An openly gay teen and his father fear the Boy Scouts of America are using a "transition time" to essentially weed out all of the homosexual Scouts from their ranks.
Steven Palewski, 15, of Elgin, was recently suspended from Troop 128 after he says he came out to a pair of 11-year-old Scouts who were using gay slurs during a campout last month. The teen, twice elected Senior Patrol Leader, inferred he could use his own experience as a teaching opportunity.
Little did he and his father know, however, that a compromise the Boy Scouts of America adopted last month -- to allow gay Scouts but not Scout leaders -- doesn't kick in until the new year.
"We found out the hard way," said the boy's father, Steve Palewski.
Scout Executive Matt Ackerman, however, said the teen's suspension had nothing to do with Palewski's sexual orientation but instead was "in response to the use of inappropriate dialogue."
Neither party would confirm what was said during the campout exchange between Palewski and the younger scouts. But after the parents of the younger Scouts apparently lodged complaints, Palewski and his father were called into a private meeting with troop and district executives. It was there, the family said, the teen was immediately suspended from Scouting.
In a statement, the Boy Scouts of America explained the "transition time" is "needed to communicate and implement this policy." But to Palewski, those words now mean this: "While they have time to kick out all the gay Scouts."
Troop 128 is sponsored by Epworth United Methodist Church in Elgin. The Palewskis say they were visited last Sunday by the troop's committee chairperson and offered a compromise: the teen could rejoin Troop 128 but resign as Senior Patrol Leader and sleep alone in a tent during campouts.
"I can't do that," he said emphatically. "I can't sit down and allow something like this to happen because it's outright wrong and it's against the law and the oath that we live by."
Furthermore, he said, tenting alone violates the Boy Scout buddy system, a well-known safety mandate.
Palewski's father fears that what happened to his son is not an isolated incident as the Boy Scouts transition to the new policy.
"That's not what Boy Scouting is supposed to be about," he said. "You're supposed to be setting the example for these kids. So set a good example. Everybody should be treated fair."
Ackerman called the incident a "unit level issue that is being handled by unit leadership with respect and sensitivity. He went on to say that the Three Fires Council "teaches all of our members to treat others with courtesy and respect at all times."