SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Two Boy Scout leaders have been reprimanded by the organization for marching with several Scouts in the Utah Pride Parade in Salt Lake City.
Officials from the Great Salt Lake Council of the Boy Scouts of America say Peter Brownstein and Neil Whitaker violated the organization’s policy prohibiting the use of Scouting to promote a political agenda. They had been warned that they would violate the policy if they wore their Scout uniforms in the June 2 parade.
“We were very disappointed that you used Scouting to advance the gay agenda at the Utah Pride Parade,” council leaders wrote to Brownstein. “You and others are welcome to participate in the parade as supportive citizens but not as uniformed members of the BSA.”
But Whitaker told The Salt Lake Tribune (that they were not promoting 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 leaders refused to sign an apology letter acknowledging they violated Scout policy and were disobedient. The letter warns that a similar offense could lead to revocation of their Scouting membership.
Whitaker and the Scouts wore their uniforms in the parade, but Brownstein did not. Former Scoutmaster Dave McGrath of Idaho Falls, Idaho, also marched in uniform in the parade.
The national organization decided in May, after a contentious vote, to accept openly gay boys as Scouts. But the Scouts still have a ban on gay adults serving as leaders — and gay-rights supporters have vowed to maintain pressure on the national organization.
National BSA spokesman Deron Smith told The Tribune that the national organization backs Utah’s 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 wrote by email. “Scouting is taking appropriate steps to respond to this issue.”
Valarie Larabee, executive director of the Utah Pride Center, criticized the council’s reaction. Her group organizes the annual parade.
“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 said in a statement.