Church tells scout troop to find new meeting place

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ALTOONA, Wis. (WEAU) - A local Boy Scout troop has been told to find a new place to gather, after spending nearly a quarter-century meeting at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Altoona.

The decision is in the wake of a new policy that lets openly gay boy scouts join.

The Boy Scouts of America say the church's discussions about cutting ties with Troop 90 are on-going; it means the church might not re-charter the troop starting January 1st of 2014.

Every Boy Scout troop is required to have a charter organization behind it.

“They’re basically provide a space for them to meet, and work with the unit to provide adult leadership for the young people in that unit,” explained Matt Hill.

Hill is the executive director of the Boy Scout Chippewa Valley Council. He says the organization serves more than 4,000 kids in the Chippewa Valley area.

“We currently serve over 150 Cub Scout packs, Boy Scouts troops and venture crews,” said Hill.

Religious organizations sponsor or charter most of them. Saint Marys’ announcement to end its longtime partnership with Boy Scout Troop 90 was spurred by the new Scout’s policy. It will allow openly gay young people to join the troops.

“It would be disappointing obviously, because we appreciate our affiliation with all of our charter partners; but the important part is we'll find a home so our boys will remain in scouting,” said Hill.

We reached out to father Derek Sakowski of St. Mary's, but haven't heard back.

The Diocese of La Crosse however told us "A youth experiencing same-sex attraction should not be afraid that he will be expelled by the scouting community by disclosing the experience of such attraction."

Hill says Troop 90 would like to continue its relationship with St. Mary’s, but that it will respect any decision the church makes.

“We want the children to have a positive experience through scouting, because scouting is a wonderful organization and that their scouting lives, if you will, aren’t affected by this,” added Hill.

In their statement the Diocese of La Crosse also mentioned that Pope Francis recently said, "same sex attraction" alone does not preclude active membership in the church.

The Diocese says at this time there is no reason to believe St. Mary Parish in Altoona will end the partnership with Troop 90.

Hill told us the troop is already looking at a few different organizations that could sponsor them next year.

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