Over the next three months the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is in for a bitter fight over whether or not it should lift its 100-year ban on homosexual scout leaders. Last July the BSA concluded a two-year study of the issue by announcing that, for the sake of the boys the organization serves, it would continue with the prohibition. But following aggressive backlash from pro-homosexual groups and financial shunning by formerly loyal corporate supporters such as UPS and Intel, the group backtracked and said it would allow regional Boy Scout Councils, along with the “religious, civic, or educational organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting,” to determine individually whether or not to welcome homosexual men and women to guide their boys. That decision, in turn, prompted conservative, Christian, and pro-family leaders to warn of a devastating mass exodus from the group by concerned moms and dads if the BSA didn't regain its backbone and resolve to stay its century-long moral course.
On February 7 a thoroughly bewildered BSA executive board changed course again, announcing that it would leave the issue in the hands of the approximately 1,400 voting members of the BSA National Council, who will make their collective decision sometime in late May. “After careful consideration and extensive dialog 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,” said BSA spokesman Deron Smith in a statement. “To that end, the executive board directed its committees to further engage representatives of Scouting’s membership and listen to their perspectives and concerns. This will assist the officers’ work on a resolution on membership standards.”
That carefully worded announcement prompted a renewed round of pressure tactics from pro-homosexual groups, unofficially led by former Eagle Scout Zach Wahls, who has desperately lobbied on behalf of homosexuals, such as his lesbian mom, who would like unencumbered opportunity to guide and influence boys involved in scouting.
Scouts for Equality, the pro-homosexual group Wahls started for the purpose of forcing the BSA to change its policy, claimed it had amassed 1.4 million signatures from sundry individuals opposed to the ban — including 4,159 Eagle Scouts. Wahls, who had heartily applauded the BSA's earlier decision to allow gay leaders, was thoroughly frustrated by the group's flip-flop, labeling it an “abdication of responsibility. By postponing this decision, the BSA has caved to those who argue that their ideas about being gay trump basic Scouting values of kindness, courtesy and bravery. Scouting was built on a foundation of respect and dignity. Today, the BSA cracked that foundation.”
Similarly, lesbian Jennifer Tyrrell, who has engaged in an all-out campaign against the BSA's exclusion of homosexuals since being dropped as a scout leader last year, declared that a “scout is supposed to be brave, and the Boy Scouts failed to be brave” by sticking to their century-old policy. “The Boy Scouts had the chance to help countless young people and devoted parents,” she continued, “but they've failed us yet again. No parents should have to look their child in the eye and explain that the Boy Scouts don't want us. Our fight will continue and we will continue to educate donors and supporters of the Boy Scouts about the effects of their anti-gay policy.”
Wahls, Tyrrell, and a number of homosexual groups have vowed to redouble their efforts against the BSA's “anti-gay” policy. One typical organization, GLAAD, encouraged its members to “Take Action! Send a message to the Boy Scouts that we won't rest until they end the ban.” One of the largest homosexual activist groups, the Human Rights Campaign, ramped up its rhetoric as well. “Every day that the Boy Scouts of America delay action is another day that discrimination prevails,” said HRC spokesman Chad Griffin, who insisted that the “BSA leadership should end this awful policy once and for all, and open the proud tradition of Scouting to all.”
Meanwhile, pro-family and Christian leaders warned the BSA leadership of a wholesale departure from scouting by concerned parents should the group abandon its stance on homosexuality — a ban they insist is inextricably tied to the official Boy Scout Oath requiring that the conduct of the group’s members and leaders be “morally straight.”
John Stemberger of the Florida Family Policy Council recalled that a decade after the Canadian Boy Scouts began allowing homosexual leaders in 1998, the number of that group's participants had dropped by 50 percent. “I predict the BSA program will eventually suffer the same fate if this new policy is adopted,” warned Stemberger. “Over 75 percent of the sponsoring organizations are faith based. Baptists, Catholics, Mormons, and various Evangelicals represent the vast majority of sponsoring organizations and many will consider leaving the BSA if this policy is adopted.”
Jason McGuire, president of the New Yorker's Family Research Foundation, said that in an era in which “boys are struggling to become men, we need organizations like the BSA and strong male mentors that prepare and encourage boys in their transition to full manhood. It is not in the best interests of Boy Scouts or their families for the BSA to change this policy. The best interests of Boy Scouts and their families should be the only consideration.”
Carrie Gordon Earll, a policy analyst with Focus on the Family's CitizenLink activist arm, noted that “parents and scouts are attracted to the Boy Scouts because of the values it espouses. Parents want an organization where their sons will be influenced by leaders who know the value of male and female, of one-man and one-woman marriage, and of moral certainty.”
Earll warned that the BSA's attempt to remain neutral on such an important issue could be devastating for the organization. “Moral neutrality is not why parents want their boys to be in Scouts,” Earll said. “It’s moral certainty that makes Scouts attractive to parents. It’s our hope that at the end of the day, the BSA will listen to parents, preserve its self-proclaimed duty to God, and resist the bullying of homosexual activists.”
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, thanked the BSA for choosing to hold off on implementing the policy, but emphasized that the group's leadership would have to do more than merely postpone its decision. “Instead, the BSA board should publicly re-affirm their current standards, as they did just last July,” Perkins counseled. He said that his pro-family group would work closely with scouting parents and the faith-based groups making up a majority of the groups sponsoring Boy Scout Troops,” and would also “continue to communicate with the Scout leadership about the grave consequences that would result if they were to compromise their moral standards in the face of threats from corporate elites and homosexual activists.”