On Friday, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced a resolution that would maintain its current membership policy with one change involving youth members. Approximately 1,400 Scouting members will vote on the resolution the week of May 20.
Current membership standards affirm belief in God, require members to do the same, and forbid open or avowed homosexuality.
The resolution announced on Friday reaffirms belief in God as a core value of Scouting and maintains the current policy regarding open or avowed homosexuality for “all adult leaders.”
Under the change proposed by the resolution, “No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.” Currently, BSA states only that it does not “proactively inquire” about sexual orientation.
The proposed change creates some tension with Scouting’s previous statement that “if same-sex attraction is going to be introduced or discussed, it should be with parents, caregivers, or spiritual advisers, at the appropriate time and in the right setting—but outside of the Scouting program.”
However, it appears the proposed change in policy would still allow for enforcement of membership standards involving prohibitions on sexual conduct. The introduction section of the resolution specifically states that “Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether homosexual or heterosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting.”
Nevertheless, some Scouting parents and volunteers, along with religious organizations that sponsor Scouting units, will likely have concerns that the policy change would undermine their ability to promote traditional understandings of sexual responsibility and ideals involving fatherhood, marriage, and family through Scouting programs.
Further, even those who support the proposed policy change have grounds for concern that small changes they do support will lead to bigger changes they do not support. A documented body of evidence reveals that incrementalism is a key strategy of activists seeking to promote new norms involving homosexuality.
In addition, many activists pressuring BSA to abandon its moral viewpoints will be unsatisfied with the proposed policy change and might even argue that it undermines other policies BSA seeks to uphold. If Scouting members approve the proposed resolution, BSA can expect further litigation and continued pressure from professional activist groups, corporate donors, and lawmakers.
The particular nature of the resolution it proposed shows that BSA is seeking a carefully considered solution to the controversy surrounding its longstanding, morally based membership policies. However, the threat of renewed legal and political overreach, combined with unrelenting pressure from professional activist groups with far-ranging agendas, provides justifiable grounds for people and groups to resist the policy change even if they otherwise have no objection to its substance.