Boy Scouts Make Deal With Miami Homosexual Group

July 7, 2008 - 8:03 PM

( - In an effort to relieve tensions between the Boy Scouts of America and homosexual advocacy groups, the Miami-Dade Boy Scouts agreed last week to give up public dollars, stop recruiting at public schools and look into developing a training seminar to help Scout leaders to deal with youth who feel they may be homosexual.

The deal was made with Safeguarding America's Values for Everyone (SAVE) Dade, a local homosexual civil rights organization.

Though the agreement addresses the way scout leaders deal with youth who have questions about homosexuality, the scouts claim the agreement does not affect the BSA's national policy against homosexuality, the policy upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court last year.

"The Boy Scouts does not change its policy, that is non-negotiable," said Gregg Sheilds, BSA spokesman. "The Miami Boy Scouts may have agreed to talk to other groups, but the policy doesn't change."

Jorge Mursuli, executive director of SAVE Dade, said the agreement was an effort to tone down the harsh rhetoric coming from both sides of the Boy Scout debate and to get down to the real issue at hand: the well-being of children.

"When we first started, there was a lot of distrust or at least hesitancy on how sides all around the country were dealing with it," Mursuli said.

"There were two things at the basis of the beginning of the conversations: We don't like the [the Boy Scouts' policy on homosexual scout leaders], but we accept it and we are looking to support freedom of association. We care about all kids, including gay kids," he added.

Mursuli said SAVE Dade and the Boy Scouts, who were brought together by the local United Way, talked for over 11 months before reaching the agreement. Among the agreements made between the two groups:

-- A proposed training plan for scout leaders that would be developed with help from Project Yes, a Miami-based group that educates about the needs of homosexual youth;

-- The scouts giving up $125,000 in county funding and looking for private donations instead;

-- The end of Boy Scout recruitment in Miami-Dade schools, though they may have access to them after school hours;

-- And schools ending their sponsorship of Boy Scout troops.

Mursuli said that SAVE Dade is not anti-scout and that the controversy surrounding the Boy Scouts should not impact the kids.

"We are not against the Boy Scouts," Mursuli said. "This is an adult issue and it shouldn't be impacting any kid, gay or straight."

Harve Mogul, executive director of the Miami-Dade United Way, said his organization has always made a place for opposing groups to come together to discuss differences and work through issues "for the good of the community."

"We didn't deal with the things dividing the two groups, there was no trading on the core values," Mogul said. "What the meetings did was establish a whole bunch of things we all agreed on."

Mogul said the United Way has been urged to drop the scouts, but decided against it because of the long-standing relationship with BSA. However, many donors to the United Way continued to give money but made it clear that their money was not to be used for Boy Scouts, which cost Florida scouts almost $35,000 this year.

Gavin Grooms, executive director of Save Our Scouts, said that on the surface, the agreement does not change anything concerning how the scouts deal with homosexual issues. However, if the agreement causes the Florida Boy Scouts to deal more with the homosexual issue, then the agreement isn't as innocent as it is said to be.

"I don't have a problem with the idea that all of us need to understand each other better and if there are adult scout leaders that are unaccepting, or are not teaching acceptance of all people, then they've been wrong, they should be instructed that we shouldn't hate one another," he said.

"If that is what this agreement is going to do, great, I'm not sure there was always a problem with that, but if they are going to go out and start teaching 8, 9, or10-year-old Boy Scouts about homosexuality, I think it's a bad idea," Grooms said.