For Joe Long, leaving the Boy Scouts of America is not personal.
Long, assistant scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 144 in Roanoke Rapids, said he and Troop 144 Scoutmaster Scott Joyner are leaving scouting to open a local charter for the new, still unnamed scouting alternative group affiliated with OnMyHonor.net.
His decision to leave an organization he has served for 43 years was not easy and was not about Boy Scouts of America’s May decision to allow openly homosexual boys to join scouting.
“It’s because there’s a new organization coming along that’s looking pretty strong,” Long said. “I think the new group will be very exciting and new for the country and the community.”
OnMyHonor.net, which named Rob Green, of Spartanburg, S.C., as interim executive director Tuesday, will unveil the group’s new name and logo at a national convention, slated for Sept. 6 and 7 in Nashville, Tenn., its website indicated last week. However, attempts to log onto OnMyHonor.net Saturday were unsuccessful.
The group describes itself as “an exciting and motivating outdoor-based program focused on leadership and character development for boys, and founded on principles and values that reflect a Christian worldview.” It is designed to offer parents wishing to raise their sons to be “godly and responsible husbands, fathers and citizens” an alternative to Boy Scouts of America.
The group’s rise comes in the wake of the May decision regarding homosexuality, but John Stemberger, founder of OnMyHonor.net, told NBC News the group will allow homosexual youth and adults to participate.
Long said the key difference, however, lies in OnMyHonor.net’s commitment to not allow a child or adult leader’s sexual preference to be a part of the group’s activities.
“Sex should never be a part of a youth group,” Long said. “To me, that’s the issue. Any time you bring that into a youth organization, it’s a problem. I don’t have any problems with either homosexuality or heterosexuality, but the Boy Scouts have brought that to the forefront. They should have stayed out of anything that has to do with sex.”
“The problem is the Boy Scouts opened up sexuality, which has never been a part of scouting for 103 years,” Joyner said. “We’ve never talked about sexuality, period.”
Joyner, who has led Troop 144 for 16 years, will depart with Long on Dec. 31. Joyner feels having sexuality as part of scouting, whether it is homosexual or heterosexual, is wrong and said he does not believe the Boy Scouts will support leaders who bring this up in the wake of the May decision.
“Our membership policy will state you can’t have sex and sexuality until you’re married and that marriage is between a man and a woman,” Joyner said. “That’s basically what we want to teach. Right now I feel if a child comes to a leader and starts talking about being homosexual and that leader says something against it, they’re set up for a lawsuit and I don’t think they would get any national backing.”
Boy Scouts of America Eastern Carolina Council Executive Ray Franks, however, said reaction to the homosexuality decision is overblown and he is not anticipating a lot of impact on scouting from it.
“Council-wide, we’ve had very little fallout from it,” Franks said. “Out of 400 dens, packs and troops, we have lost three over this whole situation. Out of 8,000 scouts, that’s roughly only 25 that have dropped out. Overall, there’s been very little impact on us, and I think that’s because people have figured out very little has changed.”
Franks said scouting has always discouraged youth from sex and discussions about sexuality and preferences, so the national decision really does not change anything about the scouting experience.
“If you’re of scout age, we don’t believe any sexual activity is clean,” Franks said. “That has not changed.”
Lewis-Deanes District Commissioner for Boy Scouts of America Jeff McKee said there are 241 scouts in Halifax and Northampton counties spread across eight Boy Scout troops and six Cub Scout packs.
Those numbers, said Troop 146 Assistant Scoutmaster Mike Garris, probably will decrease if Joyner and Long are successful starting a new group.
“It’s going to hurt us,” Garris said. “The two guys you’re talking about have been in scouts for many years, and if they’re pulling out, yes, we will lose scouts.”
Garris has been involved in scouting since around 1982. His son James is an Eagle Scout and Cubmaster of Pack 238, a group which contains over a third of the entire district’s total of active scouts. Garris said Long and Joyner are highly respected and have a great deal of clout in scouting.
“They are two good guys,” Garris said. “A lot of people have faith in the two of them. If they get this thing off the ground, we will lose some kids.”