Rebel scout group reaffirms gay ban

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The Independent Online
The largest independent Scout organisation in Britain yesterday reaffirmed its policy of not allowing "homosexuals and deviants" to become troop leaders.

The Baden-Powell Scouts Association made the declaration after the Scout Association - from which it split in 1970 - caused outrage by deciding to accept gay leaders.

The Baden-Powell Association, which has 10,000 members in the United Kingdom, has always had an unwritten policy not to let homosexuals join.

But after worried parents and leaders inundated the movement with calls about whether its policy would change - in line with the Scout Association - its officials issued a statement emphasising that they had a policy of "not, repeat not, accepting homosexuals, deviants etc, into the association and that policy has not changed".

The Baden-Powell Association's Chief Commissioner, Lawrie Dring, of Wakefield, West Yorkshire, refused to comment on the Scout Association's decision because "they are nothing to do with us".

But he said his association was re-emphasising its policy to reassure parents. "We have no intention of changing our policy," he said. "The policy is, and always has been, that we don't have any homosexuals or deviants as leaders.

"We don't think it's conducive to the relationship we have with parents. They put young people in our care and I'm not sure an open policy on homosexuality would go down very well. Our paramount consideration is for the feelings of parents and the responsibility for the physical and mental welfare of the young people in our care. People get very uptight about this kind of thing."

The Scout Association's new rules, intended to combat prejudice, mean a leader should not be rejected on the grounds of homosexuality. They have been condemned by parents, MPs and churchmen, as well as some Scout commissioners and the family of the movement's founder, Robert Baden-Powell.

The objectors claim parents will be frightened about homosexuals holding positions of power over children and being allowed to go on camping trips with them.

Council chiefs in Southwark, south London, are to set up a case conference with a mother who has objected to her 11-year-old son being fostered by two homosexual men.

The move announced last night, comes after the boy's mother and grandmother voiced criticism in a national newspaper of the proposal to send the youngster, now living in short-term foster care in Kent, to live with a gay couple in south-east London.