Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Scouting with a More Inclusive Philosophy; Both Sexes, All Ages and Beliefs and Any Sexual Orientation Are Welcome in Organization

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Scouting with a More Inclusive Philosophy; Both Sexes, All Ages and Beliefs and Any Sexual Orientation Are Welcome in Organization

Article excerpt

CHESTERFIELD On the tail end of a recent morning hike at Faust Park in Chesterfield, second-grader Carter Beuc knelt on the ground and tried to lash a rock onto the end of a twig with a narrow vine. His buddy Gavin Rose knelt next to him.

Was it a tool? A weapon?

"He's making a golf club," Gavin reported.

While this seemed like a typical Scout outing, these youngsters are a part of a growing group in the United States that's taking a different approach to Scouting.

The children in this group, Otter and Timberwolf Scouts, are members of the Baden-Powell Service Association, which has one foot in traditional Scouting and another in more liberal ideals. It accepts members and leaders of both sexes, regardless of religious beliefs or sexual orientation.

These BPSA Scouts, from Forsyth School in St. Louis, are in one of two Baden-Powell groups meeting in the area. The group has 10 Scouts. Another group, based out of City Garden Montessori School in St. Louis, had its first meeting last week and has 31 Scouts. There are 16 chartered groups nationwide with about 128 members.

If the name Baden-Powell sounds familiar, it's because Robert Baden-Powell is the founder of the Scouting movement and what eventually became the Boy Scouts of America. But the Baden-Powell Service Association isn't affiliated with the Boy Scouts it's a worldwide organization of its own that accepts members of all ages. It formed in the United Kingdom in 1970 after its members felt that Boy Scouts were abandoning the traditional, back-to-basics ideals Baden-Powell had established decades earlier. Its American branch is based in Washington, Mo., the home of software engineer David Atchley.

Atchley, 37, had been involved in Boy Scouts all his life. He earned his Eagle award and became a Cubmaster for his son's pack. But he was upset with the direction the Boy Scouts organization was taking. The Boy Scout promise includes a duty to God, though uniform emblems of many different religions are allowed, and the organization does not allow openly gay leaders, atheists or agnostics.

Atchley, who is an atheist, thought he could create an inclusion policy for his pack.

He decided to go to the local Boy Scout council to see what they thought. "I was basically told over the phone that if I put that policy in place, they would revoke our charter," he said.

Atchley later made the difficult decision to return his Eagle award.

He eventually learned about the Baden-Powell Service Association, which formed in the United States in 2006 but had only an adult component. Atchley decided to create a youth branch, and became commissioner in 2009. He issued charters to several new groups within the last few months.

Some groups have formed in reaction to the Boy Scouts of America's announcement this summer that it had reaffirmed its ban on gays, after a two-year evaluation of the issue. Earlier this month, UPS announced it would no longer donate money to the organization because of the ban. Intel also announced it would halt corporate donations.

The Baden-Powell Service Association isn't the first Scouting group to form as a reaction to traditional Boy Scout and Girl Scout policies. …

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