Boy Scouts of America to reevaluate gay ban


art by Jennifer Stanley

Trisha Chaudhary

art by Jennifer Stanley
art by Jennifer Stanley
[dropcap style=”1″ size=”3″]M[/dropcap]Members of the Boy Scouts of America organization will know in May whether or not BSA volunteers will vote to lift the ban restricting gay members. The proposal is for a new policy to replace the current ban in which the local charter organizations that sponsor Boy Scout troops make the decision of whether or not to allow gay members and leaders. The charter organizations are local churches, Parent Teacher Associations, service clubs, alliances, rotary clubs and other groups that sponsor Cub Scout packs and Boy Scout troops.
Charter organizations “own those troops,” Scout Executive Doug Callahan of the Great Rivers Boy Scouts of America Council, which includes Columbia, said. “And what the proposed policy change would allow is for each charter organization to set their own membership or leadership standards in relation to sexual orientation, in accordance with their own principles and their own beliefs.”
Though approximately 1,400 volunteer voting members of the national council of BSA will vote on the issue May 24, professionals such as Callahan will not. One of the arguments against lifting the ban centered on the religious affiliation of the BSA organization.
Three days after BSA introduced the proposal, the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission sent Chief Scout Executive Wayne Brock and BSA President Wayne Perry a letter expressing “strident opposition to this proposed move.” The ERLC is a large BSA sponsor and the letter stated, “Southern Baptists do not believe homosexual behavior is an acceptable, biblical lifestyle … Ultimately, this decision, if adopted, would lead to a mass exodus of traditional faith congregations from the Boy Scouts, including Southern Baptists, who often sponsor Scouts.”
Some believe the policy would counteract the views of organizations similar to the ERLC and would cause the BSA to lose financial support. Though Callahan said most of the BSA charter members are religious organizations, he does not think lifting the ban would lessen the value of BSA’s religious affiliation.
“I would like to think if this ban is lifted … it shouldn’t affect our relationship with [religious organizations] at all because right now, we do have some churches that sponsor Boy Scout troops that aren’t allowed to follow their own beliefs because right now, we have that restriction, which that church doesn’t,” Callahan said. “So, hopefully something like this would strengthen the relationship between us and our charter partners because we’re allowing them to make the choice.”
Senior Isaac James, a member of the Gay Straight Alliance club at RBHS, used to be a member of BSA but quit for a number of reasons, one being the BSA’s stance on homosexuality. During his time in the BSA, James experienced firsthand what he believed to be intolerance from some of the troops’ leaders toward gay troop members and believes that lifting the ban would be beneficial for the organization, regardless of its religious affiliation.
“I feel like I can see why it would be banned because of a religious aspect,” James said, “but churches can go through a program to become … a safe space [where they] accept gay members to the congregation and they help them out.”
James believes the benefits that no matter what arguments the opposition presents against lifting the ban, “eventually, it’s going to happen.”
By Trisha Chaudhary