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Local churches support Boy Scouts

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By Leslie Moore

Although some Kentucky churches are severing ties with the Boy Scouts of America in wake of the organization's recent decision to allow openly gay members to join, churches in Taylor County are continuing to support local Boy Scout troops and won't be closing their doors to them anytime soon.

"We're here to give these boys some good leadership skills and teach them valuable life lessons, and that's what it's all about," Mark Sanford, leader of local Boy Scout Troop 616, said.

According to Sanford, the troop will continue to have its weekly meeting at Bethel First Presbyterian Church in Campbellsville.

Sanford said he was surprised the possibility of a policy change captured so much attention from national media, and he believes the change was unnecessary because sexuality has nothing to do with troop activities.

Kelly Masterson, marketing and communications director for the Lincoln Heritage Council that provides the scouting program for Kentucky, said scouting is a youth program, and sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of scouting age is contrary to the virtues of scouting.   

In fact, scout leaders are prohibited from addressing sexuality and are instead required to refer children to parents or religious leaders for counseling.

Sanford said his troop stays busy with activities ranging from first aid to how to be a responsible person, and that they don't allow their time to be occupied by "all that nonsense."

Masterson said it isn't uncommon for a chartered organization, such as a church where many Boy Scout troops have meetings, to decide to not renew their charter. In these situations, Masterson said, the Council has always and will continue to work with unit leadership to find a new organization to sponsor and provide a home for the unit.

"Our focus is helping youth grow into young people of character and integrity through a program of fun and adventure," Masterson said. "When a chartered organization decides to take a step back from scouting, our office has always worked with units to identify a new home for their pack, troop or crew."

Boy Scouts is traditionally open to students in seventh grade through senior year in high school, but younger students in first through fifth grades can join Cub Scouts. 

Local Cub Scout Pack 777 will continue its strong relationship with sponsor First United Methodist Church, charter representative Chris Goodson said.

"The United Methodist Church officially considers the practice of homosexuality to be incompatible with Christian teaching," Goodson said, "although the Methodist Church affirms that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God and encourages United Methodists to be in ministry with and for all people."

Goodson also referred to a statement given by Church Bishop Lindsey Davis.

According to Davis, the decision of the Boy Scouts of America to welcome all boys as Scouts without regard to their own perceived sexual orientation doesn't conflict with the Social Principles or the 2012 Discipline of The United Methodist Church, "where we encourage our churches to be in ministry to and with all persons. I trust that our many congregations who sponsor Scout troops will continue to do so, because I believe scouting ministries are an excellent way for us to be in ministry with young people."

The policy change, which goes into effect in January, applies to youth only. Openly gay adults can't be scout leaders.

In addition to Kentucky, the Council also provides the scouting program in Indiana, Illinois and Tennessee.

To deliver the scouting program to the 1,000 units, 36,000 youth and 10,000 volunteers involved in Boy Scouts, the Council partners with more than 800 chartered organizations. Of these, Masterson said only four have notified the Council that they will not renew their charter next year.

"We've had a more positive than negative [response] from our chartered partners," Masterson said. "In recent weeks, 14 churches have contacted our office to express their interest in having a Scouting program."

Though requests for comment from representatives for local Boy Scout troops 782 and 145 were not returned before press time, Masterson said the Council has not been notified by any chartered organization in Taylor County that they will discontinue their scouting programs.