Last Friday, as many of us were still preoccupied with the manhunt for the remaining Boston Marathon bomber, the Boy Scouts of America made an interesting announcement.
After an extensive (really, check out the executive summary linked below) study of what its various constituencies think about the organization’s longstanding and recently-very-controversial policy of excluding both openly gay scouts and leaders from its ranks (PDF of the executive summary of that study), the BSA proposed a new policy, that would allow openly gay scouts, but not openly gay leaders. (here’s that statement; more information here):
Councils around the country will vote on the proposed policy next month, and if adopted the new policy will go into effect at the beginning of next year. The BSA Council that covers our region in New York state, the Longhouse Council, has released its opinion on the new policy. In a letter to the Longhouse Council Scouting Community, the Council summarizes the proposed policy and offers this:
The Longhouse Council views this change in policy as a significant step forward in securing the success of Scouting far into the future.
The absence of language in the resolution addressing adult leader membership standards means that without a modification or proposal of an additional resolution the current national policy excluding openly gay or avowed homosexual adult leaders from registering as BSA leaders will remain. We strongly disagree with continuation of this policy.
The Longhouse Council views this as an unfortunate shortcoming that runs contrary to our official recommendation that Scouting – youth and leadership – be open to all regardless of sexual orientation as has been BSA policy in the past. We will be encouraging the National Scout Council to adopt a membership policy that is consistent across all ages.
Essentially, the council says that BSA isn’t going far enough. Longhouse isn’t alone in finding the new position unsatisfying. In an article on the proposed policy, the New York Times deftly summed up, I think, reactions:
The proposal drew swift criticism from both sides as conservative Christians said the Boy Scouts had caved in to political pressure, and gay rights groups said they were perpetuating discrimination and dangerous stereotypes about gay men.
Incidentally, that last worry is somewhat borne out, or at the very least, pointed to, in the language of the executive summary (linked above) that the BSA released on its study: “Many religious chartered organizations stated their concern is with homosexual adult leaders and not with youth.” To be clear, this particular opinion was expressed by the BSA’s “Chartered Organization” study group, which represents 64 religious chartered organizations and 54 nonreligious chartered organizations (NOT including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is the BSA’s largest chartered organization.)
I don’t know which, if any, other BSA local councils have made statements supporting or decrying the proposed policy, but the Longhouse Council, and any other council, has about a month to encourage the National Scout Council to change the proposed policy in whichever direction it prefers. Voting will be May 24, at the organization’s National Annual Meeting.