A coalition of Boy Scout parents and leaders is opposing the resolution released today by the Boy Scouts of America that seeks to strike a compromise by allowing open homosexuality by boys but not adults.
“This cleverly worded resolution tries to dodge criticism from gay activists but still creates a myriad of problems for how to manage and ensure the safety of the boys in the program,” said John Stemberger, Eagle Scout and founder of OnMyHonor.Net.
The resolution from BSA’s executive committee will be voted on by the 1,400-member National Council at its meetings in Grapevine, Texas, May 22-23.
It’s a revision of a plan issued in January that would have allowed local troops to decide whether to accept openly homosexual members and leaders.
If approved, the policy will take effect Jan. 1.
Boy Scouts public relations director Deron Smith said the resolution would mean that “no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”
OnMyHonor.Net argues that the current membership policy, “backed by more than 100 years of tradition,” allows “anyone to participate irrespective of sexual orientation, but only disallows the open and aggressive promotion of homosexuality and political agendas.”
Stemberger contended parents should have the final say on issues of sexuality and politics.
“Allowing open homosexuality in the BSA injects both those topics right into the program,” he said. “We urge the national council to vote against this resolution and uphold the time-tested membership policy of the Boy Scouts.”
Stemberger said the proposed resolution also “continues to leave Scouting units who decline to allow open homosexuality vulnerable to attacks by lawsuits and runs of the principles and convictions of most of the major faith denominations comprising 70 percent of the chartering partner units in Scouting.”
Gay-rights activists who have been pressuring the Scouts to change the policy, were not entirely satisfied with the resolution.
Jennifer Tyrrell, a lesbian mother who was ousted by her son’s Cub Scout Pack last year, said the Scouts are “once again forcing me to look my children in the eyes and tell them that our family isn’t good enough.”
She counts more than 1.6 million Change.org petition signatures that back gay-rights groups GLAAD and Scouts for Equality in urging the organization to end its “anti-gay policy.”
“My heart goes out to the young adults in Scouting who would be able to continue as scouts if this is passed, but then be thrown out when they reach the age to become leaders,” she said.
Rich Ferraro, vice president of communications at GLAAD said the BSA “has failed its members, corporate sponsors, donors and the millions of Americans who agree that the time to end discrimination in Scouting is now.”
“By refusing to consider an end to its ban on gay and lesbian parents, the Boy Scouts have missed an opportunity to exercise leadership and usher the organization back to relevancy,” he said. “We’re living in a culture where, until every young person and parent have the same opportunity to serve, the Boy Scouts will continue to see a decline in both membership and donations.”
However, Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and founder of Scouts for Equality, called the new resolution an important first step toward a “day when all Scouts and Scout leaders are supported within the organization, regardless of their sexual orientation.”
Meanwhile, the Family Research Council announced Friday it is urging churches to rally in support of the current Scout policy.
The organization wants churches to host a simulcast May 5 of their event “Stand with Scouts Sunday.” It will feature Scouting officials, Scout parents, government officials and Eagle Scouts “to analyze the current landscape and provide action steps so that you and your church can stand with the Scouts in both your community and nationally.”
“The outcome of this decision will affect the very future of Scouting, as a shift in the policy would undermine the very principles held by the BSA for over a century,” said FRC’s president, Tony Perkins.
The American Family Association has been 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,” AFA’s Randy Sharp told WND.
The Scout 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.
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.”
In 2000, 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.
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.