The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) lifted its ban on admitting openly gay members in May. The policy change is set to to take effect on January 1, and the BSA is looking for a smooth, quiet transition. However, a few religious groups are still resisting.
Some BSA officials exuded some concern about any consequence regarding the policy change but remain hopeful for minimum backlash. Taking the timing into account, BSA officials have likened such an event to the unfounded Y2K scare.
“My hope is there will be the same effect this Jan. 1 as the Y2K scare,” said Wichita, KS-based attorney and BSA national executive board member Brad Haddock. “It’s business as usual, nothing happens and we move forward.”
Seventy percent of the country’s 100,000 scout units are sponsored by religious groups, most of which support homosexual’s exclusion from the BSA. However, the BSA has experienced conservative backlash days before the policy’s official implementation as some churches have pulled their sponsorship and some families uprooted from the BSA to switch to other scouting groups.
Fort Worth, TX business consultant Ron Orr has arranged for 25 area units to leave the BSA and join Trail Life USA, a group that now-BSA opponents say is more Christian than the BSA. This effort is because Orr believes the BSA is no longer “morally straight,” and he said he “could not stand by [the BSA] after the policy change.”
The loss of some sponsorship seems to be of no consequence to officials, however.
“If a church said they wouldn’t work with us, we’d have a church right down the street say, ‘We’ll take the troop,’” said Haddock.
Large organizations, like the Roman Catholic church, refuse to wholly address the issue as they are leaving the decision to sever ties up to individual parish bishops. “As the new policy currently stands, I see no reason to prohibit our parishes from sponsoring Boy Scout troops,” said Rev. Kevin Rhoades, bishop of Indiana’s Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese.
The BSA’s ban on gay scout leaders is still intact and right-wing homophobia soared when the anti-gay policy was repealed in May. Shortly before the approval, Christian radio host Matt Barber tweeted an illustration suggesting that homosexuality is linked to pedophilia.
When the repeal finally was approved, Christian leaders reacted by spouting anti-gay nonsense and some even boycotted the BSA. Alabama pastor Greg Walker banned BSA meetings from the First Baptist Church of Helena, where he preaches. “You’re not welcome here,” Walker proclaimed before justifying his bigotry saying “I didn’t make this decision, Boy Scouts of America did.”
Considering the BSA’s staunch and longstanding intolerance and refusal of gay rights, this to-be implemented policy is a step in the right direction. The Scouts have made teaching morality and strong character to America’s youth the core of its mission, but morality is a flimsy term in this instance. With the anti-gay ban lifted, the BSA now has a grand opportunity to add the concept of tolerance to its mission.
Joshua de Leon is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.