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Amid Boy Scout turmoil, other groups hope to grow

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
Caption
(AP file photo)
Camp Fire members participate in a tug of war in May 2012 in Alaska. While the Boy Scouts have drawn some criticism for excluding gays and atheists, Camp Fire stresses its inclusiveness and says it welcomes youth and families regardless of race, creed, gender, social status, disability or sexual orientation.

NEW YORK – With the Boy Scouts of America entangled in a furor over its ban on gays, lesser-known youth organizations across the ideological spectrum see an opportunity. They wonder if the turmoil might prompt some families to give them a closer look as options for their boys.

They range from Bible-based programs run by conservative religious organizations to coed, inclusive groups, including one founded on the basis of pagan beliefs.

None of the groups has the size or iconic status of the BSA, though some have been around for many decades.

Leaders of several of the groups, in public statements and interviews with The Associated Press, made clear they are following the Boy Scouts’ predicament with interest and pondering possible ramifications for their own prospects – though not seeking to profit from “someone else’s misfortune,” as one leader said.

The BSA, founded in 1910 and now serving about 2.66 million boys, is deliberating a possible shift in its long-standing policy of excluding gays as youth members or adult leaders.

In May, the BSA’s 1,400-member National Council is expected to consider a proposal to ease the ban by allowing sponsors of local Scout units to decide for themselves whether to admit gays. Gay-rights groups say the plan is inadequate, and that no units should be allowed to discriminate, while some conservative religious leaders and advocacy groups want the ban to stay in place nationwide.

As a result, there has been consternation on both the left and right of the Scouting community, and warnings of possible defections depending on what decision is made in May.

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