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Dave Olson, Published January 29 2013

Scouting policy shift may affect locals

FARGO – If the Boy Scouts of America decide to give local Scout troops the option of accepting gay Scouts and leaders, local groups should review the question promptly, according to a recently retired scoutmaster in West Fargo.

“It’s going to be a point of discussion that people will have to be comfortable with,” said Mike Reitan, assistant chief of police in West Fargo and, until recently, the scoutmaster of Troop 279, which is sponsored by Holy Cross Catholic Church and Lutheran Church of the Cross.

Local Scout sponsors, known as charter partners, have always controlled who can be a Scout leader, and Reitan said that won’t change if national BSA officials decide to drop, as they announced Monday they might, a long-standing ban on admitting gay leaders and Scouts.

If the policy does change, decisions regarding whether to accept gay individuals would be left to local Scout officials, and Reitan said if that happens, members of Troop 279 would sit down with the charter organization representative “and work through what our stance is going to be.”

It would benefit Scout troops to address the question promptly, Reitan said, as it could minimize confusion when events like campouts are held.

“They are going to have to make that decision as to whether they are going to participate in events that include gays and lesbians,” Reitan said, adding that some uncomfortable situations might result if things are not planned well.

“Do I see some sort of discriminatory-type behaviors? I don’t,” Reitan said, adding that because of the principles of Scouting, “I don’t see that they’re going to treat another human being in that way.”

Travis Christopher, Scout executive and CEO of the Northern Lights Council of the Boy Scouts of America, said with attention focused on the upcoming winter camp, the potential change in national Scout policy has not caused much of a stir locally.

“I haven’t heard much, to be honest,” Christopher said, adding that it might be too soon for many to have given the potential change much thought.

He said if the national policy is modified, some things won’t change for area Scout troops. Youth protection training will still be mandated for adult leaders and criminal background checks will still be done on every adult application, Christopher said.

“And we would still work with the charter partner where we do have a problem on the criminal background check; that wouldn’t change,” Christopher said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555

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