Supporters of “morally straight” Scouts make last-minute appeal

Coordinators of 11th-hour rallies supporting the Boy Scouts of America’s existing membership standard hope their public demonstrations will influence those casting ballots this week on whether or not to allow openly homosexual youth into Boy Scout ranks. In the last month BSA councils from across the nation have weighed the issue on the local level and will cast their vote on the resolution on Thursday during the annual National Council in Grapevine.

Some supporters of the status quo plan to greet the 1,400 delegates with a “friendly, courteous, and kind” rally as they arrive May 22 at the Gaylord Texan Resort. Texas Values, a conservative, non-profit organization affiliated with the Plano-based Liberty Institute, organized the event. Days earlier the founder of, John Stemberger, asked local BSA councils across the nation to host “Rally for Scouting” events May 17 demonstrating their opposition to the proposed resolution. Forty councils participated in the rallies, according to the website.

Critics of the proposed change warn the poorly worded resolution would invite lawsuits and inevitably force the BSA to drop its ban on membership of adult homosexuals and alter the culture of an organization that for 103 years has exemplified for many what it means to be a “morally straight” young man.

Since it was introduced on April 18, legal and moral arguments against the resolution have focused on the problematic bifurcation of the measure. The new policy, if approved, would allow openly homosexual youth but not homosexual adults.

 That is a lawsuit magnet, Stemberger, a Florida attorney and Eagle Scout, argued. According to the proposed policy, a Scout who is one day shy of 18 and an avowed homosexual can be a member in good standing but not the following day when he turns 18.

“What’s a Scout Master to do?” asked Cathy Ruse of the Family Research Council. She and Stemberger were among four participants on a panel discussion of the issue hosted by The Heritage Foundation May 14. The panelists, including Matthew Spalding, Heritage vice president of American studies, and Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, argued the proposed change in the membership policy would have far-reaching ramifications of which the BSA seems to have given little consideration.

“This cuts the heart out of Boy Scouts of America vs. Dale,” said Whelan, referring to the 2000 Supreme Court decision affirming the Scouts right to refuse membership to avowed homosexuals. The BSA argued at the time that homosexuality was incompatible with BSA values and membership policy should reflect those standards. In a 5-4 vote, the justices agreed.

Stemberger, a former Scout Master, said if the organization changes its membership standards—essentially approving homosexuality among its youth—it will no longer be under the protection of that SCOTUS decision and open itself to litigation from those arguing for equal access for adult homosexuals.

If the membership policy is changed, Stemberger predicted the BSA would be awash in lawsuits within two years. The organization cannot state via its membership policy, that homosexuality is acceptable among its youth but not adults. Openly homosexual Scouts ousted from their troops upon turning 18 and homosexual adults calling for equal access will demand the BSA open its membership to them or face litigation, he said.

“You are voting for open homosexuality amongst adults and youth. It’s only a matter of time,” Stemberger said .

The BSA undoubtedly has among its 2.65 million members youth who identify as homosexual or are struggling with their sexual identity. But because they are not public about the matter their sexual preference is not an issue and their membership is not in jeopardy. So the mantra that the Boy Scouts of America has a “ban” on homosexual membership is a disingenuous statement, Stemberger said.

Critics of the resolution said pressure from some rank-and-file BSA members and powerful executive board members has kept the issue alive despite the Scouts’ own polling indicating 70 percent of their members want the membership policy to remain the same. An attempt by the National Executive Board in January to change membership policy was swiftly denounced, forcing the board to retreat and put the matter to a vote before the National Council this week.

In February the BSA conducted another poll with little change in the results—the majority of members want the status quo. Regardless of those results, critics contend, the executive board acted in “bad faith” by drafting the current resolution based on their own summation of the polling.

The board stated, “While perspectives and opinions vary significantly, parents, adults in the Scouting community, and teens alike tend to agree that youth should not be denied the benefits of Scouting.”

The addition of openly homosexual youth, and possibly adult members, raises concerns Stemberger believes the BSA has not adequately addressed. The inclusion of youth and men with same-sex attraction into the organization’s tight-knit environs raises moral and legal questions. The attorney said the BSA child protection guidelines are some of the best in the country but the addition of openly homosexual youth into the ranks brings to fore the potential for “youth on youth” sexual activity or assault. The possibility of such incidents, Stemberger warned, is not out of the realm of possibility. He charged the BSA Executive Committee did not fully vet the issue before going forth with the proposed membership change, he charged.

During the Heritage Foundation panel discussion, Matthew Spalding read from his son’s Scout handbook and pointed out the moral dichotomy between the established BSA standards and its pending approval of homosexuality. Reading from the manual, Spalding said the BSA does not have an agenda on the matter of sexual orientation and resolving “this complex issue” is not the role of the organization. Nor may any member of the organization promote or advance any social or political agenda.

Passage of the membership resolution would “sow moral confusion,” Spalding said. He asked how Scout Masters would guide boys through the handbook topics of: fatherhood; personal responsibility and consequences in their own lives and the lives of others; waiting until marriage to have sex; true maturity; acting ethically; and understanding a young man’s responsibility toward women.

Changing the membership standards resonates deeper than the superficial question of who can wear the Boy Scouts of America uniform, he argued.

“Does that not—played out logically—undermine their ability to uphold basic things that go to the ethical core of their purpose?” Spalding asked.

The proposed policy goes beyond tacit approval of homosexuality and leaves BSA no option but to admit anyone whose sexual identity is non-heterosexual. The policy reads, No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.” 

“Sexual preference” is an open-ended term, Cathy Ruse said. Girls who “identify” as boys could apply for membership and the Scouts would not have a legal leg to stand on in refusing admittance. The Girl Scouts of America adopted a policy similar to what BSA is considering and the consequences are troubling, Ruse said.

In Colorado, the mother of a 7-year-old boy fought to have her son accepted as a member of the local Girl Scout troop. The mother said her son identifies as a girl and should be allowed to join the all-girl organization. The initial refusal by the troop leader was overruled by higher authorities and the boy was admitted.

Stemberger said the executive committee has ignored its own internal polling, history and tradition and, instead, used public polling to direct the decision-making process regarding membership policy. Questions about who sleeps, showers or teams-up with the homosexual youth or adult during campouts has not been addressed he said. Discussion of sexuality, and the political and social debate surrounding homosexuality, is an issue for parental discussion and has no place in a Boy Scout troop, he said.

“The BSA is completely ignoring what is best for the boys,” Stemberger said. “They are not brave enough. They are undergoing the test of moral relativism.”

TEXAN Correspondent
Bonnie Pritchett
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