SALT LAKE CITY — A Salt Lake school board member said he had to act after hearing that the Cub Scouts aren’t meeting at Mountain View Elementary school any more. Michael Clara has sent a complaint to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, claiming the principal is acting inappropriately in not letting the Scouts meet there this year.
It appears principal James Martin wants to wait until after the Boy Scouts of America decide in May on its long-standing policy banning open homosexuals from participation. Martin has said that the Salt Lake School District’s anti-discrimination policy could mean the Cub Scouts can’t meet at school.
Clara said he thinks that is a misinterpretation of the policy and wonders what’s next. Would it be possible to ban the humanitarian donations of a church or help from a nonprofit because someone doesn’t like their positions?
“I’m concerned that now this culture war becomes a conscience war, and now we are penalizing people based on thought,” Clara said.
The district has not commented on the complaint, saying it has not yet seen a copy of it and has no basis yet to judge its merits.
Spokesman Jason Olsen called the complaint a “surprise” and pointed out that the group has not met at the school for about a year due to staffing issues. He also said that the principal had been in contact with the Cub Scout group and they had agreed with waiting until next year.
“Because of the lateness in the school year, and because a decision from the Scouts in May may change their policies, the decision was made to wait until next school year,” Olsen said in an email. “The group chartering this Cub Scout group agreed. That is why this complaint came as a surprise.”
According to Clara, federal law allows Scouts at schools.
“This is an over a decade-old law that Congress put in place called the Boy Scout Equal Access Act, that Congress put into place for this very reason,” Clara said. “So it seems odd to me that we are now going to be OK with ejecting Cub Scouts from an elementary school.
He also said there are larger issues at stake as well. The area around Mountain View Elementary is one with many at-risk students who benefit from Scouts and all kinds of help from different organizations.
Clara said he filed the federal complaint because the superintendent and district don’t seem to be taking care of the issue. He said he fully supports LGBTQ rights, but worries the pendulum will swing the other way.
“…And then start diminishing and marginalizing Christians who have a different belief system than someone else may have politically,” he said.
Mary Richards, Reporter