IRVING—With temperatures surpassing 100 degrees outside the Boy Scouts of America Museum, the 7-year-old Tiger Cub Scout sweating under a hot sun on July 18 couldn’t come up with an answer as to why his mom was holding a press conference.
“Is all this stuff the adults are talking about just weird?” the PBS journalist asked while 32-year-old Jennifer Tyrrell continued trying to make her case for allowing homosexuals to serve in BSA leadership.
Staring at the ground, tugging at the plaid scarf of his uniform, the little boy nodded, “Yeah.”
Cruz Burns’ participation in an Ohio Cub Scout pack was short-lived since his lesbian mother pulled the boy out of the unit she had served only seven months. The local leader who enlisted Tyrrell ignored the long-standing policy that prohibits homosexuals from official roles, telling her instead that it would be fine, according to her account.
But after a complaint was shared at the next level of leadership, the pack was asked to comply with BSA standards and removed her as leader. Parents who are straight or homosexual are welcome to accompany their kids to scout meetings or show the same support as any parent, but the leadership limitation stands, recognizing that many parents do not want their children led by homosexuals in an organization that promotes character qualities often associated with Judeo-Christian principles.
“The Boy Scouts of America treats everyone with courtesy and respect,” responded Deron Smith, BSA public relations director after giving Tyrrell about half an hour to voice her concern in person with scout officials.
“Today, representatives from the BSA accepted an online petition from Jennifer Tyrrell and her family,” he said, noting it was the second time the Ohio woman had delivered petitions to the 102-year-old organization.
“The BSA values the freedom of everyone to express their opinion and believes to disagree does not mean to disrespect.”
That notion was lost on nearly all of the media representatives, most of them preferring to rely on a tiny group of protesters standing on the edge of BSA property to represent the “family values” argument.
Hoisting signs listing groups destined for hell, the independent Baptists from Mansfield applauded the BSA decision as “a stand for biblical morality” and “that which is normal.” Joined by three laymen from his church, Pastor Joey Faust spoke of another organization with Christian roots, recalling the influence of the YMCA on his own life as he received “a good, moral foundation” as a camper and later as a counselor.
Whether the Y remains as committed to those foundational principles as do the scouts Faust couldn’t say. For now, his concern is for the Boy Scouts of America to remain true to their convictions in spite of widespread protest by homosexual activists like Tyrrell and the various groups that joined her in Irving.
Long-time Southern Baptist scouter Chip Turner of Fort Worth isn’t a bit surprised that only a handful of folks showed up to support the decision of scouts. “Opponents to these policies are relentless and highly vocal,” he told the TEXAN. “Unfortunately, the silent majority remains largely unheard.”
Turner hopes Southern Baptist churches and individual members will seize the opportunity by sending a note of affirmation to BSA for the moral and ethical commitments to which they have remained true for more than a century.
Turner, past national president of the Association of Baptists for Scouting, told the TEXAN, “The Boy Scouts of America remain committed to the moral and ethical standards which have been affirmed several times in Southern Baptist Convention resolutions.”
“Scouting remains one of the finest evangelism, family ministry, and religious education tools available for established churches as well as new church plants. (See Turner’s article on page 9 on how to organize a scouting ministry.) Scouts and their families involved in the religious emblems program are often reached for Christ and it is not uncommon for youth participants to clarify their calling to vocational ministry,” he said.
Tyrrell claims her complaint is about more than “gay activism.” She told one media outlet, “This is about I’m a mother and you deny me a right to participate in my child’s life.” Since the April 17 action by her pack, not only has she removed her son from further participation, but made the rounds in New York and other venues with the boy in tow, eager to make her son a poster child as a presumed victim of discrimination.
Her claim that BSA keeps her from participating in her son’s life is not the only speculation she provided to journalists, several of whom told the TEXAN they had no idea why anyone would object to letting homosexuals lead scout units. She also questioned whether BSA had really conducted a two-year study of the issue before affirming existing policy.
“I asked if I could see some proof,” Tyrrell said. “They said they are not releasing anything to the public.” Since she was able to provide 300,000 online signatures collected by change.org, Tyrrell said she has a right to see the names of scout parents and other BSA supporters who encouraged the private organization to maintain their policy.
Tyrrell was accompanied at scout headquarters by Mark Anthony Dingbaum, organizing manager of change.org.
“The secret meetings, not releasing the information is definitely not conducive to a conversation,” she told reporters after meeting with national scout leadership.
However, Tyrrell praised the scouting organization, calling it “a huge cultural institution in America.” She expressed regret that she could not keep her promise to the Tiger cubs she led to see them through until they earned Eagle rank, a process that takes 10-12 years. “It just has this one policy that is outdated and needs to be changed.”
The matter is personal for Tyrrell and her lesbian partner. “Our whole life is frustrated because it’s one discrimination after another,” she said, noting the support they have received from homosexual activists. “Hundreds of thousands of people count on us.”
The Boy Scouts of America make it clear that “being a leader in the BSA is a privilege, not a right.” Adults must apply for positions after submitting background information, reducing the risk to children. Leaders are required to notify the local council if there is evidence or suspicion that youth protection policies have been violated and teach the “three R’s” of “recognize, resist and report.”
Tyrrell said homosexuality has nothing to do with her qualification as a scout leader. “My sexual orientation is no more a part of who I am as a whole than anyone else. It doesn’t come up in constant conversation,” she told reporters. “Really, as a parent, we just want to be involved in our kids’ lives.”
Recalling the day she was told she could no longer serve, Tyrrell began tearing up, stating, “It’s heartbreaking if you’re a parent. If you love a child you understand. When somebody hurts them it’s much worse than if somebody hurts you.”
Holding onto her son while flanked by her partner and another of three siblings, she added, “He shouldn’t have to live with this. He shouldn’t have to deal with it on a daily basis and I’m going to fight until he does not.”
The complete statement by BSA on this issue is available at their website at scouting.org. Readers interested in sharing their own opinion with BSA may contact them at P.O. Box 152079, Irving, TX 75015-2079. A video of Tyrrell’s news conference is available at youtube.com/sbtcweb.