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About the Boy Scouts of America (BSA)

2012-JUL: Secret BSA committee reviews policy
on gays and decides to retain it unchanged. Part 1

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This topic is a continuation from 2010 activities

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2012-JUL-17: A Boy Scouts committee votes unanimously to continue ban on gays:

Reflecting the discriminatory policies of two of its main benefactors, the Roman Catholic Church and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly called the LDS or Mormon church), a secret 11 person committee of the Boy Scouts of America unanimously decided to continue the BSA's policy of excluding gays from the organization -- both as Scouts and as volunteer adult leaders. They will, in effect, continue to act as the "Heterosexual Boy Scouts of America."

The committee was set up in 2010 and was composed of professional BSA executives and adult volunteers whose identities have not been made public. In a statement issued by the committee, they said that they represented:

"a diversity of perspectives and opinions. ... The review included forthright and candid conversation and extensive research and evaluations — both from within Scouting and from outside of the organization" 1,2

A resolution had been submitted at the BSA's most recent national conference that called for a reconsideration of the organization's membership policy. The BSA national executive board will now take no further action on that resolution. Thus, the BSA's official policy will continue to read:

"While the B.S.A. does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the B.S.A." 2,3

Not mentioned in their policy is that they also expel existing employees, volunteers, and members who are found to have a homosexual orientation after they were admitted into the BSA.

Also not mentioned in the resolution was the fact that the future existence of the BSA might be threatened if the organization abandoned its discrimination against Atheists and gays. An Email from the Family Research Council on 2012-JUL-18 stated that:

"Most people don't realize that nearly 70 percent of all Scout troops were chartered and are supported by faith-based organizations. If homosexuals were allowed to serve in the BSA, thousands of churches would be forced to disenfranchise their troops, effectively killing the organization." 4

Witch hunts to ferret out gays are not likely; their policy is more like the military's former "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

In reality, they not only refuse to grant membership to gays; they also expel any non-theists that they find in the organization. This includes Agnostics, Atheists, most Buddhists and many Unitarian Universalists. As a result of a major decision by the U.S. Supreme Court during 2000, private organizations such as the Boy Scouts have every right to exclude potential members for any reason that they see fit.

Bob Mazzuea, chief executive of the BSA said:

"The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers and at the appropriate time and in the right setting. We fully understand that no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society."

The connection between:

  • Parents' rights to decide when and where to discuss sexual orientation with their children, and

  • The BSA policy to immediately expel young people who are found to have a homosexual -- or presumably a bisexual -- orientation

is not obvious to us. In fact, any Boy Scout who is found to have a homosexual orientation is immediately expelled from the organization, thus potentially dumping a crisis situation on the Scout's family at a time that is not of the Scout's or his parent's choosing.

Meanwhile, the BSA will continue to lag far behind the Girl Scouts of the USA, Camp Fire, Boys & Girls Club, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and 4-H clubs who are open to all young people, regardless of religion and sexual orientation. Camp Fire, in particular, is very up-front with their philosophy, which is to be:

"... inclusive, open to every person in the communities we serve, welcoming children, youth and adults regardless of race, religion, socioeconomic status, disability, sexual orientation or other aspect of diversity. Camp Fire's programs are designed and implemented to reduce sex-role, racial and cultural stereotypes and to foster positive intercultural relationships." 5

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Reactions to the announcement, pro and con:

  • Zach Wahls, a 20-year-old Eagle Scout from Iowa with two lesbian moms, helped found Scouts for Equality -- a group promoting scouting for all youth. He said:

    "I respect the Boy Scouts' rights as a private organization to dictate their own membership -- it makes sense to me that they wouldn't allow girls to join the BSA. But we aren't some outside group litigating, trying to get the Boy Scouts to change policy. ... We are a group of scouts who love the organization and want to see the change happen from within."

  • He believes that the BSA will eventually relent and adopt an inclusive policy. Referring to the committee's decision to continue to discriminate, he said:

    "‘I'm sure they'll keep saying this until the day they decide to change the policy. ... The very first value of the Scout Law is that a Scout is trustworthy. There is absolutely nothing trustworthy about unelected and unnamed committee members who are unwilling to take responsibility for their actions. 1

  • According to the Los Angeles Times:

    "More than 300,000 people have signed a petition urging the Boy Scouts to reinstate Jennifer Tyrrell, a lesbian who was forced to resign as a den mother in Ohio this year. Protest organizers plan to deliver the petition and meet privately with officials Wednesday [2012-JUL-18] at Boy Scout national headquarters in Irving, TX.

    Wahls said he and other protesters had been encouraged in recent weeks to see at least two members of the Boy Scouts' national executive board come out against the policy — Ernst & Young Chief Executive James S. Turley and AT&T Chief Executive Randall Stephenson. Stephenson is set to become president of the board in two years.

    Turley and Stephenson did not comment on the announcement, but AT&T released a statement saying that 'diversity and inclusion' are part of the company's culture and that 'our belief is that change at any organization must come from within to be successful and sustainable'." 3

  • Jay Mechling, 67, is an Eagle Scout, a professor of American studies at the University of California, Davis, the author of a book on scouting 7 and a BSA volunteer. He described the continuing exclusions of gays to be:

    "... a business decision based on religious pressure. That's not to say there aren't leaders in the Boy Scouts who feel strongly about morality and homosexuality. But when they see a lot of the troop leaders are churches, they go the direction they think is going to be healthiest for having the most boys registered." 3

  • Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign -- the largest gay-positive group in the U.S., depicted the Scouts’ decision as:

    "This is a missed opportunity of colossal proportions.  With the country moving toward inclusion, the leaders of the Boy Scouts of America have instead sent a message to young people that only some of them are valued.  These adults could have taught the next generation of leaders the value of respect, yet they’ve chosen to teach division and intolerance.." 8

  • Rob Schwarzwalder, senior vice president at the Family Research Council (FRC), a group identified as a hate organization by the Southern Poverty Law Center, said:

    "... a large proportion, if not the majority of Scout troops, are chartered by Catholic, Evangelical, Protestant and Mormon churches, all of which teach that homosexuality is incompatible with God's plan. As a result, many of those churches, if not virtually all of them, would disenfranchise the Scout troops in their facilities [if the BSA ended its discrimination]. ... They deserve a major pat on the back. They have defied the winds of political correctness and have said 'no' to a culture that wants us to accept as normative a pattern of sexual behavior which clearly violates God's intended design for men and women." 9

  • Darlene Nipper, deputy executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said the Scouts:

    "Once again, officials of the Boy Scouts of America have turned their backs on a chance to demonstrate fairness, exercise sound judgment, and serve as a role model for valuing others, free of bias and prejudice," she said. "This is deeply disappointing. Discrimination is never the right policy, period." 10

  • Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for American (CWA) said that her group:

    "... strongly supports the rights of the Boy Scouts of America to set policy for their own organization. They've made the determination that it's best for their organization and for the kids involved to exclude homosexual leaders, and we believe they have both the legal right and the moral right to make that decision." 9

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This topic is continued in Part 2

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. David Crary, "Despite protests, Boy Scouts reaffirm ban on gays," Associated Press, 2012-JUL-18, at: http://www.boston.com/
  2. Deron Smith, "... Boy Scout of America affirms membership standards..." Boy Scouts of America, undated, at: https://www.documentcloud.org/
  3. Molly Hennessy-Fiske, "Boy Scout ban on gays to continue," Los Angeles Times, 2012-JUL-18, at: http://www.latimes.com/
  4. "Boy Scouts' courage merits support," Email, Family Research Council, 2012-JUL-18.
  5. "About Camp Fire," Camp Fire, at: http://www.campfireusa.org/
  6. Seth Adam, "Jennifer Tyrrell delivers 300K signature to Boy Scouts calling for end to anti-gay ban," GLAAD, 2012-JUL-18, at: http://www.glaad.org/
  7. Book cover image Jay Mechling, "On My Honor: Boy Scouts and the Making of American Youth," University of Chicago Press, (2004). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store Available in paperback for $25.00 plus postage, in Kindle format for $12.60, or at much lower cost as a used book.

    Book review by Publishers Weekly:

    "Based on more the 20 years of research and observation at a troop's summer encampment as well as extensive interviews with generations of scouts, this study investigates the effects of the complex, lived realities of scouting on boys as they struggle to define themselves. Mechling, professor of American studies at the University of California at Davis, argues that the founding of the U.S. Scouting movement in 1910 was a response to social concerns over masculinity that were remarkably similar to "the boy problem" of today. This historic frame gives the study broader dimensions, although for the most part Mechling concerns himself with analyzing the specifics and myriad meanings of camp songs, rituals, play and language. Not surprisingly, since one of the main purposes of Scouting is the production of "normal" (i.e., heterosexual) boys, homophobic language and slurs are "a central theme at [the] camp." Mechling does a great job at detailing how, ironically, forms of homoeroticism (including transvestism) are promoted to reinforce a heterosexual identity as well as alleviate sexual and identity-based tension. Using a wide range of critical and cultural works, plus a detailed examination of how Scouting manuals have changed over the years (especially regarding volatile issues like masturbation), Mechling weaves his observations into an evaluation of how Scouting's self-image and purpose has changed in response to social transformations, and finally into a critique of the national Scouting policy forbidding homosexuals, atheists and girls to join. Measured in its criticism, and ultimately supportive of Scouting (while acknowledging the pain experienced by gay scouts), this is a smart book that combines fascinating research with a critique of contemporary politics."

    Book review by Library Journal:

    Mechling ... condenses 20 years of research on Boy Scout Troop 49 into an account of one two-week encampment in California's Sierra Nevada Mountains. He examines the Scouts' recent problems with the "three Gs" God (should atheists be admitted to the Scouts?), girls (should young women be admitted?), and gays (should openly gay Scouts and Scoutmasters be admitted?) and delves into how the Scouts attempt to mold boys into heterosexual men. Some readers will find his highly psychoanalytic interpretations hard trekking seeing cans of Coca-Cola as symbols for feces seems to be pushing the envelope a bit. Others might react negatively to his observation that in order to create the heterosexual male the Scouts instill unhealthy doses of misogyny and homophobia. And still others will blanch upon hearing that the Scout camp emulates a huge, outdoor, boys' locker room, complete with raw language, bawdy jokes and songs, and fixations on flatulence and females. Mechling feels that there is much good to be said about the Boy Scouts, but after reading this study readers might have their doubts.

  8. "Boy Scouts leaders stuck in the past," Human Rights Campaign, 2012-JUL-17, at: http://www.hrc.org/
  9. Charlie Butts, "Family groups agree with BSA," OneNewsNow, 2012-JUL-18, at: http://www.onenewsnow.com/
  10. CNN wire staff, "Boy Scouts leadership affirms policy of excluding 'open or avowed' gays," CNN, 2012-JUL-17, at: http://m.cnn.com/

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Site navigation: Home page > Religious intolerance > Boy Scouts > here

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Copyright 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Original posting: 2012-JUL-18

Latest update: 2012-JUL-19
Author: B.A. Robinson

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