Leaders' national ad exhorts Scouts to avoid 'grave mistake'
The Boy Scouts board is meeting this week, and it could lift the prohibition a mere six months after reaffirming it. Boy Scouts spokesperson Deron Smith told Baptist Press via email no decision had been made on whether the board will vote on the issue, but if there is a vote, it would take place Wednesday.
The Scouts apparently are receiving significant pressure via phone calls and emails to keep their current policy, which prohibits open homosexuals from being troop leaders or members.
The half-page USA Today ad ran on page 9A Feb. 4 with the headline: "To the Boy Scouts of America: Show courage. Stand firm for timeless values." Changing the policy, the ad said, would be a "grave mistake." Among the organizations that signed the ad were the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Family Research Council, Liberty Counsel, Bott Radio Network, American Family Association and Concerned Women for America. More than 40 national and state pro-family organizations signed it.
The Boy Scouts, the ad says, are considering a change only because of pressure.
"Every American who believes in freedom of thought and religious liberty should be alarmed by the attacks upon the Boy Scouts, who have had core convictions about morality for 100 years," the ad says. "Every Scout takes an oath to keep himself 'morally straight.' The Boy Scouts have every right to include sexual conduct in how they define that term. Many of our organizations stood with the Boy Scouts when the Supreme Court of the United States upheld their right to maintain their membership standards. To compromise moral principles under political and financial pressure would teach boys cowardice, not courage."
The ad concludes: "Every parent concerned about guiding and protecting their own children should also be alarmed by the proposed change to Boy Scout policy. As the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) confirmed as recently as last July, 'the vast majority of the parents' of Boy Scouts reserve to themselves the right to introduce and give guidance on sexual topics.
"In addition, the current policy is part of the BSA's efforts to protect Scouts from sexual abuse. Last year BSA released their so-called 'perversion files,' which contained the names of hundreds of sexual predators who had managed to hide their attraction to boys and enter the Boy Scouts. How will parents be able to entrust their children to the Boy Scouts if they trade the well-being of the boys for corporate dollars?"
The ad urges readers to call the Boy Scouts (972-580-2000) and "tell them not to change their membership standards." It also lists a website (FRC.org/bsa) to obtain contact information for individual Boy Scouts board members.
Under the proposal that could be considered by the board, the national policy would be rescinded in favor of a policy allowing local councils to determine their own policy. That means that a council in one city might allow gay leaders while a council elsewhere might not.
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).
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."
Michael Foust is 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).