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February 6th, 2013
10:33 AM ET

'When there is equality, there is progress' – Fmr. den mother Jennifer Tyrrell emotional, nervous for Boy Scouts gay vote

The Boy Scouts of America was expected to consider a very major change in their policy towards gays. After "Starting Point" went off the air, the Scouts announced they would put off the decision to lift their national ban on gay scouts and gay leaders until May. If it does happen, local troops would then be able to decide on their own whether or not they'd accept gays.

Jennifer Tyrrell, former Cub Scout den leader in Ohio, says the organization dismissed her for being a lesbian. On Monday she led a group to the Boy Scout's headquarters near Dallas. They dropped off a petition to end the ban on gays which they say had 1.4 million signatures on it.

This morning, Tyrrell talks with Soledad on "Starting Point" about the fight for equality in the Boy Scouts.

Tyrrell explains how it was her 7-year-old son who got her involved with the organization.

"I didn't want to even join the Boy Scouts and he wanted to, he was so excited, it was so hard to tell him no, he doesn't understand that people are discriminatory," she says. "I never had a problem until they asked me to be treasurer. I found a lot of mistakes, I started asking a lot of questions and then that day that I was supposed to have a meeting to say where is this money, is the day that I received the phone call saying, oh by the way, you're gay, you can't be here anymore."

Tyrrell says her son has had to bear the brunt of the situation.

"He misses his friends. He still sees his friends at school but scouting - it's special. We loved it. And I was the last person that expected to love it, to be completely honest. But I saw a change in him. I saw him come out of his shell. I saw - he just became a better person and so did I. If this ban is lifted, it will be a great first step but it's going to still lead to kids being rejected, families are still going to be turned away, and I've been contacted by so many families, gay scouts that are terrified that somebody's going to find out," she says.

Filed under: Boy Scouts • Gay rights
February 6th, 2013
08:21 AM ET

FRC's Perkins: Gays in Boy Scouts doesn't 'pass the parent test'

The Boy Scouts of America is expected to announce as early as today whether or not it's long-standing ban on gay scouts and leaders will be lifted.

The Family Research council and 41 allied organization ran an ad in USA Today this morning urging the Scouts to stay true to their "timeless values" and not to surrender to financial or political pressures by corporate elites on the issue of homosexuality.

FRC's president Tony Perkins echoes this sentiment on Starting Point this morning, saying that "the question before the Scouts is are we going to continue on our mission or are we going to cave into corporate dollars."

Explaining that he wouldn't let his daughters go on a camping trip with heterosexual males, Perkins says that having gays in the Boy Scouts doesn't "pass the parent test."

"The Boy Scouts have had a long history of struggling with an issue of protecting the boys," Perkins says. "They have not been able to create the perfect environment but they’re doing what they can. The question they need to ask is will this help us and will it make for a safer environment."

Filed under: Boy Scouts
February 5th, 2013
09:41 AM ET

So. Baptist Convention's Land: Gays in Boy Scouts would be 'a catastrophe,' will lead to 'boys and men in relationships that will be tragic'

This morning on "Starting Point," Southern Baptist Convention's Richard Land argues that allowing gays in the Boy Scouts would violate the group's core values.

"We believe that if they make this decision, it's going to be a catastrophe for the Boy Scouts," Land says. "Yes, we live in a democracy and people can make this choice, but if they do it's going to be a catastrophe because Baptist scouts, and Catholic scouts, and Mormon scouts and Methodist scouts...many of them are going to vote with their feet and leave the Scouts."

"They're cutting out the heart and soul of scouting in the rest of the country," Land adds.

He adds one thing that people aren't discussing in the issue of letting gays in the Boy Scouts comes down to physical attraction.

"Let me say one other thing that nobody wants to talk about. That is that homosexuals by definition are attracted to people of the same sex. Now, I'm not accusing homosexuals of being pedophiles, but I'm accusing homosexuals of being what they said they are: Attracted to males."

"How many people would allow their teenage girls to go on camp outs with heterosexual males? They wouldn't," Land says. "This verges on being beyond the realm of the rational, and it's going to lead to human's going to be sadly boys and men that are going to end up in relationships that are going to be tragic."

Tell us what you think: Do you agree or disagree with Land's opinion of allowing gays in the Boy Scouts?


Filed under: Boy Scouts • Gay rights
September 17th, 2012
10:56 AM ET

L.A. Times reporter Jason Felch on the shocking story of a sexual abuse cover-up in Boy Scouts of America

A shocking report in the L.A. Times reveals that the Boy Scouts of America is accused of covering up hundreds of sexual abuse dating back decades. Jason Felch co-wrote the L.A. Times investigative report after digging through hundreds of documents detailing the allegations. Felch joins Soledad O’Brien on “Starting Point” this morning to discuss the specifics of the investigation and how the documents show a pattern of protecting the accused.

Felch, who looked at 1,600 cases of allegations kept on file by the Scouts between 1970 and 1991, says the Boy Scouts have kept these files confidentially in national headquarters for the last hundred years. Some have started to come out through civil litigation. “So the file that we looked at came out in a 1992 civil case in California, and there are thousands more that have never been released,” Felch says.

Of the 1,600 case the L.A. Times investigated, 500 allegations came from parents of the boys, staff members, or even anonymous tips. “We found that, in 80% of the cases, where they were the first to learn about the abuse, there was no indication in the file that they actually called the police,” Felch says. Furthermore, there were apparent cover-ups in some cases. “In a hundred of those cases, we actually found clear indications that there were efforts to cover up the abuse, keep it from parents, keep it from the public, keep it out of the press.”

Also, instead of informing police of a scout master allegedly molesting one of the boys once he was caught, the Scouts “would ask him to resign, and they would actually help him write a letter to parents explaining his departure in some other way.” “So we saw excuses ranging from chronic brain disease, to duties at a Shakespeare festival, explaining why these alleged molesters were actually leaving the Boy Scouts,” Felch says. “The truth is they were leaving because they had been caught.”

Felch tells the story of one man, Art Humphries, who worked with the Boy Scouts from the late 1970s to the late 1980s. He was accused of sexual assault by a twelve-year-old boy but the Scouts actually kept on staff and later recommended him for another position. “Mr. Humphries continued to work in the Scouts despite their knowledge of his pattern of sexual abuse,” Felch says. He was arrested in 1994. “When he was arrested, he eventually pled guilty to sodomizing 20 boys. What never came to light in the trial was that the Boy Scouts had known,” Felch says. “What the Boy Scout confidential files reveal is that in fact, they’d since 1978 that Mr. Humphries was molesting children.”

The Boy Scouts of America released a statement Sunday explaining that they have implemented policies to protect children. The question is, “Are those policies working?” Felch asks. The Scouts continue to keep confidential records of sexual abuse in the organization in a Perversion File, but these records have never been reviewed by an independent auditor or by the organization itself to see what’s working and what isn’t working, Felch explains.

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Filed under: Boy Scouts • Crime
July 18th, 2012
02:56 PM ET

Advocate Zach Wahls to Boy Scouts: Change is coming

(CNN) – The Boy Scouts of America announced Tuesday it has affirmed its policy of "not granting membership to open or avowed homosexuals."

The organization's leaders reached that decision after a nearly two-year evaluation and will take no further action on a resolution that has sought a change in policy, it said in a news release. It had said last month that it would consider a resolution asking that local units be allowed to determine their own standards.

BSA's chief scout executive and national president had convoked a committee of volunteers and professional leaders to evaluate the policy.

This morning on "Starting Point," advocate and author of "My Two Moms" Zach Wahls tells Soledad that though the group has agreed to let the policy stand, he thinks change will be coming soon.


Filed under: Boy Scouts • Gay rights