During a conference call on Monday, Frank Page, the former president of the Southern Baptist Church Conference, urged the leaders of the Boy Scouts of America to continue its current policy, which restricts gays from being leaders.
Page spoke with “Wayne Brock, the chief executive of the Boy Scouts of America (B.S.A.); Wayne Perry, president of the B.S.A.; and Tiko Perez, national commissioner of the B.S.A
On behalf of the SBC along with Frank Page, who is now president of the SBC Executive Committee, were Roger S. "Sing" Oldham, vice president for convention communications and relations with the SBC Executive Committee, also took part in the call and gave Baptist Press a summary of the conversation.” (Quote from the Baptist Press)
“The Boy Scout leaders said during the conference call they are facing pressure -- both internally and externally -- to change the policy, which prohibits open homosexuals from leadership positions. Page, though, told them that pressure should never trump principle, and he added that he could no longer laud the Scouts for standing on principle.
Just six months ago, the Boy Scouts released a statement standing by the ban, saying a "majority of our membership" agrees with the policy and that the "vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their rights to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers, and at the appropriate time and in the right setting."
The Boy Scouts released a new statement Monday describing the proposal, saying that the national policy would be rescinded in favor of a policy allowing local councils to determine their own policy. That means that in each city, one council might allow gay leaders and another might not. The Boy Scouts board is expected to vote on the proposal next week.
Page told the Scout leaders that although the new policy might allow the sponsoring organization to set local policy, such autonomy would disappear when there is a national or even regional meeting.
"National policy will always trump local autonomy" in such situations, Page said. "I believe this will be a death blow to Scouting. ... I think this is a self-inflicted wound."
Perry told Page that the Scouts are facing a "civil war" on the issue and that the proposal is the best solution.
Page responded that the leaders did not allow time for the millions who support the current policy to speak out. About 70 percent of all Scouting units are owned and operated by faith-based organizations.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints leads all faith-based organizations with 38,000 units (and 420,000 participating youth), followed by the United Methodists (11,000 units; 371,000 youth) and the Catholic Church (8,570 units; 283,000). Baptists are sixth (4,100 units; 109,000).
Meanwhile, the president of Association of Baptists for Scouting -- A.J. Smith -- says passage of the proposed policy "will likely be viewed as an affront by most Baptist church leaders." He also is urging people to voice their position to the national Boy Scouts office (see below).
"Such a move may result in a loss of units chartered through Baptist churches as well as a loss of Baptist youth currently registered through other charter organizations," Smith said.
"It will, no doubt, be argued that under the proposed new guidelines the charter organization will have greater liberty in determining membership standards, and that would be true. Some Baptists will be more agreeable to that, certainly.
Still, the move opens the door for hiring practices at council and national camps that would allow homosexuals in those settings. The BSA will have no legal recourse to prevent such applicants from filing discrimination suits if their applications are denied.
In light of that, many Baptist charter organizations and Baptist parents will decide not to send their youth to such camps for fear of them being exposed to persons advocating a homosexual lifestyle. In short, from a Baptist perspective, such a move is fraught with danger and is an affront to their core convictions on human sexuality.
… Smith urged those concerned about the change to express "their views and/or concerns" by sending an email at the Scout website -- http://www.scouting.org/ContactUs.aspx. Family Research Council President Tony Perkins urged people to call the Scouts organization directly: 972-580-2000." (Mike Foust, Baptist Press)
In an article posted today on NPR’s website, writer Gene Demby states that the Boy Scouts’ approach to the acceptance of gays is similar to its approach on integration years ago –
“As Boy Scouts of America mull over whether to allow gay members to openly join, their approach might mirror the leave-it-to-the-locals tack the organization once took in deciding how to tackle the issue of desegregating its Scout troops.
"The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents," Deron Smith, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America, said yesterday.
"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."
Some local leaders said they stand by the BSA's decision.
"Local Scout councils agree to support whatever decision is made by our national board," Steve Wilburn, an official at the Old Hickory Council in North Carolina, told the Winston-Salem Journal.” (Gene Demby, NPR)
Mark Turner, the Scout Executive for the Mecklenburg County Council of Boy Scouts wrote the following letter, which was posted on their website yesterday –
“Dear Scouting family, friends, and supporters,
Most of you have probably heard of the BSA’s announcement yesterday that the National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America (comprised of volunteers) is planning to discuss the consideration of a possible change to membership and leadership standards related to sexual orientation.
This is the statement released by the National BSA yesterday:
“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.”
We should reiterate that a final decision on this matter has NOT been made by the National Executive Board. The regularly scheduled meeting of the Board occurs next week. Once more information becomes available, we will post it on the Council website and through a special edition of the Scouter electronic newsletter.
If you would like to express your comments or concerns on this matter, you may call the National Office at 972.580.2000 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your continued support of the Mecklenburg County Council.
Scout Executive” (mccscouting.org)