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Boy Scouts overturn ban on gay members


Joe Westbury/Index

Southern Baptists' Royal Ambassadors program for boys, with its stronger focus on both American patriotism and biblical values, remains an attractive alternative to Boy Scouts. In this file photo Camp Kaleo counselors going by their camp names of "Jet Kaleo" of Duluth and "Baloo Kaleo" of Lanetta, AL, preside over the morning flag raising ceremony.

GRAPEVINE, TX (BP) — Delegates to the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) May 23 approved new membership guidelines which open the ranks of the organization to homosexual members. Young men who openly claim to be homosexual may now participate as Scouts.

The decision, the BSA leadership said in a statement, was based on “growing input from within the Scouting family.” That input led to a national review of policy, or a “comprehensive listening exercise,” resulting in a resolution to remove the restriction “denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone.”

Some 1,400 delegates to the National Council approved the change in membership standards by a margin of 61-39 percent, but changes to the adult leadership policy of the organization, which forbids homosexual Scout leaders, was not up for vote and remains in place. Rules on sexual misconduct, heterosexual and homosexual, also remain in place for Scouts and Scout leaders.


Stemberger: “Scouts have turned a sad corner”

John Stemberger, who has waged a national campaign to keep the ban on homosexual Scouts in place through the website, said the “most influential youth organization in America had turned a sad corner.”

“The Boy Scouts of America have demonstrated that values are not timeless,” Stemberger said in a statement after the vote. “The Boy Scouts are now teaching kids that when your values are no longer popular, change them.”

Stemberger added that BSA leaders had succumbed to the pressure of special interest groups by making the change to the membership policy. “The leaders of the Boy Scouts of America,” he said, “make decisions like politicians placing their fingers in the air to see which way the wind is blowing.”

Stemberger added that Thursday was the last day he would wear a Boy Scouts of America uniform. He said he plans to call a coalition together to discuss creating a new youth organization centered on biblical values, a call echoed by many religious leaders.

“We had hoped to keep sex and politics out of Scouting,” Stemberger said. “We grieve today not because we are leaving the Boy Scouts of America, but because the Boy Scouts left us.” He believes the BSA can expect to lose no fewer than 200,000 members and $30 million in funding.


Page: “Deeply saddened”

Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President Frank Page, who had met with Scouting leaders and had urged them to maintain the current policy, said he was “deeply saddened” that the BSA overturned its “constitutionally protected expressive message that homosexual behavior is incompatible with the principles enshrined in the Scout Oath and Scout Law.

“We grieve today not because we are leaving the Boy Scouts of America, but because the Boy Scouts left us.”

John Stemberger

“We know that the pressures exerted against the voting members of the 1,400 chartered organizations by homosexual activist groups have been unrelenting,” Page said. “We are grateful for each voting member who voted in the minority; but our sadness for the Scouting organization as a whole cannot be overstated.”

Page said the vote “ushers in a sea-change in the credibility of the Boy Scouts of America as a viable boys’ organization for millions of Americans who believe strongly in the principles of biblical morality.”

Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land predicted a mass exodus of religious groups from the organization.


Land: “a mass exodus”

“Frankly, I can’t imagine a Southern Baptist pastor who would continue to allow his church to sponsor a Boy Scout troop under these new rules,” said Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. “I predict there will be a mass exodus of Southern Baptists and other conservative Christians from the Boy Scouts.”

The “supposed compromise” satisfies no one and signals the BSA will only become more inclusive of gays, Land said.

GBC response to vote

As Georgia Baptist churches that sponsor Boy Scout troops consider how to respond to the historic vote, GBC Men’s Ministries state missionary Glen McCall provided his initial reaction to The Index.

“I do not believe homosexuality is appropriate, Scripture speaks against that lifestyle, and it goes against the grain of the fifth tenant in the Royal Ambassador pledge,” he stated. “That tenant says each Royal Ambassador will pledge ‘to keep myself clean and healthy in mind and body.’

“Homosexuality and the Boy Scout’s decision are a direct affront to how we teach boys to live by through the RA pledge.

“Royal Ambassadors basically teach boys to carry out the mission of the church, which is the Great Commission. The pledge is sort of a vision statement for young men that is in keeping with what the church teaches. It instructs them how to be fully engaged in the life of the church from a missions and ministry perspective.

“That is a spiritual dimension that only Royal Ambassadors can give the youth of today as they grow into the men of tomorrow,” he concluded.

“The supposed compromise takes away their best defense. In the year 2000, the Supreme Court ruled the Boy Scouts did not have to have homosexual Scout masters because the homosexual lifestyle was contrary to the core values of Scouts. If you’re going to allow opening gay Scouts to participate in Scouting, then it’s no longer a core value,” Land said.

“And so what we’re going to see now is a flood of litigation by pro-homosexual groups arguing that the continuing ban on gay Scout Masters is prejudice and they will win. They will win, because the Boy Scouts have stripped themselves of their defense the Supreme Court used.”

Land advised Southern Baptist churches to withdraw their support of Scout troops and support the Royal Ambassadors ministry to boys.

The statement from the BSA leadership said the new membership policy is effective Jan. 1, 2014, allowing the organization enough time to implement the policy and communicate it to its 116,000 units. The statement also said the organization would not be distracted from its mission by a “single, divisive and unresolved societal issue.” Leaders said there are no plans to review the issue further.


Moore: “sexual revolution’s onward march”

Russell Moore, president-elect of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the decision lands the “sexual revolution’s onward march” square in the middle of Scouting.

“Few, if any, are suggesting the Boy Scouts kick out boys based on their particular temptations. We don’t, and shouldn’t do that in our churches, much less in the Scouts,” Moore told Baptist Press.

The revision of the membership policy “highlights how important it is for churches to speak clearly of both our love for all people, including our gay and lesbian neighbors, and the importance of God’s design for human sexuality for human flourishing,” Moore continued.

The culture is confused, Moore said, as it always is in a fallen world.

“Our voluntary associations, even the most venerable of them, are increasingly ambiguous about what it means to live a good life rooted in the permanent things,” Moore said. “Our churches cannot, and will not, share that ambiguity.”

The BSA statement ended by acknowledging the different opinions held on the matter of homosexuality, but said children were “better off when they are in Scouting.”

To view the Boy Scouts of America statement in full, go to: