It is now official. In a written statement dated Jan. 28 and posted on its website, Irving-based Boy Scouts of America (BSA), the organization’s director of public relations, Deron Smith, confirmed that the 100-year-old organization is “discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation.”
An NBC News report earlier today, which said that the reversal of the long-standing BSA membership policy might come as early as next week, quickly produced a firestorm of response across the country by the public and other media. Only last July, the organization upheld its ban on gay membership and leaders following a two-year study of the issue.
Scouting has been increasingly in the news over its policies; the divisive issues of gay membership and leadership, as well as allegations of sexual abuse and belief in God, have contributed to a divergence of opinion among leadership and membership, both youth and adults. BSA has prevailed in its position following numerous court challenges to its policies, including a favorable ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000.
Because each troop or den must be chartered to a sponsoring organization, however, there have been some hard-to-reconcile philosophical debates on the issues, in increasing tension in many parts of the country, with some Scouts mounting protests on their own on varied issues.
Today’s statement follows in its entirety, and provides some insight into the proposed changes and the reasoning which may be behind those changes, after the more rigid decades-old stance of the BSA leadership.
“For more than 100 years, Scouting’s focus has been on working together to deliver the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training. Scouting has always been in an ongoing dialogue with the Scouting family to determine what is in the best interest of the organization and the young people we serve.
“Currently, the BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation. This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs. BSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families.
“The policy change under discussion would allow the religious, civic, or educational organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting to determine how to address this issue. The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents. Under this proposed policy, the BSA would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs.”