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Scout Troop 835 to leave Boy Scouts of America
Beginning Jan. 1, Local Boy Scout Troop 835 will no longer be associated with the Boy Scouts of America
According to Scoutmaster Jim Brass, the 12-member troop – formerly based in Pacific – will leave the BSA and start its program under the nonprofit organization he already manages, Auburn-based Help Northwest.
"The name for our new program is Help Northwest Youth Corps," Brass said. "We will continue to serve any youth in the area that wishes to be part of our organization and adhere to a moral code."
Brass cited the decision the BSA made in May, when more than 60 percent of the organization's 1,400-member national council voted to allow openly gay youth to join scouting, effective Jan. 1.
"I grew up in scouting more than 50 years ago," Brass said. "But it's their decision to go away from the traditions of Boy Scouts and do things that we believe are not moral. I'm just not comfortable with the decision, and our scouts and Board felt uncomfortable with it. The Boy Scouts started out based on Biblical values."
"It also seems to me to be a double standard," he said. "A boy and girl wouldn't be allowed to stay in the same tent together, so why should two gay boys be allowed to stay in the same tent or make straight kids feel unsafe?"
Brass said the decision to leave, which the troop's board voted on with input from scouts, was gut wrenching.
"It was horrible, I've been in scouting almost my entire life as a scout and scoutmaster," he said. "It's heartbreaking. We hate walking away. It was a very difficult decision. There are other troops leaving, too.
"We also very sad that we're losing the Boy Scout name because there is such a recognition to such things as Eagle Scouts."
Initially, Brass said, he had hoped to have his troop join a "great new program starting called Trail Life."
However, because Trail Life – which describes itself as a "Christian adventure, character and leadership program for young men" — doesn't allow females, the decision was made to form the Help Northwest Youth Corps.
"Troop and Crew 835 has both boys and girls," Brass said.
Despite the departure from the national organization, Brass said, the Help Northwest Youth Corps will continue his troop's emphasis on service and disaster preparedness.
"We're going to continue to do disaster response, support our food bank and help the community," Brass said. "We'll just do it under a different name. Just this (past) Saturday we (gave) out Christmas gifts to 200 kids.
Although the decision and reasons for leaving BSA are likely to be controversial to many, Brass said, he isn't afraid of backlash from the community.
"There is no fear when you're trying to keep a moral compass and doing what is right for the kids and the community," he said. "Scouting has always been a wonderful program and taught a moral base and great skills. We don't hate anybody, we love everybody. We're just not comfortable exposing our youth to what we think is wrong."
Brass added that he hopes the BSA reverses its decision some day to allow openly gay scouts into the organization.
"My great hope is scouting will go back to the way it was so we can return to it," Brass said.