Boy Scouts considering end to ban on gay scouts

Pete Williams of NBC News reports:

The Boy Scouts of America, one of the nation’s largest private youth organizations, is actively considering an end to its decades-long policy of banning gay scouts or scout leaders, according to scouting officials and outsiders familiar with internal discussions.

If adopted by the organization’s board of directors, it would represent a profound change on an issue that has been highly controversial — one that even went to the US Supreme Court. The new policy, now under discussion, would eliminate the ban from the national organization’s rules, leaving local sponsoring organizations free to decide for themselves whether to admit gay scouts.

“The chartered organizations that oversee and deliver scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with their organization’s mission, principles or religious beliefs,” according to Deron Smith, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts’ national organization.

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Category : The Lead

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  1. Brian Kneeland

    I doubt they will remove their ban. They have repeatedly hurt countless youth with their ban – even after they do all of the work for badges and awards!

  2. John B. Chilton

    “The new policy, now under discussion, would eliminate the ban from the national organization’s rules, leaving local sponsoring organizations free to decide for themselves whether to admit gay scouts.”

    I’m no BSA expert, but I presume “local sponsoring organizations” means the churches and other entities that sponsor BSA troops. What happens when these troops meet at the district level? Or will tolerant troops be ostracized?

    Or could a district impose a district-wide ban to replace the national ban?

  3. George Lafaye

    The normal scout lingo for the churches and other entities that sponsor Packs and Troops is “chartered organization,” and they have traditionally had wide latitude in selecting leaders. The ban on gays was an exception to that wide latitude. Since the spokesman for the BSA talks in those terms I would assume that the districts and councils would not be making their own policies. Right now, councils do the reference checks and criminal background checks after the unit and the chartered organization choose them.

    As far as tolerant troops being ostracized, there are already plenty of Packs and Troops that are tolerant in a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Care, Didn’t Hear What You Just Said” way. They get calls to help with district and council events just like all the others. I do not see why that would change when the units can be more open about making scouting available to every boy who wants it.

  4. revsusan

    Just as a reminder, the Episcopal Church has been advocacting for Inclusive Scouting since at least 2000 when we passed resolution C031 at General Convention calling for grassroots conversations with BSA leadership about ending discrmination against gay scouts and leaders.

    That was July 2000. This is January 2013. See also: “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”

  5. revsusan

    Thought I was previewing it and hit submit by mistake. Previous post by the Distracted Reverend Susan Russell.

  6. Jason Wells

    If the change is made, then this would be an advantageous moment to make sure that Episcopal Churches are chartered organizations for scouting units. That way scouts could take advantage of the widening latitude.

    Perhaps our bishops could meet with state-level scounting leaders to help make this connection throughout our dioceses.

  7. Emma Pease

    Lifting the ban on gay scouts in the BSA does not mean the ban on known atheistic scouts in the BSA has been lifted (atheistic scouts in the Girl Scouts of the USA have been allowed since 1993 [and lesbian/gays for even longer]). Is the Episcopal Church willing to call the BSA on its religious discrimination? I can pretty much guarantee that some Episcopal Church sponsored troops have closeted and semi-closeted atheist leaders and scouts (just as they’ve had closeted and semi-closeted gay/lesbian leaders and scouts).

  8. Many years ago my Explorer Scout troop was sponsered by a Mormon church. I’m assuming they would not have been in favor of allowing gay scouts or leaders. Any new ideas about this happening?

    Lan Green

  9. To the extent that I’ve heard reaction to this today, it has been leaders in evangelical Christian churches suggesting that they would no longer participate in scouting because they couldn’t prevent their members from contact with gay and gay-tolerant scouts at district and national events. We might look for some churches to move to para-Scouting organizations, such as Royal Rangers.

    Marshall Scott

  10. Jeffrey Cox

    I have witnessed that the Episcopal Church has withdrawn from vibrant youth ministries in ordinary parishes. There are exceptions to this rule, but I can witness to many smaller parishes in Massachusetts that have little to none youth programming outside of Confirmation. It has gotten better at the diocesan level, but it struggles at the local church level. The national church membership numbers reflect this reality.

    I believe Scouting is one tool to have youth connected to a church. What I have witnessed is that churches see Scouting as a tenant than a ministry. Scouting clearly has the local church “own” the troop. Too many clergy simply ignore the boys. This is the real problem. The gay issue is a national problem, but local churches have disown this ministry.

    CampFire programs have been non-discrimatory for many years. Churches have not adopted these programs.

  11. Jim Pratt

    It looks like the combination of corporate and grass-roots pressure is going to make them cave. About time, though with the level of Mormon control at the national level, I thought it would never come.

    I assume that local councils would have to follow the national policy (otherwise they would still run afoul of United Way and other donor criteria), and it would be up to individual units and their chartering organizations to set their own policy. In effect, this would be no different from the policy on girls: Venturing Crews (ages 15-21) can be co-ed, but Crews sponsored by Mormon churches are all-male.

    As for the last of the three G’s, God, it only excludes militant atheists, not agnostics or someone questioning their faith. And again, some church-sponsored units require their members to belong to the sponsoring church.

  12. Emma Pease

    “it only excludes militant atheists”

    So a militant atheist is one who feels the words ‘Duty to God’ (with the emphasis according to the BSA on’God’) should mean something and it is not something they can honestly publicly state? So what exactly is a non-militant atheist? The World Organization of Scouting Movement has a broader definition of the duty which does not require a belief in a God. I note the Scouts and Guides in the United Kingdom are considering revising their promises so as to allow atheists (Girl Scouts/Guides in Canada, the US, and Australia have already done so).

    The WOSM definition of Duty to God:

    “Adherence to spiritual principles, loyalty to the religion that expresses them and acceptance of the duties resulting therefrom.”

  13. LafSq

    Hello All.

    I am a new commenter on this blog, and have a very deep knowledge of what is going on in the BSA, as well as a longstanding and deep relationship with TEC. I take the counter-intuitive position that members of TEC should rally to support this development — even if it is not the purest expression of what many want to see in the way of gay rights. As this issue rolls out over the coming days, you can look to me for authoritative and inside views. Be open to this, folks.

    [LafSq – please sign your name when commenting at the Café – thanks ~ed.]

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