BSA amends adult leadership

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In 1977, 22-year-old Chuck Merino joined the El Cajon Police Department as a police officer. Because of his interest in youth and excellent service record, he was asked to serve as the Explorer Advisor for the department's Law Enforcement Explorer Post in 1988. On August 25, 1992, Chuck was expelled from the Boy Scouts of America.

Several months earlier, Chuck had revealed that he was gay at a community meeting on hate crimes against gays. The BSA council heard about this and sent Chuck a letter stating that he was unfit to be a Scout leader because his homosexuality violated BSA's requirements that its members be "morally straight" and clean. According to Ron Brundage, Scout Executive of the San Diego County Council of the Boy Scouts, "It means clean in thought, word and deed."
This came as news to Chuck. He had been a respected El Cajon police officer for 15 years, a popular volunteer football coach at Grossmont High School and, until recently, was much-admired as a Scout leader. This also was a surprise to Police Chief Jack Smith, who praised Merino as a model officer. In response to BSA's actions against Chuck, the San Diego and El Cajon police departments later severed their ties with BSA.

Chuck sued the BSA in 1992 under the California Civil Rights Act and San Diego's Human Dignity Ordinance, both of which ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Before the trial, Chuck's lawyer, Everett Bobbitt, threatened to ask San Diego officials to kick the BSA off their city-owned land at Balboa Park and Fiesta Island, which the Scouts lease for a total of $2 a year, if the court did not sustain Chuck's position. In light of Chuck's suit, the San Diego School Board voted in January 1993, to forbid Scouting activities during class hours in schools, effective July 1, 1993.
Chuck's day in court finally came in March 1994. Chuck was the only witness presented in the first phase of the case. He testified that he is a good role model for youth. "I believe I've got a set of values and standards I live by that I think are rather high."
One interesting event during the trial was the testimony of Christopher Leach, a volunteer active with the San Diego Council. Leach testified that the tenet in the Boy Scout oath requiring a Scout to be "morally straight" prohibits homosexuals from becoming Scouts or Scout leaders. Leach, reading from the Boy Scout Handbook, said being "morally straight" means being honest and open in relationships. Nevertheless, he agreed that Merino was expelled from the Boy Scouts after he openly admitted he was gay.
"Morally straight implies being in a relationship that is heterosexual and monogamous, " Leach said. Chuck's attorney, Bobbitt, hammered Leach, about his beliefs on homosexuals, religion and laws prohibiting discrimination.
"It's wrong to discriminate against anybody, " Leach said. "But you don't want them (homosexuals) in the Boy Scouts?" Bobbitt said . "Correct, " Leach replied. "What are you afraid of if the doors of the Boy Scouts were open and gays were Scout leaders?" Bobbitt asked. "I will tell you: There will be a lot less people in Scouting. I do not want an openly gay individual teaching my children, " Leach said. "I'm afraid they will become exposed to a lifestyle with which I disagree."
The interesting aspect of Leach's testimony was when Chuck's attorney produced two witnesses to show the flaws in the BSA's policy of prohibiting homosexuals. Bobbitt called two men to the stand, who said that the testimony would "demonstrate the inability of the Boy Scouts to accomplish what they want to accomplish."
According to Bobbitt, "Mr. Leach is gay. He goes to bathhouses and peep shows. . . . It is the best evidence of the foolhardiness of their policy and the difficulty in enforcing their policy."

J. Mark Crouse, an accountant at the San Diego Convention Center, testified that he recognized Leach from a photograph in The San Diego Union-Tribune that appeared with an article about his testimony in the case. He said he first met Leach at an adult bookstore in the fall of 1990 and saw him on and off for a month. Crouse said he saw Leach again in the spring of 1991 at a bathhouse patronized by gay men. "Sometimes we would have sex together, sometimes we would not. Sometimes we would just talk, " Crouse testified.
Under questioning by a BSA lawyer, George Davidson, Crouse denied he had an interest in Merino winning his case against the Boy Scouts. "I did it (testified) only because I had a truth to tell in this matter, " Crouse said.
Another witness, Len Potter, who said he is acquainted with Leach and his wife, said he saw Leach at a gay X-rated video store about two years ago. He said that Leach also saw him and that Leach covered his face with his hand. He said he followed Leach to the back of the store. "He was embracing another man, mutual fondling, touching, " Potter said.
Leach testified that he believed Potter was biased against him because he had to lay off Potter's former wife from her job at his accounting firm. He also said he had difficulties with Potter being late in making lease payments on a Jeep Comanche he rented to Potter.
"Were you in the Cinema F in April 1992?" Edwards asked Leach. "No, I was not, " Leach replied. "Have you ever been there?" Edwards asked. "No, I have not, " Leach said. Leach also denied having an affair with Crouse, saying that he spent his weekend evenings at Scouting activities or with his wife and family, going to the movies or out for pizza. "I've never been into a gay bathhouse and I don't know a man named Crouse, " Leach said.
Bobbitt had subpoenaed Leach to return to the witness stand March 31st, but Leach did not appear because he had gone to Utah with his family. Leach said he left at a time when he was receiving harassing phone calls and death threats.



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