An executive committee of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has unanimously voted to lift a long-standing ban on openly homosexual troop leaders.
“As a result of the rapid changes in society and increasing legal challenges at the federal, state, and local levels, on Friday, July 10, the Boy Scouts of America Executive Committee adopted a resolution amending the adult leadership standards policy,” the BSA said in a statement on Monday.
“This change allows Scouting’s members and parents to select local units, chartered to organizations with similar beliefs, that best meet the needs of their families,” it outlined. “This change would also respect the right of religious chartered organizations to continue to choose adult leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own.”
The 17-member vote moves the matter on to the 80-member National Executive Board for a vote on July 27th.
“The Boy Scouts of America affirms that sexual relations between adults should be moral, honorable, committed, and respectful. Adult scout leaders should reflect these values in their personal and public lives so as to be proper role models for youth,” the approved statement reads in part. “The Boy Scouts of America affirms the right of each chartering organization to reach its own religious and moral conclusions about the specific meaning and application of these values.”
The document also provides the standards for selecting leaders.
“The applicant must possess the moral, educational, and emotional qualities that the Boy Scouts of America deems necessary to afford positive leadership to youth,” it reads. “The applicant must also be the correct age, subscribe to the precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle (duty to God), and abide by the Scout Oath and the Scout Law.”
However, the proposed language outlines that “[n]o adult applicant for registration as an employee or non-unit-serving volunteer, who otherwise meets the requirements of the Boy Scouts of America, may be denied registration on the basis of sexual orientation.” A provision is included to allow units to refuse, however, based on religious grounds.
If the board likewise approves the policy change later this month, it will become effective immediately.
As previously reported, the vote comes after BSA President Robert Gates, who served as the U.S. Secretary of Defense under then-President George W. Bush beginning in 2006 and stayed on board for part of Barack Obama’s first term, called for an end to the ban this past May.
“We cannot ignore growing internal challenges to our current membership policy from some councils,” he said. “Nor can we ignore the social, political and juridical changes taking place in our country—changes taking place at a pace over this past year no one anticipated.”
Reaction to Friday’s vote has been mixed, as some homosexual activists oppose the proposal’s allotment of religious freedom to troops.
“Half measures are unacceptable and discriminatory exemptions have no place in the Boy Scouts,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, in a statement. “It’s long overdue that BSA leaders demonstrate true leadership and embrace a full national policy of inclusion.”
But Russell Moore, the president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, says he is skeptical about the provision.
“I don’t believe the Boy Scouts when they say that religious groups will have freedom to choose their own leaders,” he said. “The Boy Scouts have pursued an ongoing evolution, if evolutions can happen at breakneck speed, toward the moral priorities of the sexual revolution. At every point, the Scout leadership tells us that they will go this far and no farther.”
As previously reported, Rob Schwarzwalder, senior vice president of Family Research Council, told reporters two years ago after groups first began pushing for the change that it is dangerous to place men that have sexual attraction toward those of the same gender in charge of juvenile boys.
“As a father, I wouldn’t want my sons to go on a camping trip with a teenage girl and stay in the same tent. Similarly, I think it’s unwise to put boys or young men in a tent with boys or young men who are homosexual,” he outlined.
In 2013, over 60 percent of the scouting council voted in favor of altering the organization’s membership policy, which did not bar those struggling with homosexuality, but rather prohibited “open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.” The resolution posed the question of whether prospective scouts should be denied membership “on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”
BSA officials noted that sexual activity would still not be permitted among scouts despite the change in policy.