A man who has served as a leader with the Boy Scouts in southwest Atlanta for 46 years said he is prepared to give up Scouting, one of his life's passions, if the organization decides to allow gay members and leaders.
For the last 103 years, the Boy Scouts of America have banned gays from joining their ranks. On Feb. 6, the organization announced that it would delay until May its decision to either continue enforcing the ban or to admit gays, which has sparked both outrage and praise from parents and those involved with Scouts.
Donald Wheat, a Scout Master for Troop 3290 in southwest Atlanta since 1968 and once a Cub and Boy Scout himself, said he would leave the organization all together if BSA decides to accept gay members.
“I will have to give up my position,” Wheat told Patch. “One, I believe in God, and I cannot straddle the fence…I believe in the traditions and the positions of Scouting.”
“I have to love them (gays) because that’s what the Word says, but I do not have to go along with the lifestyle,” he continued.
Wheat said, that, for him, the issue is a matter of morals and standing up for what he believes in. He said that the admittance of gays into Boy Scouts would mean support of homosexuality, which he said is counter to his Christian faith and to the Scout’s Oath, which requires Scouts remain “morally straight.”
“Either you’re going to take a stand one way or the other. As much as I would hate to give it up, I’m going to stand if I stand by myself,” Wheat said.
Non-religious-affiliated donors have been vocal to the BSA that they will pull funding of the organization if the ban continues.
Reports, such as this one from the Associated Press, show that about 70 percent of all Boy Scouts are sponsored by religious denominations, which could completely gut the organization if they decide not to renew their sponsorships. This post from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution states that Mormons sponsor the most Boy Scouts in the nation, followed by Methodists and then Catholics– all three groups have traditionally supported the ban on gays in the organization because it lines up with their religious doctrine that homosexuality is a sin.
Wheat said he sees homosexuality as a sin and that he, like everyone else, is not perfect. He said he does not judge people who are gay and is “cordial” to them.
“I’m not trying to judge. I’m just saying, that’s a lifestyle I don’t deal with. I always believe association brings on assimilation,” he said. “Like my mama always said, ‘Feed them with a long-handled spoon.’”
Apostle Mena Johnson, a gay minister whose congregation of God’s Chosen Ones Ministries meets in Candler Park, said the issue is still a moral one. She said a decision to keep the ban in place would be “very discriminatory.”
“To me, it shouldn’t be any type of segregation. This same issue they had in the military is the same in the Boy Scouts. Human beings are human beings,” she said.
“God created us in His image and His likeness. If they decide they don’t want gays in the Boy Scouts, that’s their loss,” Johnson told Patch.