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With a historic vote on the agenda that could change the iconic organization’s century-old policy and allow avowed homosexuals, some 1,400 Boy Scout leaders from across the nation who form the National Council have gathered in Grapevine, Texas.
A final vote is scheduled for Thursday on a proposal that would allow openly homosexual scouts but retain the ban on adult homosexual scout leaders.
In the BSA’s official “Voice of the Scout” survey, which indicates a change in policy would prompt a mass exodus of scouts and leaders, respondents supported the current policy by a supermajority of 61 percent to 34 percent.
The Scouts count more than 2.7 million members and more than 1 million volunteers.
The resolution is a revision of a proposal issued in January that would have allowed local troops to decide whether or not to accept openly homosexual members and leaders.
A coalition of parents, scoutmasters, Eagle Scouts and other Scouting leaders called OnMyHonor.Net held a rally Wednesday as the Scout delegates arrived for the BSA national conference. The group asked BSA members nationwide to wear their uniforms throughout the day as a show of support for the current policy and urged supporters to wear khaki and white.
OnMyHonor.Net’s founder, John Stemberger, asserts a change in policy would “gut a major percentage of human capital in the BSA and utterly devastate the program financially, socially and legally.”
As WND reported, OnMyHonor.net and Family Research Council hosted a simulcast May 5 called “Stand With Scouts Sunday” that featured Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Steve Palazzo, R-Miss.
“Opening the Boy Scouts to boys who openly proclaim being sexually attracted to other boys and/or openly identify themselves as ‘gay’ will inevitably create an increase of boy-on-boy sexual contact,” said Stemberger in an open letter to the voting Scout leaders.
A group called NoSecretsInScouts.org charges that the secret ballot does not follow BSA guidelines requiring that “all aspects of the Scouting Program are open to observation by parents and leaders.”
The group is asking scouts to contact their local council and demand the vote not be in secret.
Meanwhile, the Alliance Defending Freedom, or ADF, announced this week it delivered a petition with 18,724 signatures to the BSA urging the organization to adhere to traditional American values.
“The Boy Scouts of America shouldn’t give in to intimidation or abandon its values,” said Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for Arizona-based ADF and an Eagle Scout.
Scouting begins as young as 6 and continues through age 18.
“The Boy Scouts should once again stand firm on moral principles that have successfully shaped our nation’s boys into leaders for generations,” says David Cortman, senior ADF counsel.
A letter accompanying the petition says the people who signed it “are ready and willing to stand with BSA if it will make the right decision and stand firm on its values and membership policy.”
ADF sent a similar letter in March, suggesting an inconsistent policy nationwide could open the door to lawsuits.
The group Scouts for Equality says it has delivered nearly 300,000 petition signatures asking the BSA to end its ban on homosexual members.
Twenty U.S. House Democrats have sent a letter to the BSA urging an end to the ban.
The Congress members say excluding homosexual scouts and scout leaders “is counter to BSA’s mission to teach our youth to combat discrimination.”
Among the signatories are Reps. Henry A. Waxman, Barbara Lee and George Miller of California.
The lawmakers note the BSA is a congressionally chartered organization with the mission of instilling “traditionally American values of tolerance, acceptance and inclusion of others.”
“We strongly urge the BSA to pass the proposed resolution to end discrimination against gay youth,” they wrote.
Change will ‘utterly devastate’ program
OnMyHonor.Net’s Stemberger says internal estimates by the BSA project an estimated $44 million of lost annual revenue if the policy is changed.
He points to BSA’s own “Voice of the Scout” surveys that indicate tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of parents, scoutmasters and scouts will leave the program if the proposal is adopted.
A member of the National Council who plans to vote on the proposal previously told WND a decision to change the policy will prompt many at all levels of the organization to quit.
Some defenders of the current policy, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000, point out that while it forbids “open or avowed homosexuals,” no one is asked about his sexual orientation.
Some homosexual-rights groups have said the proposed policy change doesn’t go far enough, because a scout who is homosexual must quit the organization when he turns 18.
John Eastman, a constitutional scholar who has advised the Boy Scouts against broadening the membership policy, told the Washington Times he believes that some local councils will break off from the BSA depending on which way the vote goes.
“Quite frankly, I think that if anybody’s going to leave, it ought to be the ones that are seeking to change the organization into something it’s not, rather than those who want to adhere to what it has traditionally always been,” Eastman said. “I’m an Eagle Scout myself, my son’s an Eagle Scout and my grandfather was an Eagle Scout. This hits personal.”
About 70 percent of local Scout troops are supported by churches or other religious groups, most of which have taught that homosexual behavior is sinful.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the largest sponsor of Boy Scout troops in the U.S., however, issued a statement last week affirming the proposal.
The Catholic Church, the third-largest Scout troop sponsor, indicated it wants to work with the BSA even if the policy is changed.
Policy affirmed last year
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.
The BSA’s decision to propose a change in policy, 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.