Boy Scouts Reconsidering Stance on Homosexual Members

The Story: The Boy Scouts of America is considering changing its longstanding national membership restrictions based on sexual orientation. The new proposal would allow the religious and civic groups that sponsor Scout units to decide for themselves how to address the issue of whether to exclude or include openly homosexual young men as Scouts.

The Background: Since it’s inception 103 years ago, the Boy Scouts has excluded both homosexuals and atheists. (Spokesman Deron Smith said a change in the policy toward atheists was not being considered, and that the BSA continued to view “Duty to God” as one of its basic principles.) The Scout have been pressured to change the policy by gay rights groups, corporate sponsors, and even the President of the United States.

According to Baptist Press, the Boy Scouts released a statement just six months agostanding by the ban, saying a “majority of our membership” agrees with the policy and that the “vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their rights to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers, and at the appropriate time and in the right setting.”

The Boy Scouts released a new statement Monday describing the proposal, saying that the national policy would be rescinded in favor of a policy allowing local councils to determine their own policy. Scouting officials will take up the matter at next week’s scheduled national Board meeting.

Why It Matters: The Scouting oath begins by saying, “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country” and concludes with a pledge to stay “morally straight.” Allowing openly homosexual members and leaders would show young men that the Boy Scouts put political correctness ahead of their own commitment to moral principles.

“The goal or aim of Scouting is to instill in youth the ability to make moral and ethical decisions over a lifetime by a careful application of the Scout Oath and Law,” says Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee. “However, this move appears to fly in the face of both the Scout Oath and Law.”

Currently about 70 percent of all Scouting units are owned and operated by faith-based organizations. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints leads all faith-based organizations with 38,000 units (and 420,000 participating youth), followed by the United Methodists (11,000 units; 371,000 youth), the Catholic Church (8,570; 283,000), and Southern Baptists (4,100; 109,000). Many of these churches may discontinue their support since it will open them to discrimination lawsuits.

Matthew J. Franck, director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute, says that churches will be right to discontinue the affiliation:

For it will only be a matter of time before the Boy Scouts of America will pronounce itself in favor of same-sex marriage; will adopt instructional materials, mandatory in all troops, on the compulsory acceptance, by all members and leaders, of homosexual relations as normal and normative; and will move to silence all dissent from the new orthodoxy by boys, parents, troop leaders, and sponsoring organizations. The Scouts, in short, will rapidly become, from the top down, a national pro-gay organization, local control be damned.

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  • Jeff Patrick

    I’m not pleased with the proposed changes and am extremely concerned about the future of scouting. However, what we don’t need are hysterical and nonsensical declarations from people who obviously have never been in leadership within scouting. Matthew Franck, simply put, has no clue what he is talking about. Scouting simply doesn’t work in the manner in which he describes – it’s an underfunded, overworked, largely volunteer-led organization – they simply don’t have the funding to be top-down in the manner in which he describes.

    • Joe Carter

      ***Scouting simply doesn’t work in the manner in which he describes***

      But why wouldn’t it work in that manner? BSA can set whatever policy they want and all of the chapters have to abide by it. Currently, BSA says that no homosexual members are allowed to join. Why could they not reverse that and say that all chapters have to allow homosexual members to join?

  • Phil

    This moves appear to fly in the face of both the Scout Oath and Law.

    Lifting the ban does not violate the Scout Law. Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, simply says it, without support. He is wrong.

    With regard to the Scout Oath, lifting the ban does not contradict it either. In the Oath to God, it does not require that you believe in the Christian Right’s God–the God that condemns homosexuality. There is simply nothing, anywhere, in Scouting that requires that. (Although Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, may wish it were required.)

    Also, the phrase “morally straight” in the Oath has nothing to do with sexual orientation or sexuality at all. According to the Boy Scouts themselves, it means:

    To be a person of strong character, your relationships with others should be honest and open. You should respect and defend the rights of all people. Be clean in your speech and actions, and remain faithful in your religious beliefs. The values you practice as a Scout will help you shape a life of virtue and self-reliance.

    It seems like, if the Boy Scouts are going to require that “relationships with others should be honest and open,” lifting this ban seems like a good idea.

    • Brent

      If BSA chooses to allow homosexuals, then parents have the right to remove their boys from an organization that is losing its moral foundation, but let’s not pretend that homosexuality is not an openly rebellious sin which has a huge negative impact on young boys. You may think there is a god that accepts homosexuality, but that would not be the true God of the Bible.

      Hope BSA stands firm and does not get swayed by people with an ungodly political and moral agenda.

      • Phil

        Presumably you would place your boy in a Troop that believed what you believed. There would still be many, many Troops that fit the bill.

        (For example, any LDS Boy Scout troop would work.)

        • Brent

          The difference is not one of personal choice as in choosing a “Christian” troop over a secular troop. The disturbing thing is that a so-called Christian organization is making this change solely on the pressure of people whose sexual preferences are openly known and biblically wicked. Why is a Christian organization stepping down from the high ground it once held and becoming a secular organization? There is a bigger picture here than the exclusion of an individual homosexual person. Ideas are destroying BSA this way.

          • Phil

            I have no idea why you think Scouting is a “Christian” organization.


            • Brent

              Perhaps it is not Christian in the sense that it is not a church, but it certainly is a Christian organization in the sense of holding to Christian values.

              What problem do you have with Christianity, Phil?

            • Phil

              The BSA also holds “Jewish” values, “Muslim” values, etc…

          • david

            Brent, the problem is, the BSA has put itself in an impossibly hypocritical situation. On the one hand the BSA is explicitly saying that it’s perfectly acceptable for any boy scout to believe in any god of their own personal choosing. Whether it be Allah, Buddha or God, whether they see Jesus as the son of God (Christians) or a false prophet (Jews), it doesn’t matter. You can worship a golden calf as god so long as you are not an athiest. We don’t care, you’re welcome in. We believe this will have no impact whatsoever on our moral foundation.

            On the other hand, when it comes to sexual orientation, well that’s an entirely different situation. We don’t care what you believe or who you think God is, we believe that Christianity says homosexuality is a sin. Therefore, if you are gay, you’re out.

            if the BSA is Christian, then it should be Christian. If the BSA isn’t Christian, then it’s not Christian.

  • Christian Lawyer

    **Many of these churches may discontinue their support since it will open them to discrimination lawsuits.**

    On what basis? Neither of the 2 articles to which you link suggests this at all. The Supreme Court has already held that BSA, as a private club, can include or exclude whoever it wants. Churches have that same right. Allowing each sponsor group to chose on the issue of gays would not change that. It’s the government entities that are being sued for allowing public property to be used for discriminatory purposes, not churches.

    • Joe Carter

      ***Neither of the 2 articles to which you link suggests this at all.***

      From the Baptist Press article: “[T]he move opens the door for hiring practices at council and national camps that would allow homosexuals in those settings. The BSA will have no legal recourse to prevent such applicants from filing discrimination suits if their applications are denied.”

      • Christian Lawyer

        **The BSA will have no legal recourse to prevent such applicants from filing discrimination suits if their applications are denied.**

        That refers to suits against the BSA, not the churches. No one is suggesting it could lead to suits against the churches.

  • David

    So… can you be a Jew or a Muslim and be a Boy Scout? The article says that LDS is the largest Boy Scout organizer and of course almost all Christians universally (and in my opinion, rightly) view Mormons as not of their shared faith. So is a Muslim who worships Allah truly obedient to the oath to “do my duty to God”? What about a Jew? A Mormon? If Christians are already accepting of allowing Boy Scouts who have a non-Christian view of who God is, why aren’t they similarly accepting of allowing Boy Scouts who have a non-Christian view of what is “morally straight”? After all, what is worse, a false sexual orientation, or worship of false idols? So it’s okay to accept and allow non-Christian Boy Scouts who worship false idols (commandments 1 and 2)?

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  • Brian

    A question has been posed as to which is worse a scout leader who is homosexual or a scout leader who is Jewish/Muslim/Catholic/Mormon. I have no problem being friends with any of these groups. I would allow them in my home and around my children. What I do have a problem with is allowing them to have leadership/influence over my children or any other person’s child. This guideline I have placed on myself applies to my younger children. It also includes pastors, teachers and coaches. As my kids get older and are able to stand firm in their faith, I may allow them to be taught by teachers or coaches who are not Bible believing Christians. (My kids are still young.) Any thoughts?

    • david

      I would imagine many Christians are deeply uncomfortable with this question, because emotionally they feel comfortable having a BSA leader who is Catholic or Mormon, but deeply uncomfortable with having a BSA leader who is gay. Of course there is absolutely no doctrinal support in the Christian faith for this dichotomy, which is why it is an inconsistent and rather hypocritical (in my opinion) divide. So according to Brian’s point of view — which at least is consistent — any BSA leader who is not a Christian should be expunged from the BSA. That’s a big problem for the BSA considering tens of thousands of Boy Scouts are Mormon, they make up the largest contingency of the BSA according to this article. Brian, I wonder how far your principle goes. If your young son or daughter had a swim coach who was Mormon or Jewish would that be acceptable? A piano teacher? What about a math tutor?