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PHILADELPHIA (BP)–One of the nation’s largest Boy Scouts councils is openly defying the national organization’s policy on homosexual troop leaders, and apparently could be booted if its policy remains unchanged.

The board of the Philadelphia-based Cradle of Liberty Council, which claims it is the third-largest scouting council in America with 87,000 members, recently voted to add the phrase “sexual orientation” to its policy of nondiscrimination, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Knowingly enlisting homosexual troop leaders would violate the policy of the Boy Scouts of America, which in 2000 won a Supreme Court case allowing it to bar homosexuals from becoming troop leaders.

The story about the Cradle of Liberty Council broke just as the Boy Scouts were gearing up for their national meeting in Philadelphia May 29-31. Gregg Shields, national spokesperson for the Boy Scouts of America, told Baptist Press there had been “some misunderstanding” about the Cradle of Liberty Council and its position and that the two parties had already met to discuss the matter.

“We need to better understand the local council’s position,” he said.

But Shields said the Boy Scouts’ policy will not change and is held for good reason. There is no large movement to change the policy, he said, noting that the Boy Scouts of America national board has “overwhelmingly voted to retain our current policies as recently as February 2002.” The Cradle of Liberty Council did not submit a resolution at the national meeting asking for a change of policy, Shields added.

Polls also have shown that parents of scouts “overwhelmingly agree with our policy,” Shields said. Nationally, he said, the Scouts have about 5 million members and the numbers are “staying high.”

“The traditional American family is our role model, and a homosexual would not be a role model for those values,” Shields said.

Is it possible the Philadelphia council could be booted from the organization?

“We’ll have to deal with the situation as it becomes more clear,” Shields said. “But let me say this: No council is permitted to depart from the national policy.”

But in a published interview a Cradle of Liberty leader said the Philadelphia council wants to work to change the policy.

“We disagree with the national stance, and we’re not comfortable with the stated national policy,” Cradle of Liberty board chairman David H. Lipson Jr. said, according to The Inquirer. “That’s why we’re working on a solution that works for everyone.”

Lipson added that the Philadelphia council would like to “move the discussion to standards of sexual conduct rather than sexual orientation.”

Since the Supreme Court decision in 2000, conservative leaders have been vocal in their support of the national body’s policy. In June 2000 Southern Baptist Convention messengers passed a resolution urging the Boy Scouts “to hold fast in its traditional ideals.”

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said he applauds the Boys Scouts for their stance. In fact, he said Christians should consider giving above their tithes and offering to the Scouts. Land predicted that the national organization “will hold firm.”

“Fortunately, the Boy Scouts have done a good job of raising a generation or two of men of sound moral character who are standing up to” the homosexual activists “who want to force the Boy Scouts to abandon their principles,” he said.

Focus on the Family’s Mike Haley likened enlisting homosexual Boy Scout troop leaders to the Girl Scouts having male troop leaders. Neither should occur, he said.

“You just don’t put men who are attracted to other men in tents” with boys, said Haley, who is a former homosexual but is now Focus of the Family’s youth and gender specialist.

Another problem, Haley said, is that boys who come from broken homes could be led astray by a homosexual troop leader. Scouts in that situation would not see “the loneliness, the friends that are dying of HIV, that lack of monogamous, long-term relationships” associated with homosexuality,” he said. The scouts would not see “the reality behind homosexuality.”