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Mason-Dixon Council of the Boy Scouts of America chief awaits national decision on gays

Mark Barbernitz said earlier this month in an email that his organization would follow membership guidelines in accordance with national BSA policy

February 16, 2013|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com

A local Scouting official said the organization will respect whatever decision is made when the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America votes this spring on whether to open membership to gays.

On Feb. 6, the national group decided to postpone a vote on the matter until May.

Mark Barbernitz, Scout executive of the Mason-Dixon Council of the Boy Scouts of America, said earlier this month in an email that his organization would follow membership guidelines in accordance with national BSA policy.

“If national policy removes the restriction of not registering known or avowed homosexuals, and if the Charter Partner does not have any religious or moral objections to allow homosexuals or registered leaders, then the Mason-Dixon Council would have no basis to deny membership as long as they meet all standard background checks,” the email said.

Barbernitz described a charter partner as “a religious, business or civic group that sponsors local Scouting units. They could sponsor a Cub Scout Pack, Boy Scout Troop or Venture Crew, or all three in some cases.”

Barbernitz said the Mason-Dixon chapter, which has about 2,300 members in Washington County and in Franklin and Fulton counties in Pennsylvania, has two voting members on the national board.

He said national officials probably delayed voting on the issue for a reason.

“I believe they have the best interests of the program at heart, and they want to study it,” Barbernitz said.

Gay-rights supporters said no Scout units should be allowed to exclude gays, while some conservatives, including religious leaders whose churches sponsor troops, warned of mass defections if the ban were eased.

About 70 percent of all Scout units are sponsored by religious denominations, including many by conservative faiths that have supported the ban, such as the Roman Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention and the Mormons’ Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Deron Smith, BSA director of public relations, said in a prepared statement that the executive board will prepare a resolution to be voted on by the national council at the May meeting in Grapevine, Texas.

BSA announced in January it was considering allowing troops to decide whether to allow gay membership. That news has placed a spotlight on executive board meetings that began last week in Irving, Texas, where Scouting headquarters is located.

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