California mulls bill that would take away tax breaks from the Boy Scouts of America due to its gay ban

SAN FRANCISCO — California lawmakers are considering taking some tax exemptions away from youth groups that do not accept gay, transgender or atheist members — a move intended to pressure the Boy Scouts of America to lift its ban on gay Scouts and troop leaders. Some cities have withdrawn free rent and other subsidies from the Boy Scouts over the years, but legislation introduced by state Sen. Ricardo Lara would make California the first state to target the Scouts for its anti-gay policy. The Long Beach Democrat's bill, SB 323, is scheduled for its first committee hearing on Wednesday. "Our state values the important role that youth groups play in the empowerment of our next generation; this is demonstrated by rewarding organizations with tax exemptions supported financially by all Californians," Lara said. "SB 323 seeks to end the unfortunate discriminatory and outdated practices by certain youth groups." The Boy Scouts of America reaffirmed the Texas-based organization's ban on openly gay members last summer then announced in January that it was revisiting the decision. In February, the group said it would submit a resolution on rescinding the policy to the 1,400 members of Scouting's National Council in May. Deron Smith, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the organization was aware of Lara's bill and would provide feedback on it to the Senate Governance and Finance Committee before Wednesday's hearing. "Beyond that, and our previous statements on membership standards, we don't have anything to add at this time," Smith said. The legislation, also known as the Youth Equality Act, would deny tax-exempt status to nonprofit youth groups that discriminate on the basis of gender identity, race, sexual orientation, nationality, religion or religious affiliation. As a result, it would require those organizations to pay corporate taxes on donations, membership dues, camp fees and Continue Reading

Oregon court releases 20,000 pages from Boy Scouts ‘Perversion Files’

PORTLAND, Ore. — The Oregon Supreme Court on Thursday approved the release of 20,000 pages of so-called perversion files compiled by the Boy Scouts of America on suspected child molesters within the organization for more than 20 years, giving the public its first chance to review the records. The files, gathered from 1965 to 1985, came to light when they were used as evidence in a landmark Oregon lawsuit in 2010. A jury awarded a record $18.5 million to a man who was molested by an assistant scoutmaster in the early 1980s, ruling that the Scouts failed to protect him. The case drew attention to the organization’s efforts to keep child molesters out of its leadership ranks. The files contain accusations against Scout leaders ranging from child abuse to lesser offenses that would prohibit them from working in the Scouts. The organization, headquartered in Irving, Texas, say the files have succeeded in keeping molesters out of the Scouts. The group fought to keep the files sealed in the Oregon case, but a judge ruled that since they became public record when they were used at trial, prompting the organization to appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court. The Scouts argued opening the files could affect those who were suspected but never convicted of abuse. The organization also said that if the information were to go public, it could prejudice potential jurors in future trials. Media organizations, including The Associated Press, The Oregonian, The New York Times, Oregon Public Broadcasting, KGW-TV, and Courthouse News Service had challenged the Scouts’ effort to keep the files under seal. After the ruling Thursday, the organization said in a statement that the “Scouts are safer because those files exist.” “While we respect the court, we are still concerned that the release of two decades’ worth of confidential files into public view, even with the redactions indicated, may still negatively impact victims’ Continue Reading

Boy Scouts: Our ‘anti-gay’ policy stands

The Boy Scouts of America announced Tuesday that it will continue to enforce its policy of barring gay scouts and leaders after a confidential two-year review. The organization came to the conclusion after it quietly formed an 11-person committee, comprised of scout executives and adult volunteers, in 2010 to evaluate the 102-year-old policy, Boy Scouts' national spokesman, Deron Smith, told the AP. Smith said that the group unanimously agreed "that this policy is absolutely the best policy for the Boy Scouts." The members of the committee were not named, however a statement released by the organization said that the group "included a diversity of perspectives and opinions." "The review included forthright and candid conversation and extensive research and evaluations - both from within Scouting and from outside of the organization," the statement said. The Boy Scouts announced in June that it was considering a resolution proposed at the organization's annual meeting that demanded an end to the long-standing policy. The organization will no longer continue to review that resolution in light of the committee's decision, according to the AP. Bob Mazzuca, chief scout executive of Boy Scouts of America, said in a statement that he understands "no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society." "The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers, and at the appropriate time and in the right setting," Mazzuca added. MISSOURI EAGLE SCOUT ERIC JONES COMES OUT, LOSES BOY SCOUTS JOB The Scouts boasts nearly 2.7 million members and over 1 million adult volunteers - making it one of the country's largest youth organizations, according to ABC News. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the controversial policy in 2000, ruling 5-4 that the Boy Scouts was exempt from state laws that prohibit anti-gay discrimination. Continue Reading

President Obama joins Mitt Romney in opposing Boy Scouts ban on gay members

President Obama has joined his rival Mitt Romney in opposing the Boy Scouts’ policy of banning gay members, a White House spokesman told the Washington Blade. “The president believes the Boy Scouts is a valuable organization that has helped educate and build character in American boys for more than a century,” White House spokesperson Shin Inouye told the paper in a statement on Wednesday. “He also opposes discrimination in all forms, and as such opposes this policy that discriminates on basis of sexual orientation.” The White House statement came after Romney’s campaign told The Associated Press that the Republican supports opening the organization to all. Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul told the AP that Romney’s position has not changed since 1994, when he said, “I support the right of the Boy Scouts of America to decide what it wants to do on that issue. I feel that all people should be able to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of their sexual orientation.” The Boy Scouts of America affirmed its controversial ban on openly gay scouts and leaders last month after a formal review of the policy. That affirmation increased pressure on both Romney and Obama to take a position on the issue. But Inouye told the Blade in a follow-up email that Obama won’t resign his position as honorary president of the Boy Scouts in protest. Since the Boy Scouts was founded in 1910, every U.S. president has served as honorary president during his term. [email protected] Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Boy Scouts of America ordered to pay $18.5M to man sexually abused by ex-assistant Scoutmaster

PORTLAND, Ore. - A jury on Friday ordered the Boy Scouts of America to pay $18.5 million to a man sexually abused by a former assistant Scoutmaster.The award is believed to be the largest of its kind against the national organization.Lawyers for Kerry Lewis had asked the jury to award at least $25million to punish the Boy Scouts for reckless conduct.The jury decided on April 13 that the Boy Scouts were negligent for allowing former Assistant Scoutmaster Timur Dykes to associate with Scouts, including Lewis, after Dykes admitted to a Scouts official in 1983 that he had molested 17 boys. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Portland Boy Scouts president Eugene Grant blames negligent parents for sex abuse

In a sexual abuse case involving several former Portland Boy Scouts, a Boy Scouts executive said he believes the parents of the boys are at blame. Eugene Grant, the president of the Boy Scouts council for the Portland metro area, has testified he believes the parents of the boys were negligent and even criminal in allowing them to attend sleepovers that led to the abuse, the Associated Press reported. Grant told the jury in a $29 million sex abuse lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America and its Cascade Pacific Council that the parents should not have allowed the boys to stay overnight with a single man at his apartment. The man, Timur Dykes, is a former scout leader who later admitted to being being a serial molester. He has admitted to molesting the victim who filed the lawsuit and has been convicted of other sex abuse dating back to the early 1980s. During cross-examination by the victim's attorney, Kelly Clark, Thursday, Grant said it was not Boy Scouts policy to allow unsupervised sleepovers. "[The victim's] parents should have known better," Grant told the AP. "I think it was criminal." Although Grant admitted the Boy Scouts had no formal policy against sleepovers in the early 1980s, he said he believed the parents should have used better judgment. "I just find it almost incomprehensible to think their children were going to be safe in that type of environment," he told the wire service. According to Clark, Dykes had filled the apartment where the sleepovers took place with exotic pets, an aquarium and games to attract boys from the local scout troop, which was organized by the Church of Latter Day Saints. Although lawyers for the Cascade Pacific Council had previously denied any accounts of abuse until shortly before the trial began, Grant said he believed that the council was not responsible for the abuse. Grant, who was a scoutmaster for another troop in the early 1980s, said he knew the victim when he was a scout. However, he denied Continue Reading

Victim awarded $1.4M after Boy Scouts of America found negligent in molestation case

PORTLAND, Ore. - Jurors on Tuesday found the Boy Scouts of America negligent and awarded $1.4 million to a former Portland man who was abused by an assistant Scoutmaster in the early 1980s, following a three-week trial in which secret Scout "perversion files" were used as evidence. The jury also decided the Irving, Texas-based Scouts organization was liable for punitive damages that will be decided in a separate phase of the trial. That would be in addition to the $1.4 million. The Scouts denied the allegations of negligence and said the files actually helped them keep child molesters out of their ranks. Lawyers for Kerry Lewis, the victim who filed the lawsuit, argued the Boy Scouts organization was reckless for allowing former assistant Scoutmaster Timur Dykes to continue to associate with the victim's Scout troop after Dykes admitted to a bishop for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints early in 1983 that he had molested 17 Boy Scouts. The church was the charter organization for an estimated third to one half of the Boy Scout troops in the nation in the 1980s. Dykes was later convicted three times of various abuse charges involving boys and served time in prison. Shortly before trial, he admitted in a deposition to abusing Lewis. The Associated Press had not previously named Lewis. But he said Friday he did not object to being publicly identified. Kelly Clark, an attorney for Lewis, introduced the confidential files to argue that the Boy Scouts was negligent because the files were not used to protect boys from alleged sex abusers but instead were kept secret. Although the existence of "perversion files" kept by the Boy Scouts at its national headquarters has been known for awhile, the Portland case is believed to be only the second time any of the documents have been seen by a jury. The Boy Scouts has fought to keep those files confidential. But the Oregon Supreme Court in February approved the release of more than 1,000 files the Continue Reading

Missing North Carolina Boy Scouts return safely

WAYNESVILLE, N.C. - A day after they failed to return on time from a camping trip in the mountains of North Carolina and a rescue team was dispatched to find them, eight Boy Scouts and three adult leaders turned up safely, officials said."They’re fine," Donna Johnston of the Boy Scouts' Occoneechee Council in Raleigh told the Associated Press. "They're out of the woods."Johnston said the troop camped for another night rather than trying to make their way back off the trail in the dark."They had plenty of food and water. They just camped out another day," Logan told CNN.A rescue team with tracking dogs had searched a five-square-mile area overnight. Join the Conversation: 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

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