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Neckerchiefs and khakis for everyone! Slope scout group open to gays, gals

Brooklyn Daily

A Windsor Terrace dad has earned a merit badge for embracing diversity.

Todd Schweikert made it his scout’s honor to find a troop where his eager 7-year-old son can serve alongside campers and mentors both straight and gay, unlike the Boy Scouts of America, which bars homosexuals.

When Schweikert failed to dig up any scouting groups that passed his test for tolerance, the Eagle Scout father of two started his own troop that’s open to boys, girls, and woodsy adults of all kinds.

“There should be no qualification of what makes a scout,” said Schweikert, whose new troop was first reported by DNAinfo.com. “Boy, girl, gay, straight, lesbian, transgender, you name it — discrimination on any level is never okay. It’s not something I want to teach my children and I couldn’t have them in a program that supports that.”

The new troop, dubbed the 5th Brooklyn Scouts, is affiliated with the nascent worldwide Baden-Powell Service Association, which offers traditional nature-based scouting to all takers, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or faith.

The new scouts put on their khaki and neckerchiefs for the first time last Wednesday in an open house that drew about 40 interested kids and parents.

Schweikert hopes his troop will help Brooklynites gain new perspective on scouting, which has taken heat because its biggest organization — the Boy Scouts of America — continues a don’t ask, don’t tell policy by excluding “open or avowed homosexuals.”

“I was so happy with scouting and had such a wonderful experience, so it breaks my heart that it is instantly met with a bad taste in people’s mouths,” he said.

Eagle Scout and Park Slope dad Alistair Wandesforde is “ecstatic” about the all-inclusive troop, because he wants his kids to experience scouting without any affiliation with the Boy Scouts of America.

“Joining the [Boy Scouts of America] at this point is tantamount to joining a country club that excluded African Americans — it is not in the direction of progress,” said Wandesforde, who registered his enthusiastic 10-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son in Schweikert’s troop.

The band already boasts 20 scouts including Schweikert’s son, Jonathan, and kids as young as five can take part. Members move up the ranks from “Otters” to “Rovers” based on age, and can earn “proficiency” badges in skills such as canoeing and first-aid.

Scouts will comes to know Prospect Park like the back of their hands, but they will also do some real camping in the Catskills, Schweikert hopes.

Visit www.5thbrooklynscouts.org.

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at nmusumeci@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at twitter.com/souleddout.

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