Grapevine, Texas — The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has voted to lift its ban on openly homosexual members.
The results of the vote were announced Thursday evening, with over 60 percent in favor of altering the organization’s current policy, which does not bar those struggling with homosexuality, but rather prohibits “open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.”
Over 1,400 scouting members reportedly cast their ballot over the issue as the BSA gathers for its annual meeting in Grapevine, Texas this week. The resolution posed the question of whether prospective scouts should be denied membership “on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”
“The Boy Scouts of America will not sacrifice its mission, or the youth served by the movement, by allowing the organization to be consumed by a single, divisive, and unresolved societal issue,” the organization commented in a statement after announcing the results of the vote. “While people have different opinions about this policy, we can all agree that kids are better off when they are in scouting. Going forward, our scouting family will continue to focus on reaching and serving youth in order to help them grow into good, strong citizens.”
It noted, however, that sexual activity will still not be permitted among scouts.
“The resolution also reinforces that scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of scouting age is contrary to the virtues of scouting,” the statement advised.
The decision now nixes BSA’s 22-year-old policy, which was based on the scout oath to “to keep myself physically strong, mentally alert and morally straight.” For years, many asserted that the homosexual lifestyle conflicted with the scout requirement to remain “morally straight” in one’s personal and private life.
“The fallout from this is going to be tremendous,” Robert Schwarzwalder, senior vice president of the Family Research Council, told reporters. “I think there will be a loss of hundreds of thousands of boys and parents.”
“This great institution is going to be vitiated by the intrusion of a political agenda,” he added.
The Boy Scouts of America, founded in 1909, was created to mirror the British Boy Scouts, and was stated by some to be a Christian organization.
“Scouting is nothing less than applied Christianity,” wrote British founder Sir Robert Baden-Powell in a 1917 publication entitled Scouting & Christianity.
John L. Alexander, one of the founders of the Boy Scouts of America, also echoed this sentiment.
“The Boy Scouts of America maintain that no boy can grow into the best kind of citizenship without recognizing his obligation to God,” he wrote. “The recognition of God as the ruling and leading power in the universe, and the grateful acknowledgment of His favors and blessings is necessary to the best type of citizenship and is a wholesome thing in the education of the growing boy.”
The new policy will go into effect in January 2014. The organization’s ban on openly homosexual leaders remains intact, and will not be affected by the vote.