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Boy Scouts’ leader says ban on gay adults no longer sustainable

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“Thus, between internal challenges and potential legal conflicts, the BSA finds itself in an unsustainable position, a position that makes us vulnerable to the possibility the courts simply will order us at some point to change our membership policy,” Gates said.

He expressed concern that an eventual court order might also strike down the BSA’s policy of banning atheists.

“Waiting for the courts is a gamble with huge stakes,” he said. “Alternatively, we can move at some future date – but sooner rather than later – to seize control of our own future, set our own course and change our policy in order to allow charter partners – unit sponsoring organizations – to determine the standards for their Scout leaders.”

Such an approach, he said, would allow churches, which sponsor about 70 percent of Scout units, to establish leadership standards consistent with their faith.

“I truly fear that any other alternative will be the end of us as a national movement,” he said.

But some churches may be alienated nonetheless. Some Southern Baptist churches stopped sponsoring troops after gay scouts were allowed, and letting in gay adults will likely prompt even more departures, said Southern Evangelical Seminary President Richard Land, who formerly led the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

To him, Scouts shouldn’t have leaders who are sexually attracted to their gender, whether a heterosexual man leading Girl Scouts or a gay man supervising boys, no matter objections that leaders of any sexuality shouldn’t be assumed to be potential pedophiles.

“This seems to me to be sound judgment 101,” he said, calling Gates’ message a display of “political correctness.”

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The Utah-based Mormon church is the nation’s largest sponsor of Boy Scout units, and in the past has supported the ban on participation by openly gay adults.

In a brief statement Thursday, the church said it would examine any policy changes “very carefully to assess how they might impact our own century-long association with the BSA.”

The Human Rights Campaign, the largest U.S. gay-rights group, called Gates’ speech “a step in the right direction.”

“But, as we have said many times previously, half measures are unacceptable, especially at one of America’s most storied institutions,” said the campaign’s president, Chad Griffin. “It’s time for BSA leaders to show true leadership and embrace a full national policy of inclusion.”

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