Ahead of a historic vote, the Boy Scouts of America has issued a survey asking Scouts and their parents if they could accept various scenarios that would arise if the organization changes its century-old policy and allowed homosexuals in its membership.
The survey presents scenarios ranging from a lesbian leader of first-grade boys to a “gay male troop leader” who takes “adolescent boys on an overnight camping trip.”
The BSA’s national council of some 1,400 members is expected to vote on the proposed policy change at its annual meeting in Grapevine, Texas, in May.
In an email announcing the survey, the organization explains it’s in a “process of a careful and deliberate review of our membership policy, as it relates to the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation.”
“We are dedicated to the integrity of this process,” the email says. “In an effort to listen to our members’ perspectives and concerns, we ask you to answer some questions about this topic and about your overall Scouting experiences.”
The BSA’s executive council, with some 70 members, was poised to vote on the policy last month but issued a statement saying “due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy.”
WND reported before the decision to delay the vote that many Scout leaders, from the national organization to the troop level, have said they will resign if the proposal passes.
The policy has been maintained amid homosexual activism both within the organization and outside, bolstered by a 5-4 Supreme Court decision in 2000 recognizing the right of private organizations to determine their own membership policies.
Last July, an 11-member committee of professional scout executives and adult volunteers unanimously concluded after a two-year study that the policy of barring homosexuals should be maintained. The executive committee of the BSA national executive board then announced that while not all board members “may personally agree with this policy, and may choose a different direction for their own organizations, BSA leadership agrees this is the best policy for the organization and supports it for the BSA.”
The new survey asks scouts and their parents whether they would accept having a heterosexual scout sharing a tent with a homosexual scout on a camping trip. Among other issues, it touches on the role of faith in the organization and whether the oath to be “morally straight” has anything to do with sexual orientation.
In a Washington Post blog posting, opinion writer Jonathan Capehart compared the Scouts’ survey to a “study” of the views of military personnel that the Defense Department used to prepare for the repeal of its policy on homosexuals, known as “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”
The Defense Department’s survey helped pave the way for the policy change by giving the impression in the executive summary that 70 percent of active-duty and reserve troops had no problem with it. But critics point out the survey also could be interpreted to mean 82 percent believed changing the policy would have a negative or neutral impact. There was strong opposition from 60 percent of combat troops and 67 percent of Marines, for example
The non-profit legal-advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom has sent a letter to the BSA that encourages the organization’s leadership to reaffirm its policy “of accepting into membership only those who adhere to the group’s core values.”
The letter warns that an inconsistently applied policy nationwide could open the door to lawsuits.
As WND reported, a major drop in corporate funding came last September after a gay-rights blogger for the Huffington Post published a collaborative report that named the donors and chastised them for violating their own policy of not discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.
Under the Scouts national organization are nearly 300 regional councils that oversee some 116,000 local troops.
About 70 percent of local scouting troops are sponsored by churches, which contribute funding along with facilities and other resources. The biggest supporter is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Mormons.
LDS officials have declined to comment on the vote. But when the Scouts policy was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2000, an LDS attorney wrote that the Mormon church would “withdraw from Scouting if it were compelled to accept openly homosexual Scout leaders.”
The second biggest church supporter of Scouting, the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, also has declined to comment on the proposal.
But the Southern Baptist Convention has urged congregations to pray that board members will retain the Scouts policy.
Two prominent board members – including an adviser to the Obama White House – have stated their intent to change the policy, Randall Stephenson of AT&T, who is next in line to become BSA national chairman, and James Turley of Ernst & Young.
Last June, Turley vowed he “will work from within to seek a change” to the BSA policy.
“As I have done in leading Ernst & Young to being a most inclusive organization, I intend to continue to work from within the BSA board to actively encourage dialogue and sustainable progress,” Turley said.
Stephenson has been praised for publicly opposing the Boy Scouts’ policy and explained he would remain on the board, which he’s in line to lead in 2014, because he could have more influence.
Turley was nominated to President Obama’s Export Council in 2010, and has been a promoter of Obama’s economic policy.
Turley and his wife, Lynne, were guests at a state dinner hosted by President Obama for British Prime Minister David Cameron at the White House last year.
As with previous U.S. presidents going back to President William Howard Taft in 1910, Obama became the honorary president of the BSA shortly after taking office in 2009.
In an interview last month with CBS’s Scott Pelley, Obama affirmed the Boy Scouts should be open to “gays.”
“I think that my attitude is that gays and lesbians should have access and opportunity the same way everybody else does in every institution and walk of life,” he said.
Obama called the Scouts “a great institution” that is “promoting young people and exposing them to opportunities and leadership that will serve people for the rest of their lives, and I think nobody should be barred from that.”
The White House said last August that Obama opposed the organization’s ban.
In contrast, in a speech to a group of Scouts in Texas in February, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican presidential candidate last year, urged the organization not to change its policy.
“Hopefully the board will follow their historic position of keeping the Scouts strongly supportive of the values that make scouting this very important and impactful organization,” Perry said, according to the Associated Press.
An Eagle Scout, Perry wrote a book in 2008 titled “On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting For.”