Boy Scouts to vote on gay ban
by David Crary, Associated Press
May 19, 2013 12:23 AM | 1668 views | 15 15 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Boy Scouts recite the Pledge of Allegiance during a ‘Save Our Scouts’ prayer vigil and rally against allowing gays in the BSA in front of the Boy Scouts of America National Headquarters in Dallas in February.
Boy Scouts recite the Pledge of Allegiance during a ‘Save Our Scouts’ prayer vigil and rally against allowing gays in the BSA in front of the Boy Scouts of America National Headquarters in Dallas in February.
slideshow
With its ranks deeply divided, the Boy Scouts of America is asking its local leaders from across the country to decide whether its contentious membership policy should be overhauled so that openly gay boys can participate in Scout units.

The proposal to be put before the roughly 1,400 voting members of the BSA’s National Council on Thursday, at a meeting in Grapevine, Texas, would retain the Scouts’ long-standing ban on gays serving in adult leadership positions.

Nonetheless, some conservatives within and outside the BSA community have denounced the proposal, saying the Scouts’ traditions would be undermined by the presence of openly gay youth. There have been warnings of mass defections if the ban is even partially lifted.

Gay-rights supporters and some Scout leaders from politically liberal areas have welcomed the proposed change as a positive first step, but are calling on the BSA to go further and lift the ban on gay adults as well.

The Scouts’ national spokesman, Deron Smith, said the policy toward gays had become “the most complex and challenging issue” facing the BSA at a time when it is struggling to stem a steady drop in membership.

“Ultimately, we can’t anticipate how people will vote but we do know that the result will not match everyone’s personal preference,” Smith said in an email.

Of the more than 200,000 Scouting community leaders, parents and youth who responded to a February survey, 61 percent supported the current policy of excluding gays, while 34 percent opposed it.

Those findings contrasted with a Washington Post-ABC News national poll earlier this month. It said 63 percent of respondents favored letting openly gay youth be Scouts, and 56 percent favored lifting the ban on gay adults.

Over the past several weeks, numerous public events have been staged by advocacy groups on different sides of the debate.

A group called Scouts for Equality has organized rallies in several cities aimed at urging local BSA councils to support an end to the ban on gay youth. Rallies opposing any easing of the ban, for youth or adults, have been organized by a group called OnMyHonor.net, which claims the pending proposal “requires open homosexuality in the Boy Scouts.”

Both groups plan to have their leaders and supporters on hand in Grapevine as the vote takes place.

Among those heading to Grapevine to lobby for an easing of the ban are Tracie Felker and her 16-year-old son, Pascal Tessier, who, though openly gay, is on track to become an Eagle Scout as a member of Boy Scout Troop 52 in Chevy Chase, Md.

“We are absolutely dedicated to restoring integrity to Boy Scouting and reinvigorating the program,” Felker said. “That can only be done by removing the stain of discrimination.”

Passions also run deep on the other side, as evidenced by a live online event titled “Stand With Scouts Sunday” presented May 5 by the conservative Family Research Council. The council opposes lifting the ban on gay youth, saying such a change “will dramatically alter the culture and moral landscape of America.”

Among the participants was Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who lauded the Scouts’ tradition of character-building.

“For pop culture to come in and try to tear that up because this happens to be the flavor of the month ... that is just not appropriate,” Perry said. “Frankly I hope the American people stand up and say, ‘Not on my watch.’”

Also appearing on the webcast was Jeremy Miller, a Scout leader from Ohio who said the proposed change “will open the door to boy-on-boy sexual contact, bullying and older Scouts being predators on younger scouts.”

The BSA’s national leadership has rejected such warnings as ill-founded. “The BSA makes no connection between the sexual abuse or victimization of a child and homosexuality,” a new background document says. “The BSA takes strong exception to this assertion.”

Of the more than 100,000 Scouting units in the U.S., 70 percent are chartered by religious institutions. While these sponsors include liberal churches opposed to any ban on gays, some of the largest sponsors are relatively conservative denominations that have supported the broad ban — notably the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Southern Baptist churches.

Knowing these churches oppose scouting roles for gay adults, the BSA leadership hopes they will be willing to back the easing of the ban on gay youth. As part of this effort, the BSA is emphasizing that sexual conduct by any Scout — straight or gay — would be considered unacceptable.

“We are unaware of any major religious chartered organization that believes a youth member simply stating he or she is attracted to the same sex, but not engaging in sexual activity, should make him or her unwelcome in their congregation,” the Scouts say in their new background document.

Southern Baptist leaders were outspoken earlier this year in opposing the tentative plan to let Scout units decide for themselves if they wanted to accept gays as adult leaders.

Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, said the new proposal “is more acceptable to those who hold a biblical form of morality,” but he nonetheless favors its defeat.

“A No vote keeps the current policy in place, an outcome we would overwhelmingly support,” Page told Baptist Press, the SBC’s official news agency.

Baptist Press reported that the Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., was considering ending a nearly 75-year sponsorship of a Boy Scout troop if the policy change prevails. The church’s senior pastor, Ernest Easley, echoed warnings from other Southern Baptist leaders that any BSA accommodation of gays might prompt defections and trigger an expansion of the SBC’s own youth group for boys, the Royal Ambassadors. According to BSA figures, Baptist churches sponsor Scout units with about 108,000 youth members.

Leaders of some smaller conservative denominations — including the Assemblies of God and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod — have signed a statement opposing the proposal to accept gay youth.

Some larger sponsors have either endorsed the proposal, or — in the case of the United Methodist Church and Catholic Church — declined to specify a position. The National Catholic Committee on Scouting issued a statement describing the membership debate as “difficult and sensitive” but stopping short of any explicit recommendation for how Catholic delegates to the BSA meeting should vote.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced in April that it supports the new proposal, saying the BSA made a good-faith effort to address a complex issue. The Mormons sponsor more Scout units than any other organization, serving about 430,000 of the 2.6 million youth in Scouting.

The United Methodists are the second-largest sponsor, serving about 363,000 youth members; the Catholic Church is No. 3, with a youth membership of about 273,000.

Several regional Scout councils already have declared their position on the membership proposal.

In Tennessee, the Nashville-based Middle Tennessee Council and Jackson-based West Tennessee Area Council said they oppose the proposed change and support the current broad ban on gay youth and adults.

“We are continuing to uphold the standards, beliefs and traditions Scouting has held for over 100 years,” said Lee Beaman, board president of the Middle Tennessee Council, which says it serves 35,000 youth and adults.

The day after that announcement, Bill Moser, a longtime Scout leader in Clarksville, Tenn., announced his resignation, saying he couldn’t support a policy that would force openly gay youth out of Scouting when they turned 18.

The Greater New York Councils, which serve about 43,000 Scouts in New York City, is supporting the proposal to accept gay youths, calling it “a positive step forward.” It is among the councils urging the Scouts to also accept gays as adult leaders.

The Los Angeles Area Council said it follows a nondiscrimination policy that extends to sexual orientation and it proposed that the BSA adopt a similar policy nationwide, opening its ranks to openly gay adults as well as youth.

However, the BSA leadership says no such alternative proposals will be put to a vote at the Grapevine meeting — only the single proposal to lift the ban on gay youth.

If the proposal is approved, the new policy would take effect on Jan. 1, 2014. A task force already has been created to oversee its implementation.
Comments
(15)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
Libb in Cobb
|
May 20, 2013
Some of my detractors will ask why I mentioned pedophilia. The Boy Scouts are not only guilty of not being an organization for all people, but they have badly mismanaged the problem of adults within the scouts molesting children, much like the century long problem in Catholic Church. In fact the Boy Scouts covered up this problem for decades before it was brought to light just recently. It seems the scouts took lessons from the Catholic priests.
Lib in Cobb
|
May 20, 2013
@prophecy: PS: News flash for you, pedophilia is not homosexuality. Read more than the bible and you may learn.
Prophecy
|
May 20, 2013
Homosexuality is a sin...Period

"For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." NIV 2 Timothy 4:3
Lib in Cobb
|
May 20, 2013
Not everyone believes as you believe, especially me. I embraced atheism many years ago and I have never looked back. I am a better person for that decision, as I now make all my decisions based on the information at hand, not by a third party belief system which has fear as its base.

Save your breath about me burning, I don't buy it and I will not buy it, ever. If your religion gives you comfort, I am happy for you.

Peace.
BCMeers
|
May 24, 2013
I hope you are old and near dead. I hate to say because I love my relatives but when the old generation is gone we can really start moving forward in the South. Dying debris standing in the way. I don't even bother arguing because you can not speak logically to a brainwashed person. It is like talking to a child.
Too funny
|
May 20, 2013
This is the type of thing that produces the very best in Christian homophobia and bigotry.
Larietta
|
May 19, 2013
As a Boy Scout in my youth, I think I have earned a vote. Do not change the core Christian moral values and replace it with nothing of value. this is not about "tolerance", it is about decency. Our current culture is based upon non-Christian beliefs without having anything of value as an alternative.

Lib in Cobb
|
May 20, 2013
@Larietta: Did Christ love all people, or just the heterosexuals?

Lib in Cobb
|
May 19, 2013
Why don't the Boy Scouts vote on banning pedophiles?
Vorant
|
May 19, 2013
I'd rather vote to ban liberal loons, at least that would accomplish both...
anonymous
|
May 20, 2013
hehehe lol

good one jeb
Lib in Cobb
|
May 20, 2013
@Vorant: Being a "tin foil hat wearing bunker dweller", it is very proper for you to ban those who you don't like for example, gay scouts, liberal loons, anyone who voted for our president, people of color, everyone who is not a Christian. You would keep anyone who would start wars based on lies. Please don't breed.
MAY-RETTA SURVIVOR
|
May 19, 2013
Go Figure:

We have an IDIOT for a President, yet the Boy Scouts worry about Gays.
Lib in Cobb
|
May 20, 2013
We thinking people had to endure 12 years of the Bushs.
Lib in Cobb
|
May 20, 2013
@May-Retta:

The Boy Scouts should be concerned about who is permitted to be scouts and scout masters. The Boy Scouts should be an all inclusive organization, but they are not. The men who have molested children within the scouts were/are pedophiles, not homosexuals. There was a time, particularly in the southern states, that a significant portion of our population was excluded. It is distressing to see that the scouts have not moved beyond those very ugly days. It is time for the scouts to join some of us in the 21st. century.
*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, and spam will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides