“Each troop is owned by a chartered organization,” said Jim Cook, who has worked with Boy Scouts for more than 12 years. “(Troop 11 in Smyrna) is chartered by Smyrna First United Methodist Church, and we would still have to follow our church’s rules. The same thing goes for the Baptist churches, Seventh Day Adventist or the Elks Club.”
Cook said there is still the ability for each unit to be independent when it comes to how to apply policies.
“We can choose to accept someone or not accept someone,” he said.
Last week the BSA National Board of Directors announced that they were postponing a decision on whether to allow gay boys or men to become members or serve as leaders until its annual meeting in May. At that time, approximately 1,400 members on the national council will have the opportunity to vote on the policy changes.
Jeff Fulcher, the spokesman with the Atlanta Area Council Boy Scouts of America housed in Cobb, released a statement on behalf of the local organization’s Board of Directors on Wednesday.
“After extensive meetings and discussion, the volunteers that make up the National Board of Directors have decided to continue discussion of its current leadership policy,” the release stated. “While many stakeholders will continue this discussion on a national level, our priority is serving as many Atlanta youth as possible with the best leadership development program and once-in-a-lifetime adventures.”
Fulcher said the Atlanta Area Council serves 34,412 Scouts in 13 counties in and around Atlanta. They represent 816 scouting units, including Cub Scout Packs, Boy Scout Troops, Venturing Crews, Explorer Posts and Learning for Life Groups. He was not sure exactly how many troops or Scouts are participating in Cobb alone.
Cook is a Scout Master and works with 17 young men from the Smyrna area, but has served as an assistant Scout Master and unit commissioner, which is responsible for several units, in the past.
“I don’t necessarily know if I have any boys in my troop that are gay or not,” he said. “We have our standards, we practice safe scouting and we go to great pains to make sure that there are always two adults at a time with any of our scouts.”
Cook said that at the beginning of each year, he “lays down the law” about how each Scout deserves his own privacy.
“We teach them that privacy is very important, and we teach them that if anything happens, they are supposed to talk to me or the senior level boy, and tell him or me what happened, and we take action immediately,” he said.
Cook also said that Boy Scout Troop 11, which is chartered by Smyrna First United Methodist Church, is all inclusive.
“It may be different across the street, but we just treat everyone equally here, and everyone follows the same rules,” he said.
He originally got involved in Boy Scouts for his son, who is now out of high school.
“It just makes for a very well-rounded boy,” Cook said. “You spend time out in the woods away from the video games, you learn to cook and you learn to take care for yourself and others. The Scout skills are just wonderful.”