Boy Scouts Delay Decision on Gay Scouts amid Religious Wrangling

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February 6, 2013; Source: Wall Street Journal

Today the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced that it would not make a decision on whether or not to lift the ban on gay scouts before its annual meeting in May. According to a BSA statement, “After careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the Scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy.”

The scouts are being lobbied hard from both sides of the issue but on Monday, reports the Wall Street Journal, representatives from religious groups requested that the board delay the vote, although some of those representatives were for the change and some were against it. For instance, Michael Purdy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints commented that the Scouts “acted wisely in delaying its decision until all voices can be heard on this important moral issue.” The Church considers same-sex relationships a sin and also sponsors approximately 38,000 Boy Scout troops, making it the largest Boy Scout troop sponsor in the country.

The second-largest Boy Scouts sponsor is the United Methodists, which sponsor 11,000 units and the Journal points out that they do not allow “self-avowed practicing” gays and lesbians to serve as clergy. The Roman Catholic Church sponsors 8,570 units, making it the third biggest sponsor. So we might imagine the problem the board faces. But Jay L. Lenrow, the former national chairman of the Jewish Committee on Scouting, commented that the ban is a stand against pluralism and is “absolutely allowing the teachings of certain religious groups to trump the teachings of other religious groups…These are not our principles.”

The Christian Science Monitor cites Tim Parsons, a history professor at St. Louis’ Washington University, as saying that the Boy Scouts of America faced a similar bind in the early 20th century over racial segregation and finally concluded that desegregation would be handled at the local level. He thinks that the BSA may try the same tactic this time but that it may well be less successful. “Scouts are used to having access to state resources at a local or national level. They risk becoming marginalized,” said Parsons. “My guess is they’ve essentially calculated their best chance of survival is to bend in the wind.” –Ruth McCambridge

  • Kevin

    If they go the localized route of decided whether to treat children equally, they will face another case that will probably end up before the SCOTUS. Their last case was won because their primary mission is promoting values as an organization. If one of those national values becomes a localized decision of whether gay children are worth the same as straight children in a heteronormative society versus a national value that gay children are less than straight children, then the value ceases to be a value and the segregation becomes unlawful.

    There is no win for the BSA in this case. If they choose to uphold their ban nationally, their membership will continue to fall and their funding will largely stay static. If they come out in support of inclusion nationally and they will see an immediate decline in enrollment and funding from religious factions, but they end up on what is decidedly the right side of history and their membership would likely stabilize within the year and begin to grow again. If they go the localized route, they abdicate their responsibility as a leader in anything, destroy the legal rationale for segregation, and tarnish their image and goodwill when they lose a supreme court case and become a bookmark in American History.

  • Elizabeth Smith

    Dear Staff,

    Please relay to the BSA that this reader is against the change of their policy. It goes against everything they stand for. They are going to corrupt our youth if they allow homosexuals to infilrate the BSA. The young boys are vulnerable and impressionable and look up to leaders and if they allow a homosexual with that kind of power there will be no sense of morality left in America. Boys of today all ready struggle enough with discrimination from feminists, telling them to act “less boyish”, they don’t need homosexuals telling them how to behave sexually either. Think about all the abuse that would go on and it would be dismissed because the young mind would be corrupted into thinking that kind of behavior is OK, it’s not OK! It’s against God and there natural human instinct. Please, please pass on this information.

    Thank you for your time,
    Elizabeth Smith