Eric Eckstein

is assistant scout master, Liberty Troop (Troop 71)

in Merion Station

I have been associated with the Boy Scouts since I was a Cub Scout in the Northeast during the early '70s.

I served on the staff at Treasure Island and am a member of the Scouting Order of the Arrow. My son is an assistant senior patrol leader and I am an assistant scoutmaster in his troop. I proudly refer to myself as a Scout and am honored by the associations I have had with fellow Scouts.

I disagree with State Sen. Gib Armstrong (R, Lancaster) who wrote in The Inquirer on Monday that Philadelphia should forget its anti-discrimination policy and support the Scouts, despite a stance against homosexuals.

Boy Scouts of America discriminates. There are no two ways about it. If you are a homosexual, you're out. No offense - a Scout is kind - but please leave.

Scouting is classified as a nonprofit religious organization. It is a convenient legal category that allows a group to determine who its members can be and who they cannot be, without oversight or legal action by the government.

This is very much a part of the freedoms we as Americans have in our country, and should not change.

While I love Scouting, the Boy Scouts organization has two serious flaws: its stance on sexuality and its stance on religion. It hides those flaws behind a disguise of morality. If you're gay or agnostic, you are simply not moral enough to be a Scout.

I and many others have chosen to engage the Scouts and work within the system to bring about change. It is a slow process.

I have had several conversations with the local Cradle of Liberty Council leaders and numerous ones with parents and other concerned adults. But they are all powerless individually to make changes to an organization that is ruled from national headquarters in Texas.

(This week the Boy Scouts sued the City of Philadelphia, alleging that constitutional rights had been trampled by the city's effort to force the Scouts to vacate their Beaux Arts headquarters on city land because of the organization's policies prohibiting homosexuals and atheists.

The city set a deadline of May 31 for the Scouts to change policies or begin paying market-rate rent of about $200,000 a year.)

When I first heard of the lawsuit, my question to the Boy Scouts was: "What will you do when you lose?"

They did not have any answer. Perhaps they hadn't considered a possible loss in the case.

The result of a loss in this case could be good for Scouting, though.

The only way to gain attention with the National Council and its discriminatory policies - legal as they are - is to cease having public dollars support this organization. And we can try to inspire those within the Scouts - most of whom do not really understand the discriminatory rules of the group - to stand up and speak out on the policies.

This is why the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania does not support the Cradle of Liberty Council, but does support its Inner City Program, with different rules.

The United Kingdom has the oldest Scouting group in the world and that group doesn't discriminate against homosexuals. How ironic.

Many say that Scouting is under attack. That could not be further from the truth. Scouting is a wonderful group, full of amazing people almost all of whom donate their time, skill and love so that young boys can learn to grow to be good, moral leaders in society.

All that is being asked of it is to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent, regardless of the race, creed, sexuality or religious preference of its members and of society as a whole.

Eric Eckstein lives in Merion Station. E-mail him at eric.eckstein@verizon.net

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