There's a drama unfolding in Kansas City, Missouri, over the selection of Robert Mazzuca, Chief Scout Executive of the Boy Scouts of America (i.e. the executive director), to speak at the annual Mayor's Prayer Breakfast event this Thursday. Gay and lesbian groups in the region are frustrated that the leader will be giving the keynote, considering what they see as discriminatory policies on the part of the Boy Scouts.
Mazzuca, who plans to talk about faith, morality and ethics, will be speaking to approximately 800 people at the Kansas City Convention Center. During his talk, he will also celebrate the contributions of Mayor H. Row Bartle, who served as the city's top public official from 1956 until 1963. Bartle was a major supporter of Scouting during his lifetime.
While Mazzuca is clearly qualified from a faith perspective, others -- particularly those in the gay community who wish to see someone who embraces a more inclusive worldview -- disagree.
"[The Boy Scouts] don't appreciate all members of society," explains Claire Cook, a leader at Promo, a group that works on LGBT issues. "They don't allow all children and all families to take part in the wonderful things they allow and provide for people."
While Cook and her group don't plan to disrupt the event, they are urging organizers to issue statements against the Boy Scouts' purported discriminatory practices and policies. She is hoping that such a statement is made at the event or soon after.
In the meantime, Promo has created an online petition that urges supporters "to speak out in support of gay youth being included in the Boy Scouts at all levels." Here is some text from the petition, as it currently stands:
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) have a long history of discrimination against both gay youth and LGBT families. Most notably, BSA adopted a discriminatory Youth Leadership policy in 2004 stating "Boy Scouts of America believes that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the obligations in the Scout Oath and Scout Law to be morally straight and clean in thought, word, and deed." Under this policy gay Boy Scout leaders are stripped of their positions in the organization and often denied access to the organization all together. [...]
To have elected officials such as Mayor Sly James, who champions diversity, community, leadership, and social justice hold someone such as Robert Mazzuca up as a leader is not consistent with the values of Kansas City and the greater metro area.
But Mark Zimmerman, the head of the Prayer Breakfast event, has responded by explaining that Mazzuca isn't coming to lecture the audience about the Boy Scouts' teachings.
"Robert isn't here to talk of that issue," Zimmerman proclaimed. "He's here to talk of things that unite us."