Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Boy Scouts End Ban of Gay Leaders - But With a Caveat

As expected, the Boy Scouts of America organization has officially ended its ban on openly gay scout leaders.  However, the policy change has an exception in it so broad that a 18 wheeler can be driven through it: troops sponsored by conservative, anti-gay churches are free to select their own leaders and, thereby continue the ban.  Even with this glaring wink and nod to bigots, the Mormon Church and some in the Southern Baptist Convention have threatened to withdraw from the Boy Scouts.  As always, religious based hatred and discrimination were sadly allowed to win the day.  To the Christofascists and Mormon Church leadership, LGBT individuals remain less than human and targets for hate.  A piece in the New York Times looks at this half-way end of the anti-gay ban.  Here are highlights:

The Boy Scouts of America on Monday ended its nationwide ban on openly gay adult leaders. But despite a compromise allowing conservative church-sponsored units to pick their own volunteer leaders, the Mormon Church, the country’s largest sponsor of Scout units, said it might leave the organization.

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is deeply troubled by today’s vote by the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board,” said a statement issued by the Mormon Church moments after the Scouts announced the new policy. . . . “When the leadership of the church resumes its regular schedule of meetings in August, the century-long association with scouting will need to be examined.”

Mormons use the Boy Scouts as their main nonreligious activity for boys, and the Cub Scout and Boy Scout units they sponsor accounted for 17 percent of all youths in scouting in 2013, the last year for which data have been published. 

" . . . the admission of openly gay leaders is inconsistent with the doctrines of the church and what have traditionally been the values of the Boy Scouts of America.”

Under the Boy Scout policy adopted Monday, discrimination based on sexual orientation will also be barred in all Boy Scout offices and for all paid jobs — a step that could head off looming lawsuits in New York, Colorado and other states that prohibit such discrimination in employment.

In an effort to avoid the wholesale defection of conservative religious groups, the Boy Scouts said church-based local units would remain free to exclude gay adults from voluntary leadership roles like scoutmasters and Cub Scout den and pack leaders.

The Scouts’ volunteer national president, Robert M. Gates, a former secretary of defense, gave an urgent warning in May that because of cascading social and legal changes, the organization had no choice but to end its discriminatory policy.

Some conservative evangelical churches have ended ties with the Boy Scouts since the 2013 decision to admit openly gay youths. Total national enrollment of youths, which had declined by a few percentage points in many prior years, fell by 6 percent in 2013 and by 7 percent in 2014, to 2.4 million.

Scouting executives hope that with Monday’s change they can renew ties with corporate donors, schools and public agencies and attract parents who had steered their children away from scouting because of the policy.

“Moving forward, we will continue to focus on reaching and serving youth, helping them to grow into good, strong citizens,” said the statement Monday from the Boy Scouts.   The toughest challenge, Scout leaders say, may be to capture the time and enthusiasm of today’s increasingly urban, diverse and over-scheduled youths.

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