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The Chickasaw Council, Boy Scouts of America

(Council #558)



An Open Letter to the Chickasaw Council Regarding the Adult Leadership Standards  

Many of you know by now that the National Council has recently amended the standards related to adult leadership.  As a result of those changes, some units may now accept homosexual men and women as adult leaders.  We know that change is often difficult and uncomfortable.  We’re writing this open letter to you our Charter Organization Partners, adult leaders, employees, parents, scouts and interested persons to put this decision in context, to address some misconceptions that may exist and to encourage you to give this decision appropriate consideration without overreaction.  


Our membership standards have over the years included a ban on scouts or adults who are homosexual.  Without realizing it, we effectively had a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy.  That policy was challenged through a series of court actions that culminated in a case before the United States Supreme Court.  That case, Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, 530 U.S. 640 (2000), by a 5-4 narrow decision affirmed the Boy Scouts of America’s right to set its own membership standards including a ban on Scouts or adults who were openly homosexual.  The year that decision was handed down from the Supreme Court, no state recognized gay marriage.              

Challenges to our membership standards continued for the next decade.  By 2010, five (5) states had legalized gay marriage.  With this change in the landscape of America, more and more corporations began to reject organizations seen as being discriminatory towards homosexuals.  Those corporations began to indicate that they would withhold support if the Boy Scouts did not change its membership standards.  The dollars represented by these corporations were in the millions of dollars.  While money is not and should not be the reason that we act in any direction, its importance to what we do cannot be ignored either.              

With the change in society came internal pressures to change our policies.  Councils from the Northeast, the West, the Pacific Northwest and the Southwest began to urge the National Council to change its policies.  Thus, there was pressure to change from outside of Scouting and from within the Scouting movement.              

By 2013, seventeen (17) states had legalized gay marriage.  Pressures to change our policy both from within and from external sources were mounting.  The National Council faced the loss of millions in financial support and membership in parts of the country.  The National Council recognized that our movement was not yet ready for a wholesale change in our membership standards.  After months of discussion with the heads of a wide variety of religious denominations, it was determined that the membership standards related to youth would be amended to permit homosexual youth but not homosexual adults.  That policy went into effect, January 1, 2014.              

In the eighteen (18) months since that policy became effective here in the Chickasaw Council, we have not seen any significant change in the reported composition of our youth membership.  There simply were few if any youth who decided to come out.  

In the twenty-four months from May, 2013 when the youth membership standards were changed until today, an additional eighteen (18) states legalized gay marriage.  That brought the total number of states legalizing gay marriage to thirty-five (35) states.  On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court decided Obergefell v. Hodges legalizing gay marriage.  The language of that opinion had far reaching effects including on the rationale expressed in the Dale decision.                

In late 2014 and 2015, several councils openly defied the national standards related to adults by approving applications for openly homosexual adults.  At least one of those councils passed a “non-discrimination” resolution which would have banned chartered organizations in that council from denying an adult application on the basis of homosexuality – even if that charter organization’s religious beliefs would not support an openly homosexual adult leader.              

While there were rapidly developing changes in the national landscape related to this issue, we recognize that a significant number of our members and our chartered organization partners had not changed their position.  Their views were firmly rooted in their religious beliefs and those beliefs do not shift with public opinion.              

By 2015, the Boy Scouts faced numerous lawsuits seeking to completely invalidate our membership standards.  The first of those lawsuits will reach a critical decision point this October.             

Faced with these lawsuits, the Obergefell decision and a rapidly changing national consciousness about this issue, the National Council was forced to make difficult decisions. We could have continued to fight these lawsuits.  The National Council retained some of the best lawyers in America and were told that we would likely lose those cases.  If we lost even one of those cases, a judge would get to rule on our membership standards.  It was feared that a complete ban on our membership standard could result in chartered organizations having to accept adult leaders who were contrary to their firmly held religious beliefs.              

With that context in mind, and trying to act to protect the religious rights of our chartered organization partners while also being more inclusive, the National Council acted as follows:  

  • For those chartered organizations which are religious in nature and which hold firmly held religious beliefs which would be inconsistent with a homosexual serving as an adult leader, you may still refuse to accept an adult leader who is homosexual;
  • The National Council will defend and indemnify any religious chartered organization which as a result of its religious beliefs denied membership to adults on the basis of homosexuality;
  • The National Council will act to bar any council from enforcing a rule which would force religious chartered organizations to accept any leader who is inconsistent with their religious beliefs;
  • For those chartered organizations which are not religious in nature or whose religious beliefs would be consistent with a homosexual serving as an adult leader, they may now accept such leaders and may not reject them on the basis of their homosexuality;
  • District and Council level positions may not be denied on the basis of homosexuality; and
  • Employment with Scouts cannot be denied on the basis of homosexuality.  

This action was a move to protect the religious liberty and First Amendment rights of our chartered organization partners while also opening up membership in those organizations which are not religious in nature or whose religious beliefs would be consistent with such membership.  The promise to defend and indemnify any charted organization partner is a powerful commitment to stand beside and behind our religious chartered organizations.              

As with the membership standards change related to youth in 2013, we do not anticipate that there will be any significant change in our adult leadership here in the Chickasaw Council.   

Frequently Asked Questions

Over the past few weeks, we have heard a number of questions related to this issue and wanted to answer them.  Those questions and our answers are as follows:  

Does my church have to accept a homosexual adult as a scout leader?  No, as was the case prior to this most recent change – provided that your church’s firmly held religious beliefs are inconsistent with homosexuality.  If your church would accept a homosexual in other leadership positions within the church, then the answer is yes because your church’s teachings would not be inconsistent with such an adult serving in a leadership role.   

What happens if my church denies an application on the basis of homosexuality? 
First, it is important to note that the chartered organization representative has to approve any new adult application.  We’ve had that rule for many years.  That was true before this change and it is still true.  We’ve had that rule because the Scout Unit is actually owned by the chartered organization.  As an extension of the chartered organization, the Scout leaders/adults should reflect the moral values and culture of the chartered organization.  If your chartered organization is a religious one and its beliefs would be inconsistent with a homosexual serving as an adult leader, the chartered organization may deny that application.  If the applicant threatened or took legal action, the National Council has made the commitment to provide that chartered organization with a defense (i.e. to pay for the lawyers) and to indemnify the chartered organization for any actions that the court may take.  The National Council is making the commitment to put significant dollars and resources behind and with our chartered organizations.  We will stand with you to protect your First Amendment right to the free exercise of your religious beliefs.  

Doesn’t this change make it more difficult for our chartered organizations?  No.  As stated above, chartered organizations always had to approve adult applications.  They still do.  For those chartered organizations which taught as a matter of their religious beliefs that it was wrong to deny membership to homosexuals, the prior policy put them in conflict with their religious beliefs.  The new policy allows those denominations to live according to their beliefs while also permitting those whose beliefs would not allow such membership to deny that membership.  

Will our unit be exposed to homosexual leaders at camporees or other district or council events?  Possibly.  However, given what happened after the 2013 standards change, it is unlikely that we would see any significant change.  Moreover, there are likely already homosexual leaders at units that you don’t know are homosexual.  As long as all of our adults focus on the scouting program and the values we all agree should be demonstrated (i.e. the Scout Oath and the Scout Law), there will be no negative implications.  Homosexuality is part of life.  We see it on television, in radio and the movies.  Exposure to persons who are different than we are is a reality in life and an opportunity to have a discussion on a family by family basis as to the values of that family.   How can we say that we insist on youth protection if we are going to allow homosexual men to be around boys?  There is no credible research to show that homosexual men are more likely to act inappropriately towards boys than heterosexual men.  Whether you are homosexual or heterosexual, we will insist that you follow youth protection guidelines (e.g. two deep leadership).  

Does this membership standards change mean that scouts is endorsing or accepting homosexuality?  With this membership change, Scouts are neither accepting nor rejecting homosexuality.  Rather, we are leaving that decision to each person and to each church on the basis of their own religious beliefs.  Scouting still maintains that sexual behavior is inappropriate around or towards the children in our program.  In scouting, the only appropriate time to discuss sexuality of any kind is: (1) in youth protection training, (2) with your family as part of Family Life Merit Badge; and (3) with a counsel as part of a religious awards program.  Otherwise, it is inappropriate to discuss sexuality.   

Doesn’t this change mean that our uniform will be a symbol of accepting homosexuality?  No.  Scouting neither accepts nor rejects homosexuality.  The uniform does not stand for either.  Rather, the uniform stands for the Scout Law and the Scout Oath.  What it means to be reverent and what it means to do our duty to God will necessarily mean different things to different people.  Some will candidly not be satisfied that the current change goes far enough to accept homosexuals.  For them, the uniform will most certainly not be a symbol of inclusion.  Others will take the polar opposite position.  Both are wrong.  We need to remember what the uniform stands for and that is the freedom for a broad range of people to practice their faiths according to the dictates of their beliefs – even if their beliefs are very different.  Our American flag is much the same.  We are all still proud of our flag.  Our flag stands for religious freedom and religious tolerance.  We don’t eschew our flag simply because others belief differently than we do.  We should look at our uniform in the same way.  

If our church recharters our unit aren’t they endorsing a pro-homosexual position?  No.  With this membership change, Scouts are neither accepting nor rejecting homosexuality.  Rather, we are leaving that decision to each person and to each church on the basis of their own religious beliefs.  If a church believes that homosexuality is inconsistent with their teachings, we will stand with and support that church.  If a church teaches that homosexuality is consistent with their beliefs, we will also support that church.  Neither could say that we are adopting their position as much as supporting their right to make that decision as part of their First Amendment exercise of religion. 

How can Scouting maintain that it is a Christian organization and take this stance?  Scouting is a reverent organization which is accommodating of a wide variety of faiths and beliefs.  In the Oath and the Law, we promise to do our duty to God and to be reverent.  We don’t however, define who or what God is or what it means to be reverent.  Therefore, we are not a Christian organization.  Yes, many of our chartered organizations are churches of one Christian denomination or another.   The units at those churches therefore reflect Christian values as understood by that chartered organization.  We also have chartered organization partners at Jewish Temples, the Memphis Mosque and non-religious institutions like the Optimist Club.  Those chartered organizations and their units are equally important to us.  Even among the Christian churches, there is no universal agreement on what it means to be Christian, to do one’s duty to God or to be reverent.  We are not in the business of telling people how they should worship or what they should believe.  We leave that to your own conscious, faith, belief and prayer life.  Scouting is big enough to accommodate a wide variety of beliefs.  We always have and we always will.  With this change in membership standards, we are reinforcing our support of your freedom to worship as you see fit.  

Why couldn’t Scouts have fought these changes back in 2013?  We could have but there is no guarantee that had we done so back in 2013 that we would be at any different position today.  The pressure on Scouts to change was both external and internal.  

Why should we believe this change is the last change?  Won’t the activists simply continue to push until there is a requirement to accept all adult leaders who are homosexual?  The simple answer is the First Amendment.  Back in 2013, when the first change occurred in relation to children in scouting, there was a promise that the issue would be off the table for some period of time.  Here we are two years later.  So, it is certainly understandable why some may question whether this is the last change.  All we can tell you is that the last twenty-four months have seen dramatic change on this issue in America.  The biggest reason to believe that this is the last change and that we will stand firm on this position is the First Amendment.  The Dale decision from 2000, the decision affirming our right to set our membership standards was based on our rights to association.  Prior to making that 2013 decision, Scouts consulted extensively with the national heads of our religious partners.  The same is true this time.  The basis of this new standard is the First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion.  The lawyers involved with this change believe that interest will trump any further legal efforts to make further changes.  Protection of religious beliefs and the free exercise of religion is such a fundamental bedrock principle that this position should stand for a long time.  Some may question why this wasn’t what we did in the first place.  

Next Steps

So what do we do from here?  We continue to deliver the scouting program.  We recruit more boys and more adults to get involved.  We are needed now more than ever.  There are thousands of young people in our Council who would be positively affected by being involved with scouting.  That was true before this membership standards change and it is still true.  Those involved with Scouting are several times more likely to attend church as an adult.  If we want to make a positive difference in our communities, we continue on with the program.              

We’re asking you to pray about this.  We’re asking you to have a measured response.  We know that for many this change will elicit strong feelings.  Please consider before you act.  If you leave, there will simply be fewer adults and chartering organizations to make a difference in the lives of the kids we already have and those we will recruit.  Try to remember what you have always loved about Scouting and the difference it has made in your lives.              

As you hear other leaders talk about this issue, be respectful of differing views but don’t let misinformation, rumor or emotion rule conversations.  Be encouraging.  Be positive.  Our best days are yet to come.              

Please by all means talk about this issue with your chartered organization.  If you determine there are issues with your unit being able to re-charter, let us know that.  If your unit is in Mississippi, pass that information along to Casey Manning, casey.manning@scouting.org.  If your unit is in Tennessee or Arkansas, pass any issues with your chartered organization along to Kelbert Fagan, kelbert.fagan@scouting.org.  We will collect this information and work with you to hopefully repair any issues with your chartered organization.  We stand ready to talk with your church leadership, if that would be helpful.              

If after reasonable effort to repair any relationships, it appears that a chartered organization will not renew, we will work with those scouts and the leaders to help them find an appropriate home or a new chartered organization.              

The Scout Law teaches us to be friendly, courteous, kind and helpful.  We can be reverent and be all these things at the same time.  We should be respectful of others and welcoming of anyone whose primary interest is advancing the aims, methods and goals of scouting.  We stand ready to answer any questions that you have and look forward to great days ahead.                                                                                      

Yours in Scouting,    
Hunt Campbell                        Danny Van Horn                    Richard L. Fisher      
Council President                   Council Commissioner       Scout Executive  


A Report from the 2015 National Annual Meeting: 
3 Key Take Aways For Every Unit Leader and Adult Volunteer


By Danny Van Horn, Council Commissioner  


I recently had the privilege of attending the 2015 National Annual Meeting (“NAM”) of the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America which took place May 20-22 in Atlanta.  The NAM is part annual business meeting, part continuing training and part tent revival.  I for one left that meeting completely energized and reassured that we have the best program for youth development the world has ever seen.  There could be a dozen or more things that I could write about from this meeting not the least of which was the roll out of the new membership campaign “Build an Adventure” or the roll out of the new Cub Scout program.  Putting those two very important developments aside, there were three things from this meeting that I think every unit leader will or should want to know about.  

1.       Scout Book, www.scoutbook.com, is coming.  Your unit will want this tool.  Scout Book was originally developed by a third party software developer who happens to be a scout parent.  It’s a tool designed to help scouts, their parents, unit leaders and ultimately all district and council level support personnel promote, track and communicate about advancement.  It just so happens that the National Support Center had been in development of their own tool to do just the same thing.  When they looked at Scout Book, they realized the privately developed tool was much better, scrapped their own efforts and bough Scout Book from the developer.  Over the course of the next year, Scout Book will be fully integrated with a variety of advancement and membership databases.  It works with Troop Master and other similar software.  It has tools that will make text and e-mail communication much easier within units and eventually on a district and higher level.  This is a tool that is optional but it is expected that most units will want to subscribe to Scout Book.  There is no cost right now for Scout Book.  There will be and we don’t yet know what that price will be but the promise is that the cost will be minimal.  A number of units are already on Scout Book and the response has been overwhelming positive.  Your unit should go to www.scoutbook.com and check out this promising new application that should make tracking and promoting advancement much easier.  

2.      Digital Media.  The consistent message at NAM across a variety of sessions stressed the need to build a new culture within scouting that promotes social media and digital media sharing including channels such as Instagram.  Many units still have official or unwritten rules the prohibit today’s scouts from bringing electronic devices with them on scout trips.  The research shows that today’s generation and their 20 and 30 something parents resoundingly reject such an approach.  This generation experiences everything through social media and through picture sharing.  The old belief that they need to unplug and experience nature sounds great but for a fast growing segment of our market, they will never experience nature unless you let them experience in the same manner they experience everything else – through their smartphone cameras. Of course, the use of such devices should be monitored and should be consistent with the Scout Law and the Scout Oath.  If we want to recruit the next generation and perpetuate scouting, we’ve got to change and accept and understand that smart phones and picture sharing are an essential part of scouting today.  We need to move from a culture that bans electronic devices to one that promotes them and their positive use to reinforce the timeless values of scouting.  We need to encourage our scouts to take pictures of fun scouting events and share them.  Such a peer sharing, grass roots campaign is simply essential to any successful membership campaign today.  By the way, the research also shows that the 20 something and 30 something moms will first check out scouting on social media.  If we have no presence, as is often the case today, then their likelihood to enroll their sons in scouting significantly lessens.  The need to promote social media, digital picture sharing and an online presence is as critical to recruiting the next generation of scouts as it to recruiting their parents.  
So what should your unit do?

  • Have a discussion on your own social media policies and whether you ban or encourage the use of smart phones;
  • Understand the risks and rewards of whatever your position is;
  • If you follow the national recommendation and not only permit but encourage the use of smart phones and social media, conduct training of the scouts and their parents as to the appropriate use of those devices;
  •  Identify a scout within your unit (if age appropriate) to serve as the social media chair (this could be your webmaster) and task them with collecting and posting photographs from your unit events;
  • Encourage parents to get involved by sharing their photos from events; and
  •  Create appropriate unit level hash tags, Instagram pages and Facebook pages to help promote scouting and your unit;
  • Go to www.scoutingwire.org and check out the many resources there to help your unit craft its social media presence; and
  • Actively monitor the accounts and channels your scouts are using to promote your unit.  

3.      The Membership Standards Debate.  By now many of you will have heard something about Dr. Gates address at the 2015 NAM.  Our Council leadership will have more to say about this shortly.  In the meantime, I’d really encourage you to go watch the entire speech for yourself.  You can find it at:  http://scoutingnewsroom.org/blog/watch-and-read-bsa-president-dr-robert-m-gates-addresses-boy-scouts-of-america-national-annual-meeting/  I’d also encourage you to exercise leadership and live the Scout Law.  A scout is among other things cheerful.  Undoubtedly there will be some who immediately proclaim the end is near.  It’s just not.  We can and should have a discussion about this issue.  We can and should be respectful to others who may not agree with us.  We can and should be positive about the future of scouting.  Nothing as good as scouting exists and prospers as long as we have without God’s hand at the wheel.  No matter what happens, we’ll get through this and we’ll prosper.  Let’s focus on the people who really matter – the kids we serve.  Let’s focus on building better units, better districts and a better council.  There are so many opportunities to make a difference in the lives of the kids we serve and in our communities.  Let’s keep our focus where it should be and serve more deeply.  Everything else will ultimately take care of itself.  Scouting will be here for years to come and many of us will be right there all along the way.  Be positive.  Be educated and stop those who you hear spreading doom and gloom.  There’s just too much to be positive about.  

It is great to be a Scouter and a privilege to serve the kids and adult volunteers of our council.


A Message from the
2015 President-Elect and Commissioner-Elect

Re-Introducing a Very Important Scouter: the Commissioner

  As Scouters, we are all here to make a difference in the lives of the kids we serve.  We all have a pretty good idea what roles a Scoutmaster and a Cubmaster play in our movement.  Allow us to re-introduce to you a very important Scouter who makes a difference in the lives of Scouts in multiple units: the Commissioner.

The role of a Commissioner dates back to the founding of our movement.  Lord Baden Powell understood that in order for Scouting to grow and yet remain consistent, a corps of committed Scouters had to be charged with going out and supporting units.  They were there to serve as a resource to help the unit leaders deliver a quality program to the kids they served.  They were also there to make sure that the program was consistent from one unit to another.  W.F. deBois MacLaren (who donated Gilwell Park to Lord Baden Powell) and Rudyard Kipling were some notable early Commissioners.

When Scouting came to America, the Commissioner position came with it and played much the same role as it had in England.  Daniel Carter Beard (one of the men who founded Scouting in America) served as one of its very first Commissioners and was the first National Commissioner.  In that role as a National Commissioner, Beard designed our uniform and helped shape the program we know today.

Over the years, there have been changes to the Commissioner Corps but their purpose has remained the same: service to units to help units serve kids even better.  A Commissioner is a committed Scouter who agrees to work with and coach several units (usually three or less) to help them grow, develop and get even better.  They do that with a monthly visit to the unit or meaningful contact with the unit leadership between in person visits.  Commissioners make a difference in the lives of our kids every day.

As a Council, we need your help in two very important ways.  First, if you think you might be interested in serving as a commissioner (or want more information about it) please contact your District Commissioner or our Council Commissioner, Danny Van Horn danny.vanhorn@butlersnow.com.  If you are not interested in serving in this important role but you know of another adult (in your unit or otherwise) who you think would be great in this role, please let us know who they are.  The role of a Commissioner is essential to insuring a quality program, retention and recruitment.  With your help, we will select, recruit and train women and men who are committed to service.        

Second, whether you have a Commissioner assigned to your unit or get one assigned sometime soon, please welcome and work with them.  The Unit Commissioner is there to act as a resource and a coach for your unit.  Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers all have coaches.  Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson both worked with shot coaches.  The best golfers in the world work with swing coaches.  Many executives in Fortune 500 companies work with professional coaches.  No matter how good we are, we can all be better.  No matter how well we are serving our kids, we can do better.  Please accept the Commissioner assigned to your unit and allow them to help you.  They aren’t there to act as a “spy” or to come in and mandate how you run your unit (unless there are violations of national policy).  They are there to help, to serve as a resource and to make suggestions.  If you aren’t willing to be coached, it will be difficult to help you grow and get even better.

Thank you for all you do for our kids.  Please help us recruit more Commissioners and allow the Commissioner staff to work with your unit to help you get even better than you already are.  Yours in Scouting,  


Hunt Campbell  


Richard L. Fisher  
Scout Executive                            


Danny Van Horn
Council Commissioner  



The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is one of the nation's largest and most prominent values-based youth development organizations. The BSA provides a program for young people that builds character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develops personal fitness.

The Chickasaw Council serves youth in the Mid-South, covering 17 counties, including, Shelby County in Tennesseee, Crittenden County in Arkansas and these Mississippi counties; Bolivar, Carroll, Coahoma, DeSoto, Grenada, Humphries, LeFlore, Montgomery, Panola, Quitman, Sunflower, Tallahatchie, Tate, Tunica, and Washington.

For over 100 years, the BSA has helped build the future leaders of this country by combining educational activities and lifelong values with fun. The Boy Scouts of America believes — and, through a century of experience, knows — that helping youth is a key to building a more conscientious, responsible, and productive society.

As we celebrate over 100 years of Scouting, we're gearing up for the next 100 years with strategic plans in motion to improve upon all that we do here locally. Please review our 2013 Annual Report as well as our 2013-2015 Scouting's Journey to Excellence.  

To be involved and/or support Scouting in the Mid-South, contact The Chickasaw Council.

The Chickasaw Council Board and Officers

The Executive Board is the governing body of the Chickasaw Council. Below is a list of the 2015 Elected Officers.

  • Council President - L. Hunt Campbell
  • Council Commissioner - Danny Van Horn
  • Treasurer - Raymond Berglund
  • Assistant Treasurers - Tom Sullivan
  • Vice President of Endowment - Brent Westbrook
  • Vice President of Administration - TBD
  • Friends of Scouting Chairman - David Pickler
  • Vice President of District Operations - Duane Klink
  • Vice President of Program - Dr. Randy Nelson
  • Vice President of Finance - Russell Williamson
  • Vice President of Capital Fund Development - Mike P. Sturdivant Jr, Johnny Pitts
  • Vice President of Properties - Josh Bell
  • Vice President of Public Relations - TBD
  • Vice President of Emerging Markets - Rob Liddon
  • Vice President of Membership - John Kimbrough
  • Vice President of Technology - TBD
  • National Council of Representatives - Hunt Campbell, Duane Klink, Phil Gilmer, Jason P. Hood, and Jimmy Lackie