Friday, July 31, 2015

Boy Scouts End Ban on Gay Leaders, but Leave Wiggle Room for Religious Beliefs


On July 27, 2015, The Boy Scouts of America ended its nationwide ban on openly gay adult leaders.  Seventy-nine percent of those who participated in a telephone meeting of the national executive board voted in favor of lifting the ban. The Scouts’ volunteer national president and former Secretary of Defense, Robert M. Gates urged this legal change to reflect the growing acceptance toward gays in the United States.

First, gay scouts were outlawed from the BSA.  Then, it was voted that a gay scout could participate as a scout, but not a leader. .  Under the pre-2013 law, an openly gay eighteen year-old Eagle Scout would have to leave scouting forever as he could not be a gay Scout leader. See my blog post at 2015/07/17/Maybe-Just-Maybe,the-BSA-Will-Get-It-Right-This-Time . The new law is a logical step as it is common for Eagle Scouts to become adult leaders when they turn eighteen.

What the New Law Means

Under this newly adopted Boy Scout policy, all Boy Scout offices and all paid jobs will not tolerate discrimination based on sexual orientation.  While the new law sounds ideal and progressive, in actuality, it doesn’t go far enough.

The recent law, similar to the June 2015 Supreme Court Ruling that legalized same-sex marriage throughout the United States, allows “wiggle-room” for religiously sponsored groups. They would have exemptions.  It leaves the decision to individual troops and councils in much the same way as the Religious Freedom Act gives bakers an out for accommodating same-sex couples or marriage license clerks a say as to whether they will marry LGBT couples.

SCOUTING WILL SUFFER

As most Boy Scouts are sponsored by religious organizations such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- Day Saints a.k.a. Mormons or the Baptist Convention, the already dwindling Boy Scout enrollment figure of 2.4 million based on 2014 figures will decline even further.

The Mormons have already protested, but haven’t officially voted on the ban as summer recess has interfered.  For more than a century, their church has been deeply invested in Boy Scouts.  The youth program of the Mormon Church is Boy Scouts.  Over twenty-percent of all scouts are Mormon.

With Monday’s decision to allow conservative religious sponsors of local packs and troops to pick their leaders who share their beliefs, you may end up with fewer packs, and heterosexuals as leaders as well as disguised prejudice.

What kind of a message are we sending our youth who are supposed to be learning about values, equal opportunity, and team building?