From Jan. 1, 2014, the Boy Scouts of America will no longer bar gay youth. While some churches have dropped the Scouts because of the new policy, the majority of the organization’s members and sponsors are staying. A new conservative alternative Trail Life USA will also launch in January.
(CNN) – For Southern Baptist pastor Tim Reed, 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, Arkansas.
Opponents charge ‘open homosexuality’ will destroy program
The proposed resolution that would change the Boy Scouts century-old membership policy and allow “open homosexuality” is “logically incoherent and morally and ethically inconsistent,” charges a coalition of Scout leaders and their families.
“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,” says John Stemberger, Eagle Scout and founder of OnMyHonor.Net, in an open letter to Scout leaders.
Stemberger’s letter is specifically addressed to the approximately 1,400 rank-and-file Scout leaders who form the National Council, which will vote on the resolution at the Boy Scouts of America national conference in Grapevine, Texas, May 22-23.
The resolution, a revision of a plan issued in January, seeks to strike a compromise by allowing open homosexuality by boys but not adult leaders.
The previous proposal would have allowed local troops to decide whether to accept openly homosexual members and leaders.
Stemberger argues that under the new policy, “open homosexuality would be officially consistent with the Scouting code throughout a Boy Scout’s life until the moment he turns 18, when it suddenly becomes a problem.”
He points out that BSA’s own youth protection videos indicate that 70 percent of abuse of boys is by teenagers.
“The proposal forces and requires every chartered Scouting unit, irrespective of religious convictions, to facilitate open homosexuality among boys in their program,” he writes.
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.”
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 policy previously told WND a decision to change the policy will prompt many at all levels of the organization to quit.
Stemberger said internal estimates by the BSA project an estimated $44 million of lost annual revenue if the policy is changed.
Mormons support change
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 Mormons, however, issued a statement last week affirming the proposal.
The LDS statement, April 25, said that while the church has not campaigned for or against a policy change, it has followed the discussion and is “satisfied that BSA has made a thoughtful, good-faith effort to address issues that, as they have said, remain ‘among the most complex and challenging issues facing the BSA and society today.’”
The statement by the Salt Lake City leadership said the proposal “constructively addresses a number of important issues that have been part of the on-going dialogue including consistent standards for all BSA partners, recognition that Scouting exists to serve and benefit youth rather than Scout leaders, a single standard of moral purity for youth in the program, and a renewed emphasis for Scouts to honor their duty to God.”
“We are grateful to BSA for their careful consideration of these issues,” the LDS statement said. “We appreciate the positive things contained in this current proposal that will help build and strengthen the moral character and leadership skills of youth as we work together in the future.”
In his open letter, Stemberger also asserts the resolution “robs parents of the sole authority to raise issues of sex and sexuality with their kids” and leaves all Scouting units “with no options and no legal protection if they refuse to allow open homosexuality among the boys of their units.”
He contends top BSA leaders “completely ignored the collective wisdom of rank and file Scouting family members when they put forth this proposed resolution.”
The BSA’s own official “Voice of the Scout” survey, he points out, shows respondents support 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.
Stemberger’s coalition wants churches to host a simulcast this Sunday of their event “Stand with Scouts Sunday.” Sponsored by the Family Research Council, 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.”
FRC’s president, Tony Perkins, said the outcome of the upcoming vote “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.”
Stemberger was interviewed April 21 by CNN’s Don Lemon, who has declared he is homosexual, along with Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and founder of the homosexual-rights group Scouts for Equality.
In the interview, Wahls told his story of growing up with “two moms,” one of whom served as a Cub Scout den mother.
“This policy is about keeping people out of the program because of the problems they have with gay people like my moms, Jackie and Terry,” he said.
Boy Scouts public relations director Deron Smith has explained that 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.”
‘Gay’-rights activists who have been pressuring the Scouts to change the policy, are 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 for 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, Wahls, has 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.”
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 by activists along with Ernst & Young CEO James Turley for publicly opposing the Scouts’ membership policy and vowing to work from within to change it.
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.”
This 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.
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 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.