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About the Boy Scouts of America (BSA)

Part 3

Pro-tolerant Policies. Shifts
In U.S. Culture. BSA's Response.

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This topic is a continuation from the previous essay

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In this essay, the term "LGB" refers to persons
whose sexual orientation is lesbian, gay or bisexual.

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boy scout image

A boy scout in his natural habitat

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BSA's pro-tolerance towards some faith groups (Continued):

bulletContent of the Scout Handbook(Continued):

The sixth point of the Scout Law, "A Scout is kind," means that Scouts:

"take time to listen to the thoughts of other people," to "imagine what it would be like if you were in someone else's place," to be "kind to people you don't know or don't understand, and to people with whom you disagree," and that "compassion for all people is a good antidote to the poisons of hatred and violence."


The seventh point of the Scout Law, "A Scout is obedient," requires the Scout to:

"obey the laws of his community."

In many cities and counties of the U.S. this would include human rights bylaws that prohibit discrimination against sexual and religious minorities.


The final point of the Scout Law, "A Scout is reverent," includes the following statement:

"All your life you will encounter people who hold different religious beliefs or even none at all. It is your duty to respect and defend the rights of others whose beliefs may differ from yours."


The Explorer Code requires that each youth pledge that:

"I will recognize the dignity and worth of all humanity and will use fair play and goodwill in my daily life."


The Learning for Life program promotes "moral and character development," with sections on

"... race, religion and culture," "respecting differences," and "respecting my peers."

The program's intent is:

"... to instill in youth the importance of respecting the rights of all people."


The Scoutmaster Handbook, 7th edition, lists as some symptoms of a Scout's moral fitness:

"Courage about what he believes...Respecting the rights of others. Compassion for other's feelings and needs. Acting as if rights of others matter to him. Accepting others as equal in worth and dignity."

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Webmaster's comments: [bias alert]:

These are commendable thoughts and programs for the BSA which promote tolerance towards minorities, support the rights of others, and display empathy towards people different from themselves. These are principles that are sadly missing from some other youth programs.

However, some of the above are ironic, because they appear to obligate individual scouts to actively oppose some of the BSA's past policies concerning some sexual minorities, and oppose some policies at the present time dealing with some religious minorities.

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The U.S. culture shifts, and the BSA's responds to the changes:

During early 2011, a few commentators predicted that a tipping point had been reached in the U.S. concerning the acceptance of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender/transsexual (LGBT) community. It was triggered by the Obama administration's decision that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was clearly unconstitutional as evidenced by a number of then recent rulings by various federal courts. DOMA prevented the federal government from providing 1,138 benefits and protections to legally married same-sex couples. These same benefits and protections were routinely supplied to legally married opposite-sex couples. The Department of Justice decided that it would no longer defend constitutional attacks on DOMA in federal courts. However, because the law had been passed by Congress, and signed into law by the president, the administration was still committed to enforcing it.

Since the time of that tipping point, there has been an accelerating series of developments showing a rapid rise in the acceptability of the LGBT community by the general public. Among the most obvious changes have been:

  • A rapidly increasing majority of adults supported the rewriting of marriage laws in many liberal states to allow loving, committed same-sex couples to marry.

  • A petition was created on on behalf of Jennifer Tyrell. She was a volunteer Tiger Cub den leader with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). Her membership was terminated by the BSA because she is a lesbian. Over 340,000 supporters signed a petition to ask the BSA reinstate her. 1 That is an unusually large number for a petition on

  • After many months of research, the executive committee of the BSA determined in 2013-APR that it was in the best interest of their group to allow gay, lesbian and bisexual youth to join and to remain in the BSA. This decision was ratified by a wide margin of about 1,400 delegates at their National Annual Meeting during 2013-MAY-22 to 24. The vote was 61% in favor and 38% opposed. However, at the time, the decision:

    • Maintained the exclusion of adult scout leaders with a homosexual or bisexual orientation,

    • Continued to exclude members of all ages whose religious beliefs do not include a belief in God.

    • Resulted in the expelling any known LGB youths on their 18th birthday when they were not allowed as either members (because they were too old) or leaders (because they had a LGB sexual orientation).

Still, it was a major first step by the BSA towards tolerance of, and equal rights for, the LGBT community.

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During mid 2015, a major advance occurred nationally when the U.S. Supreme Court issued their ruling in the case Obergefell v. Hodges. That decision legalized gay marriages across the U.S. with the exception of American Samoa. (In that territory, most people are recognized only as American residents, and not American citizens. Thus decision of the High Court are not necessarily recognized there.)

Almost instantaneously after the legalization of gay marriages, the attention of many conservative religious groups switched from working to restrict rights for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, to attacking equal rights for transgender persons and transsexuals.

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

  1. "Boy Scouts of America: Reinstate Cub Scout leader who was removed for being gay,", at:

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Copyright © 1999 to 2017, by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. 
Originally published on 1999-AUG-9 
Latest updated: 2017-FEB-13
Author: B.A. Robinson

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