As the Boys Scouts of America prepares to release details of a controversial policy proposal on homosexuals ahead of a vote next month, some members and activist groups are urging the iconic organization to preserve its traditional values by ending a reliance on corporate donations.
Ties to a corporate world that has largely accommodated the gay-rights agenda have brought the Scouts to the point of voting on whether they should abandon their century-old policy of forbidding members who openly declare they are homosexual, argues Randy Sharp, director of special projects for the American Family Association.
Sharp’s group is mobilizing supporters to urge Boy Scouts executive board member Randall Stephenson, the CEO of AT&T, to resign.
Stephenson, who is said to be positioned to become the BSA executive board’s chairman next year, has been praised along with Ernst & Young CEO James Turley for publicly opposing the Scouts’ membership policy and vowing to work from within to change it.
“This is a man who’s trying to play both side of the fence, and we think that he doesn’t have the best interest of the Boy Scouts in mind,” Sharp told WND.
Sharp said that at the beginning of the week, AFA counted 175,976 petition signatures urging Stephenson to resign. In addition, hundreds have followed AFA’s suggestion to post messages on AT&T’s Facebook page. Also, thousands of post cards with the same message to Stephenson have been mailed to AFA’s office. They will be delivered to AT&T headquarters in Dallas.
Sharp, a former scoutmaster himself, contends Stephenson has a conflict of interest as the head of a corporation that has fully embraced the gay-rights agenda.
“You’ve got two entities here. You’ve got an organization, and then you have a company, and their two philosophies on homosexuality are diametrically opposed to each other,” Sharp said. “One honors God and the other honors man.”
Stephenson declined WND’s request for an interview.
In a CNBC feature one year ago, Stephenson was noted for leading AT&T’s adoption of the gay-rights agenda.
“Diversity and inclusion are part of AT&T’s culture and operations,” Stephenson said at the time. “We don’t agree with every policy of every organization we support, nor would we expect them to agree with us on everything. Our belief is that change at any organization must come from within to be successful and sustainable.”
Sharp believes AT&T’s decision to cut funding to the BSA illustrates Stephenson’s personal conflict of interest, arguing board members should lead in a way that exemplifies the Scouts’ values.
On Monday, the BSA’s executive board is expected to release a proposal to change the current membership policy. The proposal will be put before the Scouts’ 1,400-member National Council for a vote May 23.
The executive board could have made the decision at its meeting in February but decided to delay it until May amid strong opposition voiced by its national membership. The board said that after “careful consideration and extensive dialogue,” it “concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy.”
Next month, it won’t be the national executive board – comprised of many prominent corporate CEOs – making the decision but rather the BSA National Council, made up of the regional and local Scout leaders.
“These are really the backbone of the BSA,” Sharp said. “These are the people from communities all across America who work hand-in-hand with the young men in scouting. They are not these CEOs and corporate board-room executives who are detached from what Boy Scouts really are.”
Sharp said the council members “are the guys that do the backpacking and pitch the tents and do the outdoor cooking and build the fires and teach the boys.”
“So they understand the danger of having open and avowed homosexuals on campouts with little boys,” he said.
Some argue that Stephenson has every right to press for change from within, because the Scouts are merely acknowledging significant changes in the way society views homosexuality.
Sharp pointed out, however, that last July, after a thorough two-year study, an 11-member committee of professional scout executives and adult volunteers unanimously concluded the policy should be maintained. The BSA executive committee 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.”
One decade ago, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the right of the Scout organization to exclude homosexuals, because the behavior violated the core values of the private organization.
Sharp further argued that Stephenson and Turley are the ones who helped drive the proposal.
“These two men have stated that they are working to change the policy,” he noted.
“The best thing for Mr. Stephenson to do,” Sharp said, “is just retire from the board and say, ‘You know, I don’t agree with the Boy Scouts. My company doesn’t agree with the Boy Scouts. I’m just going to resign my position.'”
As long as Stephenson is within the Boy Scouts, Sharp said, “it’s going to cause a disruption within the organization.”
Diane Gramley, president of the AFA of Pennsylvania, said corporations and heads of corporations need to decide if it is more important “to make less than 5 percent of the U.S. population happy by bowing to the bullying of organizations such as the (gay-rights) Human Rights Campaign or to listen to the voices of the majority of Americans.”
The Family Research Council is also wielding its considerable influence, working directly with scouting parents, scoutmasters and leaders of the faith-based organizations that charter over two-thirds of the packs to help maintain the policy.
Sharp believes the Scouts would be wise to wean themselves from a financial dependency on corporate donations that has led to putting corporate officers on the board.
“That was well and fine in the ’50s, 60s, 70s and 80s, because these CEOs were men of great moral character,” Sharp explained. “They espoused the values of the Boy Scouts of America. But we’re seeing a climate change in corporate America to where these officers no longer always align with the values of the Boy Scouting.”
Corporate donations largely go to the National Council, which uses the money to provide materials and support for local councils.
Now, he said, is the opportune time to say, “We’re not going to be influenced by corporate America. We need to continue with our value system and stand on our own two feet.”
Sharp said he would be willing to pay a higher fee for membership if it would help the Scouts “get away from these big corporate donations” and become more independent.
“Self-reliance is a value in itself that the Boy Scouts can espouse,” he said.
Homosexuals already in Scouting
As WND reported, a coalition of Eagle Scouts, Scoutmasters and parents have launched a new organization to maintain the current policy and “keep sex and politics out of the BSA.”
The OnMyHonor.Net coalition argues the BSA already “allows anyone to participate, regardless of sexual orientation,” though it forbids “open and aggressive promotion of homosexuality and political agendas.”
John Stemberger, Eagle Scout, former scoutmaster and founder of the coalition contends the current policy is “time-tested and fair, allowing anyone to participate irrespective of sexual orientation.”
“There are currently scouts, Eagle Scouts and scout leaders in uniform with same-sex attractions yet who are in good standing with the program,” he explained.
“This change in policy would transform the BSA into yet another battle ground for the gay agenda.”
He said “sex and politics have no place in scouting.”
“When it comes to sexual behavior modeled before young boys, some as young as 6 and 7 years of age, parents have the final say, not agenda-driven activists.”
As WND reported, some Scout leaders have said a decision to change the policy will prompt many at all levels of the organization to quit. A fourth-generation Scout leader – a recipient of an award for distinguished leadership and a member of the Southern Region committee as well as an ad hoc member of the national committee – said he’s one of many Scout leaders who will not continue with the organization if the policy is changed.
The BSA’s new policy proposal, as WND reported, coincides with a sudden drop in major corporate funding that began last summer 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.
The Scouts count more than 2.7 million members and more than 1 million volunteers. The Scout troops, which are hosted by churches and other organizations, are organized into districts, based on geographic boundaries, which in turn are grouped into councils. The councils form 26 areas nationwide, which are further grouped into four regions. The BSA national council sets policy, offers national awards and organizes national jamborees.