NASHVILLE (BP) -- Southern Baptist leaders Frank Page and Richard Land have written letters expressing strong opposition to a proposal that would leave in place the prohibition on homosexual Scout leaders but would allow youth who identify as gay to join.
Boy Scouts delegates will consider the proposal at their national meeting Friday, May 24. The letters were released the same week that Boy Scout troops across America rallied Friday (May 17) against the proposal. The rallies were sponsored by OnMyHonor.net, a coalition of concerned parents, Scout Leaders, donors, Eagle Scouts and others who oppose the proposal.
Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee, addressed the letter to all the voting delegates. Page's letter was part of an email sent by the Middle Tennessee Council of the Boy Scouts of America to all 1,400 delegates urging them to defeat the proposed resolution.
"For over a century," Page wrote, "Scouting has helped our youth develop character and leadership skills forever impacting their lives. I am distressed by the recent proposed resolution which would introduce the subject of sex and sexual orientation into the program of the Boy Scouts. For one hundred and three years Scouting has been a safe haven from such topics rightfully reserved for parents. Such an introduction is inconsistent with the principles found in Scouting's sacred Oath and Law."
Page concluded, "I encourage you and pray that you will do the right thing and vote NO on the resolution, thus retaining your current membership policy and the timeless values on which Scouting was founded. Please stand with courage for moral integrity that causes Scouting to be revered by the vast majority of Americans."
Page's letter included links to two videos where several Eagle Scouts -- the highest advancement rank in the Boy Scouts -- expressed their concern over the proposal.
"It just doesn't make sense for the Boy Scouts to support homosexuality," said Dax Bushway of Colorado Springs, Colo., who was in the Boy Scouts from 2003-11 and earned the rank of Eagle Scout. "... One of the points of the Scout law is a Scout is clean. That can mean a number of different things. It can mean physical cleanliness, but it really has a deeper meaning than that. A Scout is clean in his thoughts, his words, his actions. Homosexual acts are not considered clean in the Boy Scouts.
Bushway added, "The Boy Scouts isn't just against homosexuality. It's against having sex before marriage, pornography, or any other forms of sexual lewdness. Homosexuality is against the moral code that the Boy Scouts presents. It's against the moral code in Christianity, in Mormonism, in many religions that support the Boy Scouts, who charter many Boy Scout organizations."
Land, outgoing president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the ERLC's position on the Boy Scouts' latest proposal "differs in no respect" from the entity's position on the previously proposed option to allow local leaders to set membership standards.
"In short, the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission remains opposed to any change in the Boy Scouts' membership policy," Land wrote to Chief Scout Executive Wayne Brock and Boy Scouts of America (BSA) President Wayne Perry.
The ERLC, Land wrote, considers the proposed policy to be a serious departure from the Boy Scouts' moral foundation and traditional values. The admittance of openly homosexual youth into Scouting does not comport with Boy Scouts' mission, Land wrote, and it is at odds with the Scout Oath.
"If the BSA takes one step in compromising a long-held core value, what would prevent it from soon taking a second step to abandonment of the value altogether?" Land wrote.
Also among Land's concerns:
-- Southern Baptists do not believe embracing same-sex orientation is biblically acceptable. "By introducing homosexual identification into Scouting, the Boy Scouts would effectively require church-sponsored Scouting units to endorse that which they consider incompatible with Scripture," the letter states.
-- Southern Baptists historically have played an integral part in the Boy Scouts and allowing openly homosexual youth into Scouting would cause many Southern Baptist churches to withdraw their sponsorship. "Already, numerous churches have told us of their intent to do so," Land wrote.
-- The resolution is inconsistent and unworkable. "Under the proposed policy, an openly homosexual 17-year-old Eagle Scout, for example, would become ineligible for any position in Scouting at age 18," Land wrote. "To foster youth toward a future in Scouting only to bar them from the ranks on their 18th birthday is an inconsistency many find irreconcilable." Homosexual advocates, he said, already are calling on the BSA to expand the "compromise" resolution to include self-identifying homosexual adults.
-- The proposed policy would make the BSA vulnerable to lawsuits over its membership standards given that the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000 affirmed that the Boy Scouts, as a private organization, had a First Amendment right to keep its membership policy on homosexuality because it was a "core" part of the organization's mission and purpose. "The proposed resolution abandons this 'core' principle as merely a preference, thereby inviting lawsuits and jeopardizing the policy's sustainability, according to many legal scholars," Land explained.
-- The ERLC is perplexed that the BSA "would abandon a century-old membership policy less than a year after completing a nearly two-year examination of its membership standards and announcing that the existing policy 'remains in the best interest of Scouting and that there will be no further action taken on the resolution.'"
"For these reasons and more," Land wrote, "we urge no change to the BSA's existing membership policy."
The ERLC joins several others who have spoken out in opposition to the BSA's proposed policy allowing homosexual Scouts, including:
-- Ernest Easley, pastor of Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., who views any move to allow homosexuals as detrimental to Scouting. Roswell Street sponsors a Scout troop.
"The proposed recommendation from the leadership of the BSA certainly weakens the credibility of their organization," Easley said. "To open the previously closed door to homosexuals certainly and clearly violates, in my estimation, the strongest language of their pledge where it speaks of being 'morally straight.'"
-- The Middle Tennessee Council of the Boys Scouts of America. Hugh Travis, the Scout executive for the 37-county council, recounted that the Middle Tennessee Council's board "has reviewed all of the comments and surveys completed locally on behalf of the national and local council. The results overwhelmingly signify that the parents, leaders and chartered partners in the Middle Tennessee Council believe that the current membership policy is a core value of the Scout Oath and Law. Our delegates who will be voting members on the proposed resolution at the national business meeting on May 22-24th will not vote to approve the resolution, but to retain the current membership policy." --30-- Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press. Michael Foust is associate editor. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).