Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is a good concept corrupted by old men trying to relive their youth. Their incompetence is compounded by a blind allegiance to an institution they refuse to believe can or should evolve to serve a changing America. A crack in this recalcitrant mindset has surfaced with the announcement reported in USA Today on Monday that the national board will consider letting local councils or chartered organizations determine if gay men and women can be members or leaders in their respective troops.
Follow the Money
This potential change in policy comes after the crushing weight of negative publicity about the BSAs secret files covering up scout leaders accused of pedophilia, numerous Change.org petitions calling for an end to discrimination based on sexual orientation, and potentially the most important, the loss of funding from big name corporations such as UPS, United Way, Merck and Intel.
BSA is caught between losing the funding of large corporations and foundations who have long accepted diversity and non-discrimination in the workforce and alienating the thousands of church sponsored Scout units who believe gays are an abomination to God. If BSA mandates a non-discriminatory membership policy they will breach their own contract that lets the churches willfully discriminate (administer) based on sexual orientation.
Perception and Pushing the Problem
Typical of the spineless leadership exemplified at the BSA on the issues of inclusion of gay men and women, the national board is looking to push the actual decision onto the local districts and organizations. In this manner they hope to be perceived as addressing the issue of inclusion, thereby getting the deep pocket funding from foundations, while letting the locals continue to discriminate.
The Mormon Church: Battle Lines are Drawn
There are 294 district councils that represent different geographical areas across the U.S. Within these districts are over 100,000 different chartered Scouting units. The largest chunk of the Scouting units are Faith-Based organizations with the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints having a total of 37,882 troops across America, representing 420,000 youth. The next closest denomination chartering Scout troops is the United Methodist Church with 11,078 Scouting units.
The Church of Boy Scouts
A central theme within the BSA is “Bringing Youth to Christ Through a Scouting Ministry,” and the Scouting unit is church-owned and -operated. A church that has its own Scouting unit (Boy Scout troop, Cub Scout pack, Varsity Scout team, or Venturing crew) has complete authority to direct the unit program in the best interest of its participants. In other words, the unit is church-owned and church-administered. The unit can be uniquely Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Catholic, etc., as long as the stated principles of Scouting are not violated.
Boy Scouts of America is facing a schism in their ranks not unlike the Protestant religions are experiencing over officiating same-sex marriages and ordaining gay clergy. These issues have torn apart national religions and many have broken into separate traditional and progressive denominations.
Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville was quoted as saying allowing gays membership in scouting would be, “nothing less than disastrous for the Boy Scouts of America.” Just like many other religious denominations and chartered faith-based Scouting units, the Southern Baptist Convention considers homosexuality to be sinful, against Holy Scripture and not normal behavior.
National Unity, Local discrimination
By allowing the individual districts and chartered organizations to determine if a lesbian or gay American is fit for membership, the BSA is creating an arena of “knock down, drag out” fights at the local level. District council meetings will be turned into verbal brawls as faith-based Scouting units most likely argue adamantly against allowing gays membership while civic groups like schools and recreation centers voice support for inclusion.
It looks like the national BSA leadership is pursuing a policy of appeasement in the hope that they can keep their increasingly evangelical Christian themed program from falling apart while maintaining lucrative foundation dollars. It is unfortunate that a novel and progressive concept to expose and teach urban and suburban youth about outdoor scouting, individualism and patriotism has been co-opted by religions to be part of their Christian youth and recruitment program. If Scouting is to survive in America and be accepted universally as a wholesome secular activity, the BSA leadership needs to mandate that the inclusion of all people, straight or gay, can be members and leaders.