Local troop quits over inclusion of gay Boy Scouts

SEATTLE -- It's just two days away from an historic change for the Boy Scouts of America, and a local troop says it will leave rather than endorse an organization that will begin allowing gay members.

The national organization voted last May to change its policy on homosexual membership, and that change goes into effect on January 1.

The local Chief Seattle Council of Boy Scouts had already planned for some troops quitting because of the policy change, but when the Auburn troop announced just last week it was leaving, it caught them off guard.

Jim Brass has been a scoutmaster for years and a part of scouting since he was a kid. But now he believes, "the name has been tainted."

He said when the Boy Scouts voted last May to allow gay members, the Committee for Troop 835 decided to call it quits. Brass says in spite of receiving hate mail and even death threats, they have to abide by their Christian principles. And he adds they're not haters.

"Kids in our troop have friends at school that are gay and they get along fine - they just don't want to sleep in the same tent together," he said.

Brass saud his non-profit, Help Northwest, which already operates food and clothing banks, will take on the 12 troop members. And instead of being scouts, they'll be part of a new "youth corps".

When the Boy Scouts of America voted May 23 to begin allowing gay members in 2014, many locals celebrated. They said at the time they were "overwhelmed" that "scouts no longer have to hide who they are."

Some scouts even marched in the June Gay Pride parade.

But the celebration was not universal. At the time of the vote, several churches warned they would end their scout associations at year's end. That allowed the Chief Seattle Council time to find other organizations willing to step in and sponsor troops, as scout executive Sharon Moulds says, "so the boys can still have a program."

But scoutmaster Brass's announcement just last week caught the council off guard. Moulds said most of the reaction to the policy change has been quite positive.

"We believe that Boy Scouts has had so much to offer young people for over 100 years now so it just makes us sad when they decide to leave," he said.

The local scouts council says it's still working to make sure every boy who wants to be a scout has a local troop they can join. Brass said any youth who wants to be part of an organization and adhere to a moral code is welcome in their Youth Corps.