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About the Boy Scouts of America (BSA)

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2013-APR & MAY: BSA reverses its national
policy that banned gay, lesbian & bisexual
youth. Competing group "Trail Life" organized.

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Background:

During 2012-JAN, the Boy Scouts of America considered canceling its discriminatory national membership policies and transferring responsibility to the individual chartered organizations that sponsor boy scout troops. These local groups could then set their own membership policies. Conservative religious organizations could then refuse membership to gay youth and adult leaders; they could expel any gay youth or leaders whenever they were found in their troops. Meanwhile, more liberal and progressive religious organizations could accept members regardless of their sexual orientation. Similarly, non-religious chartered organizations could also develop their own policies. This concept did not gain wide acceptance.

On 2013-APR-19, after extensive surveying of all their stakeholders, the BSA executive committee decided to propose a new national policy of:

  • Allowing gay and lesbian youths to join and stay in the BSA, while expelling them when they reached the age of 18.

  • Continuing to exclude gay and lesbian adult leaders,

  • Continuing to exclude youth members who did not believe in God.

  • Continuing to exclude adult leaders who did not believe in God.

This proposal was voted upon and approved by 61% of the approximately 1,400 delegates at their National Annual Meeting during 2013-MAY-22 to 24. They ended up with a policy with which no group is happy. That is probably the best that could be hoped for:

  • Conservative individuals and conservative religious groups condemned the change because. In the view of Governor Rick Perry of Texas, the move abandons traditional "values of faith and family [held] for more than 100 years. ... today's decision contradicts generations of tradition in the name of political correctness."

  • Progressive individuals, progressive secular and religious groups, and the LGBT community were unhappy with the compromise because it did not go far enough. Gay and lesbian adult leaders remain ineligible for membership and will continue to be expelled wherever found.

The BSA currently has 2.6 to 2.7 million youth members. The total youth membership is declining by about 100,000 members a year. Various estimates have been given of the number of members who will be lost to the BSA, because some conservative religious denominations are expected to disaffiliate from the organization. They range from about 200,000 to 500,000 members. However, the BSA's internal surveys show that Scout youth and their parents favor admitting youth members of all sexual orientations. Thus, the long term forecast for BSA membership may be positive, or at least less negative than would have occurred if the proposal had been rejected.

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Copyright © 2013 to 2014by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Original posting: 2013-APR
Latest update: 2014-JAN-11
Author: B.A. Robinson

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