BY KEN LITTLE
Officials of the Nolichuckey District Boy Scouts of America (BSA) are taking a wait-and-see stance about a pending decision by the national BSA board regarding possible changes to a longstanding organizational ban on gay members and leaders.
The BSA's national executive board, which has more than 70 members, was expected to vote today on whether to lift a ban that was reaffirmed in 2012 after the board made a two-year study of the issue.
The study took into consideration a number of incidents in various parts of the country in which improper sexual situations have occurred involving leaders and Boy Scouts.
But the longstanding policy of the 102-year-old organization has drawn strong criticism, especially in recent years, from gay rights organizations and some former Scouts and Scout leaders.
A few years ago the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the organization's legal right to determine its own policy on such issues.
A BSA spokesman said late last month that the national board was considering removing the national restriction based on sexual orientation and leaving the decision up to local chapters.
Some gay rights activists have said that removing the national ban and allowing local units to decide policy doesn't go far enough.
Several local Scouting leaders, gathered here Tuesday for the annual Nolachuckey District Friends of Scouting Breakfast, said it's unlikely a policy change of the kind under consideration will affect how Scouting is administered locally.
"At this time it's still a proposal. The [Sequoyah] Council has not acted on it," said Alan Corley, a Tusculum resident active for many years as a volunteer leader in Scouting.
When the national BSA board makes a policy decision, "That will be the official policy, and we will go from there," Corley said.
Wesley Miller, professional BSA Nolichuckey District scout executive, said the proposal, if adopted, would mean that the final selection of all leaders "will be at the local level."
"But no decision has been made at this time," Miller said. "The charter organization has always had the ultimate authority to select the leadership of our units."
Leaders will be selected "as a council" if there is a change in the national policy regarding gays, Miller said.
"As a council, we just have to go with national policy," he said.
He added, however, that the charter organization will have the "final say."
The Sequoyah Council serves 15 1/2 counties in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, broken into seven districts.
Featured Friends of Scouting Breakfast speaker Thomas J. Burleson, a Johnson City businessman and an Eagle Scout, addressed the issue during his talk on Wednesday.
"Right now, no decision has been made," Burleson said. "This is a national board decision. A decision will be made, and we will move forward with it."