in Midtown” thanks to new aerodynamic features that will make his car fly. "We make the top straight so the wind can go over it," explains the member of Cub Scout Pack 1400 in Brownsville. And that’s the goal of Pinewood Derby, a time-honored American and Boy Scout tradition dating back to 1953. Each year, participating scouts receive kits containing four plastic wheels, four nails for axles, and a block of pinewood. With these materials, and not much else, they create model cars weighing five ounces or less that roll down an inclined track. "The event celebrates the process of working with your hands and seeing a project from start to finish," says Ethan Draddy, Scout Executive for the Boy Scouts of America's Greater New York Councils. "This is a project often done with son and father, giving kids hands-on experience working on a complex project. In 2015, that's more important than ever." The New York Councils of the Scouts has before hosted regional races, but the June 27 event is the first world championship in the Crossroads of the World. About 200 scouts from Continue Reading

Courtroom applauds as New Jersey man admits fatally stabbing Boy Scout leader he says molested him

A New Jersey man admitted in court to fatally stabbing the Boy Scout leader who he says repeatedly molested him as a child — to thunderous applause in the courtroom. Clark Fredericks pleaded guilty Wednesday in Newton, N.J., to passion provocation manslaughter in the brutal slaying of retired correction officer Dennis Pegg three years ago. Pegg was stabbed more than 20 times in his neck, chest and stomach, authorities say. “From the time I was 8 years old until I was 12 years old, I was sexually assaulted and raped by Dennis Pegg,” Fredericks told the court in his impassioned plea, CBS in New York reported. “It started with him wanting to touch my scar that I had through open-heart surgery at the age of 6,” Fredericks continued. “It progressed to wrestling matches and eventually led to him raping me.” Fredericks told the court that Pegg had told him he had sexual relations with one of Fredericks’ friends, who would later commit suicide in 1983, CBS reported. Fredericks said that Pegg, a "respected law enforcement officer," threatened to kill him if he "told anyone about our secret," CBS reported. Child pornography was found on Pegg's computer, reported. The 49-year-old Fredericks said his actions were triggered by the case of former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, a convicted serial child molester. "My reaction to seeing Sandusky get out of that car with his lawyer is that Dennis Pegg would never be held accountable,” Fredericks said, according to CBS. “The next day — June 12, 2012 — my shell cracked. My mind flooded with images, memories, anger and mostly shame. “At the end, I slit his throat,” Fredericks said. Fredericks is facing five to 10 years in prison as part of his plea deal. He will be sentenced in August. With News Wire Services ON A MOBILE Continue Reading

Boy Scout leader dies on Father’s Day hike with 2 sons, troop through New Hampshire

CONCORD, N.H. — A Boy Scout leader from Maryland died of an apparent heart attack while on a Father's Day hike in New Hampshire's White Mountains with his troop, which included his two sons, authorities said. Vernon "Rick" Rippeon of Westminster, Maryland, was one of four adults leading the 13-member group on the first day of a planned five-day hike in the presidential mountain range, said Lt. Wayne Saunders of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. The boys ranged in age from about 11 to 17. Saunders said a call regarding a medical emergency came in at about 11:45 a.m. Sunday from the Crawford Path on Mount Pierce, known as the oldest continuously maintained footpath in the United States. He said Rippeon suffered a heart attack about 1½ miles up the trail. CPR was started almost immediately, but efforts to revive Rippeon were not successful, and he died on the trail. "It starts to gain elevation quite quickly," Saunders said of the trail, but the group hadn't been hiking that long. "It's one of those odd things. There wasn't any rhyme or reason to it, and it was fairly quickly," Saunders said. "He just sat down on a rock and collapsed." Gunnar Burdt, scoutmaster of Troop 735 of Gamber, just outside of Baltimore, said the nearly three-mile hike to an Appalachian Mountain Club hut was planned by Rippeon, a "high-adventure" outdoors trip in scouting, where "you go do something that's going to push your limits and tests your will," Burdt said. "He was our map guy, our GPS man," Burdt said. "We relied on him heavily for planning these adventures." The group has canoed 100 miles in update New York and backpacked in the Colorado Rockies. They chose the White Mountains this year; Rippeon, an avid hiker and scoutmaster before Burdt, had visited the area before with his older son, 17-year-old Ryan, about six years ago. "He was familiar with the area and the Appalachian Trail," Burdt said. "Our plan was to go hut to hut for four Continue Reading

Boy Scout swept away by flash flood and killed at Boy Scouts of America’s New Mexico ranch

A flash flood whipped up by a nightime storm early Saturday swept a Boy Scout to his death during a 12-day camping trip at a remote northeast New Mexico ranch. The surging waters rushed through one of the scout campsites around 4:30 a.m. Saturday as the storm struck, whisking away four young scouts through the North Ponil Canyon. Three of the boys, whose ages range from 14 to 17, survived when rescuers pulled them from the raging waters, but one teen never resurfaced during the initial search. The boy's body was eventually found a mile from the campsite, New Mexico State Police said.  He has not been identified by pending the family’s notification. “This is a very difficult time for our entire Scouting family,” a Philmont Scout Ranch spokesman said in a statement to its website. “Our staff was unable to account for one youth participant, who we have since confirmed passed away. The scouts were in the first 15 miles of their trek through the ranch that covers about 214-square miles of rugged terrain owned by the Boy Scouts of America.  It’s unknown which path the scouts had taken, but multiple trails do pass through the canyon, ranch controller Steve Nelson said. Nelson does not recall any flash floods in that area of the canyon during his eight-year tenure at the ranch. The ranch has had at least one fatality in recent history when an adult died of a medical condition while on the trail. With News Wire Services Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Former Boy Scout leader of Ohio troop believes he lost membership for being openly gay

The Boy Scouts of America revoked the membership of an Ohio scout leader nearly a year after he identified himself as an openly gay Eagle Scout on television. “I had the option to lie about it,” Brian Peffly revealed to the Columbus Dispatch. “The first part of Scout law is that a Scout is trustworthy. I went with Scout law.” Peffly, the founder of a local Scouts for Equality chapter, served as a 35-year-old volunteer assistant scoutmaster to a Westerville troop. There has been progress to reverse discrimination against homosexuality within the highly conservative youth organization especially in New York where a defiant chapter hired Pascal Tessier, an openly gay 18-year-old Eagle Scout. But in Ohio, where the Simon Kenton Council adopted a diversity clause in Sept. 2014 defending the membership of youth or adult leaders regardless of sexual orientation, Peffly still lost his position. “What happened to Brian is still part of a national pattern of discrimination,” Zach Wahls, Scouts for Equality’s executive director, told the Plain-Dealer. The Supreme Court has upheld the Boy Scouts of America’s right to ban gay troop leaders. Even in Utah, a clause within the state’s new non-discrimination law allows the Boy Scouts of America to enforce its anti-gay hiring practices. Peffly spoke out against the disbandment of a Seattle troop on behalf of Equality for Scouts . He supported the Seattle troop for refusing to oust a gay leader, he said during an April 2014 interview with WBNS-TV. In the time between that interview and a fateful voicemail left by the Boy Scout’s national office in March, Peffly received a card in the mail noting his official membership. “They didn’t care about my orientation,” Peffly thought for a time. After all, “Why does that need to come up if you’re teaching fire-building or first aid or whatever,” Pleffy asked the Continue Reading