By Oren Dorell and Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY
As early as next week, the Boy Scouts of America may announce it will
allow gay Scouts and troop leaders, a spokesman for the group has told
If this policy shift is approved by the national board
meeting next week, it will be a sharp reversal of the Scouts'
decades-old national policy banning homosexuals.
change under discussion would allow the religious, civic or educational
organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting to determine how to
address this issue," BSA spokesman Deron Smith said in a statement to
Only seven months ago, the Boy Scouts affirmed its ban
on gays after a nearly two-year examination of the issue by a committee
of volunteers convened by national leaders of the Boy Scouts of America,
known as the BSA. However, local chapters and some members of the
national board - corporate CEO Randall Stephenson of AT&T and James
Turley of Ernst & Young - called for a reconsideration.
proposed new policy would leave decisions on membership and leadership
up to the BSA' s 290 local governing councils and 116,000 sponsoring
religious and civic groups.
"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," Smith
told USA TODAY.
"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," he said.
While some cheered the announcement, others said it would ruin Scouting.
announcement comes after a campaign to change the policy that lasted
more than a year and garnered more than 1.2 million online signatures at
Change.org, according to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against
Defamation (GLAAD), an advocacy group.
GLAAD spokesman Rich
Ferraro told USA TODAY the Boy Scouts were taking an important "first
step" that he hopes will lead to ending a national ban and allowing gays
to participate in an important national cultural institution.
Girl Scouts, 4H Clubs and the U.S. military are fully inclusive, and
that's what we need from the Boy Scouts of America," Ferraro said.
"Until then, there will be young people out there who are harmed by
"This would be an incredible step forward in the right
direction," said Zach Wahls, Eagle Scout and founder of Scouts for
Equality. Wahls said his group will work with BSA councils and
chartering organizations across the country to end exclusion of gays.
Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in
Louisville, said a policy change would be "nothing less than disastrous
for the Boy Scouts of America."
The Southern Baptist Convention
views homosexuality as sinful based on Scripture and not acceptable as
normal behavior, Mohler said. Ending a national policy on gays would
raise a question in the mind of every Scout's parent and require
families to research the policy of each Scout troop and sponsoring
organization before joining, he said.
"This is going to raise a
fundamental question for the Southern Baptist Convention at the national
level and in the churches" about whether to reconsider a decades-old
relationship with the Boy Scouts, Mohler said.
decision would be up to individual Southern Baptist churches, Mohler
said: "I'm quite assured that those churches will be reconsidering that
relationship if this policy goes into effect."
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins called the potential policy shift "a serious mistake."
a statement Monday, Perkins said, "If the board capitulates to the
bullying of homosexual activists, the Boy Scouts' legacy of producing
great leaders will become yet another casualty of moral compromise."
Others greeted the prospect of change with relief.
about time," said Richard Guglielmetti, 66, a former Scoutmaster of
Troop 76 in Simsbury, Conn., from 1991 to 1997, and again from 2000 to
Despite the national policies set forth by BSA, his troop always rejected the policy, Guglielmetti said.
had a bunch of boys in our troop who were gay, and they all felt the
policy was wrong," he said. "Gay Scouts and everybody was always welcome
in our troop."
One of those Scouts was Guglielmetti's own son,
Matthew, now 34. Last year, Matthew turned in the Eagle Scout award he
earned in 1993 because of Scouting's anti-gay policies, his father said.
September, Richard Guglielmetti resigned from Scouting. He had been
serving the Matianuck District in north central Connecticut as the
chairman responsible for giving Eagle Scout candidates their review
Guglielmetti said that for him the final straw was hearing
of Ryan Andresen, a gay teen in California who was not allowed to earn
his Eagle Scout ranking even after completing the required service
"The boy did all the work and everybody knew he was gay,
and then they rejected him. That was just intolerable. When that came
up, I said, I can't take it, I can't put up with this anymore," he said.
because a person is gay doesn't mean he's a pedophile," Richard
Guglielmetti added. "Barring gay leaders kind of accuses them of being
pedophiles. Which they're not - there's plenty of good gay men that
would be good leaders. As far as their policy against gay Scouts, I
don't think they should discriminate against anybody - black, white,
rich, poor, gay, straight. I mean, it's Boy Scouts, and they're boys.
That was my problem with it."
The potential policy shift raises a
question about another group shut out of Scouting: atheists, who decline
to say the Boy Scout Oath because it begins: "On my honor I will do my
best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law ..."
Silverman, president of American Atheists, said Monday, "If they are
considering lifting the ban on gays, that's a good thing, that's
progress. If they lift that bigotry from their requirements, I would
hope they remove the rest of the bigotry and admit atheists as well.
to admit atheists who decline the oath, Silverman says, "tells boys
that atheists are immoral. If local groups want to behave in an ethical
way, I'm confident they will make Boy Scouts about Scouting, not about
The Girl Scout Promise is similar in committing the girl to "serve God and my country. ..."
the official site also stipulates: "According to the Girl Scout
Constitution, the motivating force in Girl Scouting is spiritual. The
ways in which members identify and fulfill their spiritual beliefs are
personal and private."
The Girl Scouts USA policy is that
religious expression is diverse and "the decision to say grace, blessing
or invocation is made locally at the troop or group level and should be
sensitive to the spiritual beliefs of the participants."
to David Gibson of Religion News Service, the U.S. Conference of
Catholic Bishops has been reviewing church ties to the GS USA for two
years. Despite consistent denial by Girl Scout officials, there are
persistent reports on the Internet and among some social conservatives
that the organization has ties to Planned Parenthood or endorses
material on sexuality that the Roman Catholic Church would not approve.
Contributing: Brian Shane, The (Salisbury, Md.) Daily Times