Local Boy Scout troops will have their own decision to make over allowing gays to serve as scouts or leaders if the national association lifts its ban next week.
Jim Gillick, scout executive of the Jersey Shore Council, which oversees the Boy Scouts of America in Atlantic and Ocean counties, said local chapters have not been informed of any change, but the national organization's board will meet on Feb. 6. The board may decide to lift the ban on gay people serving as Scouts and leaders
But Gillick — who declined to state his personal feelings on the issue — said nothing has been decided and the national organization has not talked to the local groups on the issue.
"I know it's something people feel strongly about," he said. "It's something of a bit of an issue locally. I look forward to seeing what the national board will decide."
Officials with the Southern New Jersey Council that oversees the Boy Scouts in Cumberland and Cape May counties did not return calls seeking comment.
Local troops are chartered by local organizations, which can vary from schools, religious institutions or other civic organizations. If the national organization lifts the ban, the local troops, in accordance with their charter organization, will make their own decision on how to proceed.
Peter Karabashian, leader of Egg Harbor Township Troop 589, said that in 60 years of scouting this has never been an issue.
"I've never had to deal with this situation," he said.
If the national board makes the change, the troop will have a discussion on what to do, he said.
John Castaldi, chairman of Troop 95 in Upper Township, also said he hasn't had any discussion with people involved in the troop on the issue.
"It hasn't come up at all," he said. "It's not as big of an issue in the trenches as it is in the media. Most people in the trenches don't care. They don't think it's that big of an issue."
Castaldi did say that he appreciates the change would allow the local organizations to decide for themselves.
But Craig Barnabei, who has been the Cub master of Cub Scout Pack 87 in Somers Point for five years, doesn't need to wait for the national board's decision to know what he will do.
Barnabei said he believes all gay people should be allowed to be involved in the Boy Scouts if the person is a dedicated member who would benefit the children.
He said the pack does not have any gay members, but if someone who is gay had asked Barnabei to participate, he said he would have challenged the ban from the national organization.
"I wouldn't let that be a limiting factor for participation," he said. "If a volunteer was committed, I would allow them to participate. We're here for the boys and not for what I consider to be an outdated principle."
The leader said he wants the national board to universally lift the ban and not allow individual troops to continue the practice if they desire.
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