Sunday, October 15, 2000

Scouts stick to values, enjoy local Jamboree




By Randy McNutt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MIAMI TOWNSHIP — They filed across the green hillsides of Clermont County on Saturday afternoon, one boot marching into the 21st century and the other into controversy. But an estimated 4,000 hungry Boy Scouts didn't care about social critics. Not when the sun was shining and hot dogs were grilling and somebody had just challenged them to an endurance test at the regional Peterloon Jamboree.

        “I know I get a mixed reaction from people,” said Rob Fisher, a 14-year-old Eagle Scout from Bridgetown. “Some people really appreciate it. Others don't.”

        All across the country, that sentiment has been expressed lately. Boy Scouts are criticized or praised for refusing to allow gays to be scout leaders.

        In June, the Supreme Court upheld the policy, but numerous school boards, companies and charities have stopped making or reduced contributions to the Boy Scouts.

        “It started even before the Supreme Court's decision,” said Doug Holderbaum, a Mason resident who has been in the Boy Scouts for 27 years. “I'm glad the Boy Scouts are sticking to their guns. The media makes it out of proportion. They try to make the Scouts look like the bad guys.”

        The roots of American scouting can be traced to Greater Cincinnati. Covington's Daniel Beard founded the group 90 years ago.

        “Many people have commented that scouting is behind the times, but it will remain strong and so will its values,” said Stacey Dickerson of Fort Mitchell, an organizer of Peterloon Jamboree.

        “Scouts learn hard work, service, honesty and morality. Unfortunately, the boys are hit with a lot in all directions that would dissuade them from these goals.”

        Across Ohio and the na tion, he said, the trouble has not hurt overall fund-raising and membership.

        “The effects have been minimal,” he said. “A lot of churches support the Boy Scouts, and that won't change. The schools are more susceptible to politics.”

        Lee Lillie, 17, came all the way from New Alsace, Ind., to enjoy the three-day camping event, held every two years. He wants to become an Eagle Scout, but knows that not everyone will understand his goal. “In some ways, it's treated as a good thing; and in some ways, no,” he said of being a Scout. “People who stay in it respect it, but it isn't always treated with respect.”

        Apparently local charities respect the Boy Scouts.

        Butler County's United Way has received no requests to reduce funding — $40,000 this year, said Maureen Noe, president and chief executive officer.

        “In fact, it's the other way around,” she said. “This community is very supportive of the Boy Scouts. Each United Way organization is governed by local volunteers, who make decisions based on community needs. And our people feel strongly about helping the Boy Scouts.”

        Hamilton County's United Way will give $1.1 million to the Boy Scouts' youth development program this year. The agency represents the Middletown area in Butler County, the Ohio counties of Hamilton, Clermont and Brown and the Northern Kentucky counties of Boone, Kenton and Camp bell.

        “Some United Ways in other parts of the country have cut back (on Boy Scout money),” spokeswoman Carol Aquino said. “We're all autonomous operations. We've had calls from people who believe the scouts should be — and should not be — funded.”

        The calls aren't necessarily coming from Stonewall Cincinnati, a local gay-rights organization.

        Lauren Carey, operations and outreach manager, said the matter should be left to “fair-minded people who will look at the issue and make a responsible decision in the best interest of all of Cincinnati's children.”

        Phil Burress, president of Citi zens for Community Values, said the issue is “a fundamental question of freedom of association.”

        “If United Way officials want to begin dismantling their groups, all they have to do is cave in to (gay) activists' demands. There would be a backlash.”

       



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