(Photo: Screenshot/Fox 13 News)
Two Utah Boy Scouts leaders who joined a cadre of Scouts donning official Boy Scouts uniforms in the Utah Gay Pride Parade over two weeks ago were sternly warned that the next time they decide to make a political statement like that, they could lose their membership in the organization.
Last week, officials of the Great Salt Lake Council of the Boy Scouts of America, reportedly chastised Boy Scouts leaders Peter Brownstein and Neil Whitaker for using the organization to forward the gay agenda and asked them to sign an apology for "violation of (Boys Scouts of America) policies and disobedience."
"We were very disappointed that you used Scouting to advance the gay agenda at the Utah Pride Parade," council leaders wrote to Brownstein, according to the AP. "You and others are welcome to participate in the parade as supportive citizens but not as uniformed members of the BSA." Whitaker joined the march in uniform but Brownstein did not according to AP.
Whitaker argued in the Salt Lake Tribune that despite the charges, he didn't see their actions as advancing a "political" agenda but celebrating a "cultural" event, similar to the Days of '47 Parade that honors Utah pioneers annually on July 24 and often includes Boy Scouts in uniform.
"We weren't rallying for a politician or political event," Whitaker said. "To me, it was being supportive of my fellow human beings."
Both Scouts leaders have refused to sign the letter of apology despite being warned that they could lose their BSA membership if a similar offense were to occur in the future.
Deron Smith, national spokesman for the BSA, said he supported the decision of the Utah Council.
"These individuals, many of whom are not registered in Scouting, expressed a personal opinion and do not represent the Boy Scouts of America," he noted to The Salt Lake Tribune. "Scouting is taking appropriate steps to respond to this issue."
Valarie Larabee, executive director of the Utah Pride Center, said disciplining the Scouts leaders would be a deplorable move.
"Any discipline or questioning of members of the Scouting family who participated in our procession as a member of our color guard, a unit carrying out nation's flag, would be deplorable," she noted in a statement.
In late May, delegates of the Boy Scouts' National Council voted overwhelmingly to lift a longstanding and controversial ban on gay youth in the more than 100-year-old organization.
Sixty-one percent of the delegates voted in favor of the amendment while 39 percent voted against it at the organization's National Annual Meeting in Grapevine, Texas.
Gay adults remain banned from the institution but gay rights activists continue to lobby for an end to that portion of the membership policy as well.