The Boy Scouts of America, Inc. has a time-honored tradition of promoting values like integrity, respect for others, camaraderie and collegiality. Those values were put to the test when on January 1, 2014, the 104 year-old organization officially lifted its ban on homosexual scout members.
After years of discussion, and both internal and external dissent, 60 percent of the Scout’s National Council 1,232 delegates votes to lift the ban, making it possible for the first time for scouts to not be afraid of revealing their sexual orientation.
Nationwide, the scouts boast roughly 2.7 million members and more than 1 million adult volunteers. While young boys and teens may, for the first time, be free of keeping their sexuality secret, the ban still applies to its adult volunteers. Even though members are free to “come out of the closet,” there are still limits to what kind of conduct they can exhibit under the Scout’s policy change.
Gay members are not allowed to wear their uniforms as part of efforts to make political or social statements, and they are likewise disallowed from bearing uniforms or insignia during gay-pride parades or demonstrations. They also may not use their membership in the Scouts to advocate for, promote, or distribute information that is sexual in nature.
To many, the lifted ban is consistent with the Scout’s mission of providing “a program for young people that builds character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develops personal fitness.” To others, however, they see this latest move as an affront to Christian values. Since announcing that it would lift its ban on homosexuality, a handful of churches have decided to revoke their charter of Boy Scout chapters. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the United Method Church – the Scouts’ two largest religious sponsors – have decided to remain engaged, however. Likewise, an offshoot organization – Trail Life USA – has sprung up in an effort to provide “a Christian adventure, character, and leadership program for young men.” Though the program proclaims to be Bible-centered, families who are jumping ship from the Boy Scouts are doing so, in many instances, because they disagree with the actualization of the ‘acceptance of all people’ mission the Scouts are trying to employ.
Fortunately, the Boy Scouts is withstanding the hype and has not seen much fall-off from the lifted ban. Most sponsors and chapters are still in tact and business is proceeding as usual.