Page meets with Scout leaders, stands firm
NASHVILLE (BP) -- The Boy Scouts will lose members and the support of faith-based organizations if it changes its policy on homosexuality, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee told two top Boy Scouts leaders in a meeting Thursday (March 7).
EC President Frank S. Page met in Nashville with Boy Scouts Chief Executive Wayne Brock and Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, who serves on the Boy Scouts executive board and is a past president. Brock and Tillerson urged Page to continue supporting the Boy Scouts if the organization overturns its policy preventing homosexual leaders and members.
The Boy Scouts board is expected to put the issue before its 1,400 voting members at Scouting's national convention in May. The proposal would remove the national rule and replace it with a local option, whereby each sponsoring organization would decide the policy.
Page told Brock and Tillerson that no matter how well-intentioned they are, a national policy allowing homosexual leaders and members would trump the local councils who decide otherwise, embroiling local groups in legal issues. Roger S. "Sing" Oldham, vice president for convention communications and relations with the SBC Executive Committee, sat in on the meeting and gave Baptist Press a summary of the conversation. The meeting was cordial, Oldham said.
Many local groups, Page said, will withdraw if the policy changes.
Tillerson, a professing Christian, shared with Page his faith testimony. He also explained why he believes the policy should be overturned. There are changing cultural winds on the issue of homosexuality, Tillerson said. Local Scouting organizations would retain control over their local leadership, he said, and national gatherings of Scouts would accommodate troops who don't have gay leaders.
Tillerson asked Page to support the Boy Scouts no matter what decision is reached in May.
Page said he could not do that, according to Oldham. God's truth is abiding, Page said, and principles should not be subject to the changing tide of human opinion. Scripture, not opinion polls, should provide the basis for leadership, Page said.
Later in the day, Page Tweeted: "Met today with one of the most powerful personalities I've ever met. He did not budge 1 inch. Nor did I."
The Boy Scouts are facing pressure from sponsoring corporations to change their policy but also pressure from their base to keep it. About 70 percent of all Scouting units are 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) and the Catholic Church (8,570; 283,000). Baptists are sixth (4,100; 109,000).
Two prominent Boy Scouts board members -- AT&T CEO Randall Stevenson and Ernst & Young CEO James Turley -- have been outspoken in their desire to see homosexual leaders and members allowed.
The liberal American Independent website posted a lengthy story March 4 reporting that one in seven Fortune 500 companies donated at least $10,000 to the Scouts in 2010.
"Together, 69 companies donated nearly $5.3 million to the Boy Scouts that year," the story said.
The intent of the story -- which was re-posted on the left-leaning news website HuffingtonPost.com -- apparently was to pressure companies to withdraw their support until the Scouts change. It included a list of all 69 companies.
The American Independent story came around the same time that singer Carly Rae Jepsen announced she won't be performing at the Boy Scouts' national jamboree in July because of the current policy. Another scheduled band, Train, said it won't perform if the policy stays in place.
Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, penned a letter to the Boy Scouts Jan. 31, asserting that changing the current policy defies common sense.
"[W]ith the admission of homosexual Scout leaders, the BSA would place men, who by their own definition are sexually attracted to men, in close, supervisory proximity to teenage boys, which invites real human tragedies. We are not saying homosexuals are pedophiles," Land wrote. "However, how many parents would send their teenage daughters on camping trips with heterosexual male troop leaders? They would not -- not because they believe that such heterosexual men are pedophiles, but because they realize that under such close, supervisory care of men who by definition are attracted to women, human tragedies could, and inevitably would, occur."
Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).