I’ve never been to a Boy Scouts of America (BSA) jamboree. But I understand it’s the organization’s quintessential event of the year, a gathering of 11,000 or so members from across the nation where boy scouts meet up and do whatever it is that boy scouts do. Given the BSA’s ten-plus year ban on gay members, I have an image in my mind of the jamboree in which huddles of boy scouts, clad in their dirt-colored uniforms, are scrutinized to determine their sexual orientation. It’s a ridiculous thought.
But so too is the idea of turning away new or long-term members because of their sexual orientation. For one thing, boys can join the BSA when they’re as young as 6 years old. Most boys that age don’t even know what sexual orientation means, much less what their own sexual orientation is. Certainly they will be turned away if they openly admit to being gay, as have long-term boy scouts, in keeping with current BSA policy.
But this policy may soon change, at least for some boy scout members, as the BSA this week announced it is considering allowing each individual troop sponsor to set their own policy on gay members.
The operative word here is sponsor.
More than half of BSA troops are sponsored by churches; therefore, it follows that individual troops’ decision regarding whether to lift the ban on gay members would depend on their sponsors’ stance on the issue.
Consider the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), whose conservative churches sponsor hundreds of BSA troops. Not surprisingly, the group strongly supports the ban on gay members. “We understand that we are now a minority, that it is not popular to have biblical values, not popular to take stands that seem intolerant,” said Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) executive committee, in an article on the subject that appeared this week on foxnews.com.
Not everyone affiliated with the BSA feels the way Page does. In fact, many associated with the organization have vociferously opposed the ban. Incidentally, or perhaps not, former donors including The Merck Company Foundation, Intel Foundation, UPS and United Way have halted or held off on donations because of the ban, according to an article in this Tuesday’s Washington Post.
The BSA’s ban on gay members has led these donors to question the organization’s claim that it is “one of the nation’s largest and most prominent values-based youth development organizations,” as stated on the organization’s website.
Here’s another statement from the BSA website that, under the present circumstances, deserves scrutiny: “In 1995, the Boy Scouts of America released a study by Harris Interactive entitled The Values of Men and Boys in America. This study examined the values of adult males and male youth in America. Findings from this study indicate positive outcomes for men who were Scouts as youth and for current youth members, especially for men and boys who have been in Scouting for ﬁve or more years.”
Maybe BSA should repeat the study starting from the year 2000, when the Supreme Court affirmed the organization’s right to ban gay members. I wonder how positive the outcomes would look for those boys and young men who devoted a good chunk of their lives to living the strong “values” of the boy scouts, only to be dumped by the group because of their sexual orientation.
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