Amid speculation the influential denomination would urge its churches to abandon the Boy Scouts of America, the Southern Baptist Convention appears poised to merely call for the removal of some scout leadership after the youth organization voted to allow openly homosexual youth to join.
At its annual meeting in Houston, the SBC committee released a proposed resolution that will be voted on by its delegates from across the nation. Individual Southern Baptist congregations, in any case, are autonomous and can make their own decisions.
Without naming Boy Scouts leaders, the resolution asked to remove some in executive and board positions who had tried to change the policy earlier this year without input from “the full range of the Scouting family.”
Allowing openly gay youth in scouting “has the potential to complicate basic understandings of male friendships, needlessly politicize human sexuality, and heighten sexual tensions within the Boy Scouts,” the resolution says.
Religious institutions comprise more than 70 percent of the organization’s charter partners. The largest partner, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has joined the United Methodist Men and the National Catholic Committee on Scouting in encouraging their members to stay with the Boy Scouts.
The policy change was approve May 23 by 61 percent of the approximately 1,400 Boy Scout leaders who voted at the organization’s annual conference in Grapevine, Texas.
In a statement issued after the vote, the BSA said the resolution “reinforces that Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting.”
The policy change is effective Jan. 1, 2014, “allowing the transition time needed to communicate and implement this policy to its approximately 116,000 Scouting units.”
The new policy, devised after an extensive survey of BSA members, 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. The approved policy maintains the ban on openly homosexual adult leaders.
Meanwhile, a coalition of members of the BSA who actively opposed the policy change are working on the formation of an alternative scouting organization. The group plans to meet this month in Louisville, Ky., with likeminded organizations, parents and BSA members to discuss the creation of a “new character development organization for boys.”
“Many Americans around the country will find it difficult to support the Boy Scouts of America after this decision,” said John Stemberger, founder of OnMyHonor.Net. “Despite this setback, we will look to the future.”
Stemberger said scout leadership “has turned its back on 103 years of abiding by a mission to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices.”
“Instead, it is embarking on a pathway of social experimentation that we believe will place at risk the very youth the organization is entrusted to serve, while rendering as hollow the tenets of the Scout Oath,” he said.
The BSA insists the change is consistent with scouting’s values.
“Scouting’s youth member policy is not about the BSA endorsing homosexuality, or forcing its chartered organizations to do the same. This change allows Scouting to be more compassionate in its response to a young person who expresses a same sex attraction, but is not engaging in sexual activity, by no longer calling for their automatic removal from the program,” BSA spokesman Deron Smith said in an email before the vote.
As WND reported, the historic May 23 vote has left people on both sides of the issue unhappy.
California’s state Senate approved legislation last month that would use the state’s tax policy to pressure the Boy Scouts of America into fully accepting gay members.
Democratic state Sen. Ricardo Lara emphasizes that the vote allows homosexual scouts in the organization until they turn 18, meaning they can’t serve as adult leaders. He will continue to push a resolution that would revoke the BSA’s tax-exempt status “to ensure that discrimination in any form does not exist – not in our state, not on our dime.”
“Equality does not have an expiration date,” he said. “Discrimination should not be subsidized.”
The homosexual-rights group GLAAD has said it and other like-minded activist groups will now encourage “gay” youth to participate in the Boy Scouts. But spokesman Ross Murray said “the ban on gay adult leaders is still a major barrier for many families and organizations.”
Many churches and leaders already have left the Boy Scouts, and some have decided to stay but not comply with the new policy.
The Deseret News of Salt Lake City reported last week a pastor of a Presbyterian church who was a longtime supporter of the Boy Scouts resigned from the executive board of the local Trapper Trails Council, the third-largest in the country.
In his resignation, Humphrey said his church will continue as a chartered group but “will not follow the BSA, Trapper Trails Council nor Mormons in endorsing what scripture and the church of Jesus Christ through the ages has defined as sin.”
Southern Baptist pastor Tim Reed told CNN affiliate Fox 16 in Arkansas it was Scripture versus the Scouts.
“God’s word explicitly says homosexuality is a choice, a sin,” said Reed, pastor of First Baptist Church of Gravel Ridge in Jacksonville, Ark.
He said that after the May 23 vote, his church had no choice but to cut its charter with Troop 542.
“It’s not a hate thing here,” Reed said. “It’s a moral stance we must take as a Southern Baptist church.”
‘Gutting’ the Boy Scouts
OnMyHonor.net’s Stemberger has contended that a change in the membership policy would “gut a major percentage of human capital in the BSA and utterly devastate the program financially, socially and legally.”
“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.
He 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 would leave the program if the proposal were adopted.
A member of the National Council previously told WND a decision to change the policy would prompt a mass exodus at all levels of the organization.
Last July, after a thorough two-year study, an 11-member committee of professional scout executives and adult volunteers unanimously concluded the policy of not allowing open homosexuals should be maintained.
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.