The decision made by the Boy Scouts last Thursday to allow gay scouts into its ranks, but not allow gay leaders was made after a wrenching internal debate and years of pressure. However, the policy change which will be effective 2014 does not bring peace to the Scouts who have been under fire for years-and there was, perhaps, no way to be prepared for the swirling and divisive cultural landscape the traditional organization finds itself in.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made their voice clear after the decision that this would not alter a relationship that had existed for 100 years, “based on our mutual interest in helping boys and young men understand and live their duty to God and develop upright moral behavior.
“The Church’s long-established policy for participation in activities is stated in the basic instructional handbook used by lay leaders of the Church: young men … who agree to abide by Church standards’ are “welcomed warmly and encouraged to participate” (Handbook 2: Administering the Church , 8.17.3). This policy applies to Church-sponsored Scout units. Sexual orientation has not previously been-and is not now-a disqualifying factor for boys who want to join Latter-day Saint Scout troops. Willingness to abide by standards of behavior continues to be our compelling interest.”
Yet, other groups, motivated by religious standards, were less benign in their outlook. They see the new ruling as being a violation of being “morally straight.”
Randy Sharp, of the American Family Association, predicted a mass exodus from the organization in the next year and that the Boy Scouts may lose as many as 400,000 to 500,000 members.
Already, a group headed by John Stemberger at onmyhonor.net is planning to meet to discuss forming an alternative group to the Boy Scouts. One of their contentions is that “The essence of the difference between the old policy and the proposed new policy is that the old policy prohibits “open and avowed” homosexuality for both BSA youth and adult members but the new policy removes that prohibition for boys and requires every BSA unit to accept “open and avowed” homosexual youth up to 17 years old. Importantly, the current policy already allows for BSA members who have a same-sex attraction but do not act out openly or inappropriately to be in good standing and to earn Scouting’s highest rank of Eagle.”
This distinction is a deal-breaker for them.
Rob Schwarzwalder of The Family Research Council says, “No one hates homosexuals. This isn’t about fear or homophobia, and this isn’t about bigotry,” he says. “This is about the moral values of our Judeo-Christian heritage, which teaches the only appropriate sexually intimate activity that exists [is] between a man and a woman within marriage. That’s always been the affirmation of Scouts. It is no longer.”
David Cortman at the Alliance Defending Freedom says he anticipates future legal challenges. “Those promoting the agenda to change what the Boy Scouts have always been won’t rest until there is complete acceptance of any sexual preference for both leaders and members,”
Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality believes the Scouts could have stood strong, but they had some help from the LDS Church..”The Mormon Church, by pretty much endorsing this so-called ‘compromise’ by the Boy Scouts, actually facilitated this vote,” he states. “This is a needless capitulation, and it’s a sad day for this country.”
Meanwhile, homosexual advocates have stepped forward to say they’ll continue to barrage the Boy Scouts with protests until the rule is changed forbidding homosexual leaders.
The Boy Scouts may wish that those who have been hammering them for so long would do a good turn daily and let them move forward with their goals of enriching the lives of boys.