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Potomac Falls woman removed from son’s Boy Scout troop

photoFrom left, Jaden Steele, 9, Jackson Steele, 12, and mothers Denise Steele and Jackie Funk, load their plates with tacos for dinner in their Potomac Falls home. The couple has been together for 19 years and say they never encountered major problems with their homosexuality until Denise was removed from a leadership position in Jackson’s Boy Scout troop. Times-Mirror Staff Photos/Beverly Denny

Denise Steele has been living in Loudoun County for more than a decade, becoming involved with the community, especially through being part of her son’s Boy Scout troop for the past six years.

Steele started out in Boy Scouts as a den leader for her son, Jackson, 12, for his school, Horizon Elementary. No other parent would step up to the plate to take on the responsibility of leading a Cub Scout troop.

In retrospect, the situation was probably good – her son’s troop excelled at everything, including accomplishing badges and winning the Blue and Gold Award all five years, one of the highest awards for Boy Scouts.

Above all, like any mother, Steele put her son first and wanted to make sure he had a great time in scouts.

But in June, Steele’s chances to further bond with her son through scouting were dashed.

The mother was removed from the troop after one of the other assistant scoutmasters discovered Steele is a lesbian.

Steele has been in a domestic partnership with Jackie Funk for the past 19 years. The two reside in Potomac Falls with their two children, Jackson and Jaden, 9, and Steele’s nephew Will, 10.

Steele’s homosexuality has never been an issue with her in the past in regards to leading her son’s Boy Scout troop – it may have even opened some eyes to it.

“Some of the guys would come down and ask her advice,” Funk said. “Being a woman, forget about the gay part, it didn’t matter. They respected her for her committment and what she offered and how much she put into it. They respected her.”

Funk describes Steele as an “uber leader” and said that Steele got really into scouting.

“They made it fun and the boys wanted to stay in it. All the boys, except for like two who moved away, they all stayed the whole time. And scouting is just not cool anymore for a lot of people,” Funk explained.

Phil Holliday, the executive pastor at Christian Fellowship Church and Esther Schaeffer, the charter organization representative, say they are simply following the rules.
When a chartered partner agrees to sponsor a scouting unit, an annual charter agreement is signed, they explained.

In the contract, they agree to provide a place for a meeting, select volunteer leaders and follow the policies and guidelines established by the Boy Scouts of America.

“We are simply doing what we agreed to do in our charter,” Schaeffer said.

Finding the right troop

After graduating from Cub Scouts, the next step is to find the right Boy Scout troop. All boys are able to select which troop best fits them instead of being automatically placed based on the schools they attend.

“It’s all boy led, it’s his choice, but you want to make sure you get the right troop,” Steele said. “I wanted to make sure the boys had all the options out there.”

“It was like picking a college. You want to be surrounded by the people that are going to help you,” Funk added.

Steele says she and her son didn’t take into consideration the charter organization that backed the Boy Scout troop.

Boy Scout troops are backed by a charter organization, like a sponsor. Under the charter organization is a committee, the scoutmaster and the assistant scoutmasters of the troup – one of which Steele was striving to become.

The decision was made that Jackson would join Troop 761 – which was chartered by the Christian Fellowship Church, a relatively conservative church.

The Boy Scouts of America organization says it believes that “open homosexuality is inconsistent with the values.” It also recommends that scout parents and sponsors share this belief.

But, Steele still drove forward and as Jackson joined the troop, she completed her training to become an assistant scout leader. The training process to become a scout leader usually takes about a year. Steele completed it in three weeks. 

Steele approached the scoutmaster, Mike Tucker, to inform him of her partnership of nearly two decades with Funk. He told her   there was no problem.

The way Steele and Funk explain it is the reason why her homosexuality was overlooked was due to locality – local organizations can choose to overlook some of the Boy Scouting standards.

Funk says that Steele being a girl has never been an issue, but the Boy Scouts don’t like what Funk calls “the three G’s – the gays, the girls and the Godless.”

The weekend

The issue of Steele being a lesbian didn’t arise until one weekend in June during a camping trip to Assateague Island. The camping trip was from a Saturday to a Monday, and Steele needed to work Monday so she asked Funk to pick her up from the campsite.

After both departed, one of the other assistant scoutmasters, Skip Inabinett, started questioning who the woman was who had picked up Steele.

After discovering that Steele’s partner had picked her up, Inabinett felt that she should be removed as an assistant scoutmaster. In an email that Inabinett sent to a close personal friend of Steele’s and whose son was also in the troop, he stated, “If what you said about Denise Steele being an active sexual is true, do you feel comfortable talking with her about stepping down/resigning as an ASM … as her friend, this may be an opportunity for you to share with her about Christ’s love and the need to believe that as sinners we cannot get to heaven on our own and that we need a savior.”

The removal

More communication between both Steele and Inabinett went on for the next couple of weeks. The conversations centered around how Inabinett thought Steele’s lifestyle choice was a sin.

Funk described the situation between Steele and Inabinett as bullying, and it left Steele crushed and in tears through the many email exchanges.

“But this guy, who’s demonstrated very much a bullying behavior, if boys bullied other boys or girls bullied other girls to get what they wanted the way this guy has bullied her in today’s school system you’d probably get kicked out of school,” Funk said about Inabinett.

To bring up an issue, there are certain steps of going about it starting with the scoutmaster, then up to the committee and committee chair then to the charter organization. But, according to Steele and Funk, Inabinett went straight to the Boy Scouts of America with his complaint to get her removed as an assistant scoutmaster – and it worked.
“He didn’t go through those steps. He skipped over the scoutmaster, he skipped over the committee, he skipped over the district. He went straight to the highest level because that’s where he would get his answer. He went to the highest point to get me removed,” Steele said.

“A lot of our issue is, I mean it is what it is, she is removed, the issue is while she may be removed because he went about getting her removed because of this policy issue. It’s a private organization and they can do what they want,” Funk explained. “And she is no longer allowed to be near these scouts. She can’t go camping with them and she can’t be in a position of participation with them.”

But according to Deron Smith, the director of public relations for the Boy Scouts of America, Steele wasn’t removed from the national council and it may have been a troop decision. Units determine their own membership, Smith said. 

“The [Boy Scouts of America] recognizes that some do not agree with its position on this issue, but values the freedom of everyone to express their opinion and teaches its members to use courtesy and respect at all times,” Smith said in an email. “To disagree does not mean to disrespect. The [Boy Scouts of America] will continue to strengthen common interests, while respecting differences and will focus on its mission and on reaching as many youth as possible in order to help them grow into good, strong citizens.”

Several attempts to contact Inabinett were unsuccessful.

The aftermath

“There is no next step for us. She’s removed permanently. Issues like this get awareness,” Funk said. “The only way the Boy Scouts are going to change is if it impacts your wallet, donations go down because of this or they continue to see a drop of enrollment. At some point, if they recognize that their beliefs and their lack of being open and inclusive is affecting them, eventually that’s going to be the only way they are going to change.”

The big issue both Steele and Funk have with the situation is how it was handled by Inabinett. They both felt bullied, judged and put through emotional turmoil.
“I think it’s disappointing – it’s a sad day for Boy Scouting. I think the actions are really out of sync of what scouting stands for,” Eric Ianson, a friend of Steele’s and an Eagle Scout said.

The scout law says a scout should be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind and obedient, thrifty, clean and reverent, Ianson said.

“I mean, when the leaders of the troop hear that, how does it feel? Were they loyal to Denise? It certainly wasn’t kind what they’ve done to her,” Ianson continued. “It absolutely isn’t brave. The brave thing to do would be to take a stand here and say this isn’t right, this person has been great to our kids and it’s time to stand up for her and be great for her.”

Even other assistant scoutmasters from Steele’s troop felt it was vindictive, like Joe Leonard.

“I saw that he was vindictive and on a witch hunt because he asked her personal friends what her sexuality was. There’s no business in that. It’s a shame that a good leader for the boys has been removed because of one person who’s eccentric when it comes to his religious belief,” Leonard said. “It’s also a sad not that [Boy Scouts of America] has not or is not willing to entertain what other private organizations have done and their beliefs.”

The future

As for what’s next for Steele and her son, Jackson says he wishes to continue and make it all the way to Eagle Scout.

Steele’s son currently holds 11 merit badges, quite an accomplishment for a 12-year-old.

“Jackson is a very committed scout and doesn’t let his mother’s issue get in the way,” Funk said.


So, Steele lies on her application to be an ASM (putting in writing that she agrees with BSM policies), hides her sexuality from most of the troop (a tacit admission that she knows it’s incompatible with BSM policies), and joins a troop chartered by a church that has been clear for decades that the practice of homosexuality is a sin - and she’s the “Good Guy” here?  Everyone, including Steele and Funk, know the BSM don’t knowingly allow practicing homosexuals to be in scout leadership. Everyone should know that this church, and pretty much every other evangelical church, mosque, and synagogue, teach that practicing homosexuality is a sin. 
So Steele lies to enter anyway, and then cries foul when she’s found out, and many of you support this.  Wow - the world is turning upside down.  I guess next you will join the Catholic Church and then, years into it, make a stink because they teach birth control is a sin.  Or join a mosque and, after a few years, raise a fuss because you think the 5 Pillars should be optional.  Yeah, let’s join a synagogue and, after deceitfully weeding your way into the lay leadership, we can get some LTM reporter to write up how wronged you were for getting tossed when you made it known you think Abraham was a hoax.
If you think this is about bullying or

Sorry it took me a while to get back in response.  Let’s get the facts straight, homosexual community make up a very small part society.  It’s in fact that this society is tolerant of this small group’s push to be accepted in ALL aspects of society, which I don’t share.  In response to the those who believe I can’t prosecute; you are correct on one thing, I don’t know all of whom have contact with my children.  What I can do is try to protect them the best I can and if I find out about an indivdual(s), I will act appropriately.  I noticed no one mentioned anything about NAMBLA.  There’s an organization that actually do prey on young boys and many of them are homosexual.  For those who claim they are Christian and homesexual, they ARE in conflict.  Homosexuality is an abomination before God, period.  Anyway, I’m not wasting anymore time talking on this subject.  Just remember, if you want to have a Gay/Lesbian BSA/GSA type of organization, it’s a free country, form one.

So our Charter Organization - CFC Esther and Phil have called for an ‘emergency’ Committee meeting…but it’s closed to anyone outside the committee.

Funny, I thought that BSA always had an open door policy and that private meetings weren’t allowed.

Makes you wonder who is running this troop.  BSA or CFC?

Hey Jackie & Denise myself and a bunch of other guys I know think that you two should be able to do whatever you want.  You are really Hot and could make those campouts any Boy Scouts dream!  Now if the situation was reversed, and we’re talking about two men - I’ll be right there with Skip.

You are right it is close minded but it is also realistic.  Oh but I forgot the newbies of Loudoun hate teaching their kids the reality of life.

Actually the school of “Common Sense”.

Well, the straight people of Rivercrest (our WONDERFUL NEIGHBORHOOD), just “let us” help out once again with our amazing 7th Rivercrest Kids Triathlon. Thank goodness our community appreciates goodness, community service and family above all else. This is one of the many ways Denise and I contribute to Loudoun…Rivercrest…and kids. For all of you concerned about the damage we’re doing to our kids and others’...not a reality, just a closed minded, uneducated view of the world.

More than 130 kids participated this year…check out our awesome community event at www.rivercresttriathlon.com.

Signing off now…moving on.

Well BSA Rocks, that was one of the most convincing arguements I think I have ever heard!  You covered all the bases in defending your stance.  You brought character reference points, showed why the opposition’s view is wrong with in depth analysis, you used historical examples to prove your side of the arguement, and you whole heartedly showed me why your viewpoint is the right one.  Hahaha, where did you get your edumacation, the University of BSA or the School of BS?

“Too bad many of you can

Wish my family had had two supporting members like this family, even if both had been gay.  My dad left when mom gave birth to my younger sister.  Even before that, he was always out drinking at the local pub.  It was two weeks before he even saw me after I was born.

I got a guitar on my 15th birthday which made up for never being there for baseball games, birthdays, Christmases, etc.

And you morons (yeah I feel that is the perfect word) are going to bash a family that outwardly shows love and acceptance of their own. 

Too bad many of you can’t accept yourselves it sounds like.

If you really think these kids are never going to be picked on and harassed for their home life you must live in a bubble.  Where homosexuality is more welcome into the community then say 30 yrs ago it is still not completly accepted.  So yes “just sayin” is correct.  These kids are going to have alot to deal with as they get older.  You may accept it.  I may accept.  However there are plenty out there that do not.

Dear “just sayin’”,

“They”? Like they’re a special group? Libertarian maybe? “Bending rules?” Really?

I happen to know the family this article is about, including their children. Their kids are not being “dragged” through anything…and have no more to deal with than anyone else’s kids. They’re well balanced, polite, thoughtful, caring children. Move on…

Where I think most of what “you can’t be serious” wrote is a bit much I would agree with 1 point.  I too am sick to death over homosexuals wanting special treatment.  Rules are rules and thats it.  I can’t understand why they feel rules don’t apply to them or should be bent for them.  Deal with it move on stop dragging your kids thru this.  IMO they already have enough to deal with.

Stirring up drama? Playing victim? Not a chance. You must be Skip’s wife or one of Skip’s few friends. Skip, the former atheist, created the unnecessary drama. Did you ask him how he dared lead scouts while living a lie?

She was open from day one. Fortunately, most people could have cared less. Attention was raised to this unfortunate issue and many eyes were opened. Denise did nothing wrong.

this is ridiculous the boy scouts of America has every right to ban homosexuals from being leaders.  the are supposed to role models for young boys and their behavior is clearly not morally correct.  CFC sponsors them honestly, Denise, how did you think you were going to get away with this because you are not proving anything!!! you are only playing victim and that is not what boy scouts is about. You really need to get your priorities straight.  Boy scouts is not at fault; you knew going into training it was against the rules and you were only stirring up drama! I am not judging anyone here.  I am simply telling people like you to stop asking for special rights and playing victim. I’m just tired of all this crap.

It is only right that Skip Inabinett has been outed as cruel and intolerant.  He did what he did and it cannot be undone.  As always, I wonder why fundamentalist Christians must force all others to live by their narrow standards of “morality” (where tolerance and forgiveness are strangers), even when it is harmful to the community.  They are, in fact, very much like the Taliban in that respect.

As a Scoutmaster and a long-time scouter, let me offer my sympathies to you and your family.  After having read the story, I’d like to give my impressions.  Feel free to comment and let me know if I am on target.

The BSA’s policy is in regards to OPEN homosexuality…as in those who express it in a manner to promote it.  Most, if not all of the past court cases have been where the individual was actively promoting their sexual preference publicly.  Sexual preference promotion, whether homosexual, heterosexual, or autosexual is not allowed under BSA guidelines (falling under the definition of morality).  The BSA does, however, state that the Chartered Organization has the ultimate say on who is a leader or a member of the troop.  I believe this is where the blame lies.

Based on what the article states and from your comments, it appears that the pastor was not supportive towards you.  If this was the case, I would be almost certain that it was the Chartered Organization that removed you.  They have this right in that they “own” the troop and have total control of its structure if they desire.

The question here is in regards to what has happened since then.  Had it not gone to press, I would wonder if you could have gone to another troop with a more supportive chartered organization, discussed the matter with them, and sought to have your membership transferred to that troop.  I don’t know where the creation of the article and the (God forbid….) CNN coverage.

Unfortunately, many (if not most) here do not understand the past lawsuits and the policies of the BSA regarding sexual preference.  For what it is worth, from what I have read, I would be honored to have you as an Assistant Scoutmaster in our troop if you lived in our area.

If I am on track, please consider the option I mentioned.

Confirmed.  I work with CNN as a contractor.  It has been picked up by the assignment desk.

Here’s an inside tip.  CNN has wind of this story.  Please stay tuned.

Denise Steele,

I’m so sorry you were treated that way. You sound like a great parent who just wants to be involved her son’s activities.   

Pease keep in mind that the most of us support you. 

Hopefully, the

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