2013-MAY: BSA National Council votes to admit gay youth. Trail Life forms.

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The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) reconsiders ban on gay youths

2013-MAY: BSA National Council
votes to admit gay youth. Trail Life

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This topic is a continuation from the previous essay.

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2013-MAY-22: Conservative religious leaders plead with BSA to retain its discriminatory membership policy against gay members:

Leaders from 50 U.S. religious organizations signed a statement "imploring" the BSA to continue to expel gay youths from Scouting wherever they are found. It said:

"We strongly support the Boy Scouts of America current prohibition on open homosexuality and retaining it without revision.  Nearly 70 percent of BSA troops are hosted by churches and religious institutions.  Upholding traditional morality is vital for sustaining this partnership, for protecting Scout members, and for ensuring BSA has a strong future.  A proposal from the BSA board to prohibit 'discrimination' based on 'sexual orientation or preference' for BSA members potentially would open the Scouts to a wide range of open sexual expressions.  In our current culture, it is more important than ever for our churches to protect and provide moral nurture for young people and for the Scouts.  We implore members of the upcoming BSA Council to affirm the BSA’s present policy, which the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed, and which has served BSA well." 1

The reference to the Supreme Court affirming the discriminatory policy may confuse some people. Actually, in the year 2000, the court narrowly ruled -- by a 5:4 decision -- that since the BSA is a private organization, they have the legal right to reject any member -- or refuse to admit individuals into membership -- for any reason. The court did not rule on the morality, ethics or advisability of denying gay youth access to Scouting.

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2013-MAY: Conflicts during the weeks before the vote by the National Council:

Whether through ignorance, misunderstanding, honest difference of opinion, or intentional lying, competing claims were made about the current status of gay youths in the BSA, the procedures used during vote, and whether the proposed procedure would "sexualize scouting:"

  • Current status of gay youth in the BSA:

    • Some have claimed that gay Scout youth have, in recent years, been able to be open with their sexual orientation, and that gay youth were only expelled if they actively advocated and agitated in favor of homosexuality, or if they engaged in actual same-gender sexual behavior.

    • However, according to a Findings of Fact in a District of Columbia court case:

      "If a youth comes to a Scoutmaster and admits to doing wrong, like stealing, lying, cheating or vandalizing, the normal procedure is to counsel the youth privately and sympathetically...If the youth admits to being a homosexual, the Boy Scouts' policy is to instantly terminate his association with Scouting." 2

  • Voting procedures:
    • Cathy Ruse is a senior legal fellow at the Family Research Council (FRC). The FRC has been listed as an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. She expressed concern about the accuracy of the vote counting procedure. She wrote:

      "There are troubling reports of an influx of delegates. Votes at meetings are [usually] done by voice votes; this time it will be paper ballots filled out in delegates' hotel rooms and counted by friends of the BSA executive."

      According to the Christian Post:

      "She further explained that she was privy to reports that there is a calculated and elaborate push to deceive the organization's 1,400 delegates to support lifting the more than century-old ban on homosexuality.

    • National spokesperson for the BSA, Deron Smith, said that allegations of vote tampering were "absolutely incorrect." The BSA has arranged with an independent election services company to handle the process. He wrote:

      "The voters of the national council are defined by our bylaws. And the BSA has hired TrueBallot to administer the vote. Voters will be issued credentials and the vote will all happen in one room and [will be] validated by TrueBallot."5

  • "Sexualizing Scouting:"
    • Some critics complain that if the BSA allows gay youths to join and remain in the group, that Scouting would be thereby "sexualized."

    • Others say that the existing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and the resulting expulsion of any gay Scout that comes out of the closet has already sexualized Scouting, and that the proposed policy would reduce the level of sexualizing by making sexual orientation a non-issue.

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2013-MAY-23: The vote on whether to adopt the proposed policy change to allow gay youth to remain in Scouting:

On MAY-23, the approximately 1,400 members of the BSA National Council voted to replace the previous policy towards gay Scouts. The delegates were profoundly divided on the decision whether to continue the existing policy of discriminating against gay youth. That policy was similar to the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy in the U.S. military which was abandoned in the Fall of 2011. That is, as long as a gay youth member of the BSA did not reveal his sexual orientation, either verbally or by engaging in some same-gender sexual behavior, he was allowed to stay. But if he revealed his orientation or if the BSA found out some other way that he was gay, national policy was that he would be instantly expelled from the organization.

Webmaster's comment:

I suspect that this strict rule is based on the belief that a child actually chooses their sexual orientation, and can therefore be persuaded to take up homosexuality by simply talking to a homosexual. In reality child psychologists have studied young, pre-school children who are too young to be in the BSA. The researchers predicted with about 80% accuracy which children will discover that they are gay later in life. Also, many human sexuality researchers now believe that a homosexual orientation is determined before birth by epigenetics. This is a type of layer over the DNA that regulates gene expression. The epigenetic layer is present and unchanged before birth at the embryonic and fetal stages, and after birth among newborns, babies, young children, youth and adults. Researchers have been able to predict homosexual orientation using epigenetics in adults with a 83% accuracy. This indicates that one's sexual orientation is determined before birth. It is not something that one can catch like the flu or adopt like a political opinion.

The delegates voted to approve the proposed change in national policy to allow gay youth to join and to remain in the Boy Scouts without fear of being expelled. However, when they become an adult on their 18th birthday, they will be ejected from the organization. That is, because they would be too old to remain a member, and of the wrong sexual orientation to become a leader.

The delegates' vote was in favor of changing the policy: 61% in favor of change and 38% opposed. The final vote was a surprise to most people. The BSA had earlier conducted a massive poll of its leaders, parents, and youth members, starting in 2013-FEB. Of the more than 200,000 persons who responded, their votes were 34% were in favor of change and 61% were opposed. The survey also showed that most parents of young Scouts along with young Scouts themselves favored change. It appears that between the date of the survey and the date of the vote a lot of national council members changed their minds. That may have been because they were exposed to both sides of the argument during the meeting prior to the vote.

John Stemberger founded of OnMyHonor.net, the main national group whose sole mandate was to maintain the national BSA discriminatory policy against gays in force. His group joined with other like-minded individuals and organizations. They scheduled a meeting in Louisville KY during 2013-JUN to discuss the creation of "... a new character development organization for boys, similar to and in competition with the Boy Scouts of America." The new group have policies to prevent gays of all ages from joining and expel any that they find in their group. 3

The competitive group was founded in 2013-JUN. It is called Trail Life USA with the acronym: TLUSA. Their headquarters are in Belton, SC., and their web site is at https://www.traillifeusa.com/

  • On 2015-JAN-07, after their first year of operation, the group had 524 troops in 48 states and almost 20,000 members. 8

  • On 2017-JAN-10, as they approached their third anniversary, they had expanded to almost 700 troops in 49 states and 26,000 members. 9

The size of Trail Life, in terms of youth members, is close to 1% of the size of the Boy Scouts of America. During 2015, the BSA had 2.35 million youth members and nearly one million adult volunteers spread across 103,158 units that were sponsored by businesses, community & religious organization, and other agencies. 10

However, if the BSA were to take the final step to eliminate its long history of discrimination, drop their insistence on members' belief in a single, male deity, and freely welcome youths of all religious beliefs, including Agnostics, Atheists, Deists, Wiccans, other Neo pagans, etc., then many evangelical Christian and Roman Catholic members might leave the BSA seeking an alternate youth group that promotes Christianity. Trail Life might benefit from the exodus.

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Towleroad reported on reactions from individuals who have experienced past harm due to the now abandoned discriminatory policy:

Towleroad web site published three comments:

  • An Ohio mother, Jennifer Tyrrell, was expelled from the BSA because she is a lesbian. She worked with GLADD, a large national pro-LGBT activist group, to end discrimination of Scout youth who are gay. When the BSA National Council voted to accept gays as youth members, she commented:

    'When I was kicked out of the Boy Scouts last April, I was devastated. Having to look my son, Cruz, in the eye and tell him that our family isn't good enough was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. Today is truly a watershed moment for me, but even more so for the millions of kids across this country, who will now be allowed to serve in the Scouts without fear of rejection. I'm so proud of how far we've come, but until there's a place for everyone in Scouting, my work will continue."

Tyrrell remained personally expelled from the BSA because she is a lesbian. The old policy of discriminating against adult gays and lesbians will continue.

  • Pascal Tessier, launched a petition on Change.org to persuade the BSA to allow gay youth as members. It received more than 128,000 signatures. After the National Council vote, he said:

    "Just a few hours ago, I was thinking that today could be my last day as a Boy Scout. Obviously, for gay Scouts like me, this vote is life-changing. Like my brother before me, I now have a chance to earn my Eagle award -- something that’s taken most of my life to achieve. Finally, Scouts are no longer forced to choose between upholding the Scout Oath and being open and honest about who they really are as a person."

  • A Kentucky father Greg Bourke was ousted as the Scoutmaster of his son's Boy Scouts troop because he is gay. He said:

    "This is an historic day in the 103-year history of the Boy Scouts of America -- the day it finally found its moral compass and started down the long trail to equality in Scouting. No longer will gay [youths in the ] Boy Scouts have to hide their sexual orientation from fear of being criticized and ousted from the Boy Scout membership rolls. That is definite progress, but even with this approved membership change, gay adults like Jennifer Tyrrell and myself will continue to be banned from serving in the Scouts, even in units with our own children. There is no other word for that except discrimination.'

  • Eric Andresen, who along with his wife Karen, launched a petition on Change.org in support of their son Ryan. He said:

    'We are relieved to hear that other Scouts will not have to suffer the rejection and expulsion that Ryan experienced, and we’re glad to see that the BSA is finally starting to see how harmful its discriminatory policies have been. Had this policy been in place just 8 months ago, Ryan would already be an Eagle Scout, and he could've avoided so much pain."

  • Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and Founder of Scouts for Equality said:

    "Today’s vote ending discrimination of gay Scouts is truly a historic moment and demonstrates the Boy Scouts of America’s commitment to creating a more inclusive organization. Scouts for Equality is honored to be a part of the movement that has achieved a tremendous victory towards the fight for equality in America and we are proud to call ourselves Scouts. We look forward to the day where we can celebrate inclusion of all members and are committed to continuing our work until that occurs'." 4

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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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. "Missouri Synod President signs joint statement on proposed changes to Boy Scout membership policy," Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, 2013-MAY-22, at: http://blogs.lcms.org/
  2. "Findings of Fact..., R.D. Pool & M.S. Geller vs. Boy Scouts of America..." Commission on Human Rights, Government of the District of Columbia, 1998-MAY-1, at http://www.uua.org/
  3. "Boy Scouts of America Press Conference," You Tube, 2013-MAY-23, at: http://youtu.be/
  4. "Boy Scouts votes to lift ban on gay members, retain ban on bay leaders," Towelroad, 2013-MAY-23, at: http://www.towleroad.com/
  5. Leonardo Blair, "Boy Scouts of America Denies Vote Tampering Allegations," Christian Post, 2013-MAY-22, at: http://www.christianpost.com/
  6. From the Winter 2010 issue of the Southern Poverty Law Center's (SPLC) Intelligence Report. The SPLC monitors racist, homophobic, nativist, and other hate groups in the U.S. Online at: http://www.splcenter.org/
  7. John Stemberger, "10 Positive Trends Christians Should Thank God For," Carisma News, 2015-JAN-07, at: http://www.charismanews.com/
  8. "Trail Life USA," Wikipedia, as on 2017-JAN-30, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/
  9. Charlie Butts, "In third year, youth leadership group flourishes," Trail Life, 2017-JAN-10, at: https://www.traillifeusa.com/ This is a PDF file.
  10. 2015 Annual Report, Boy Scouts of America, 2016-MAY-27, at: http://scoutingnewsroom.org/

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Copyright 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Original posting: 2013-MAY-23
Latest updated: 2013-MAY-24
Author: B.A. Robinson

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