Yesterday, the Boy Scouts of America proposed maintaining its ban on adult gay leaders, while dropping the ban on gay scouts. Several faith leaders quickly expressed their disappointment in the proposed policy change.
All faith leaders continued to call for a fully inclusive scouting program that included qualified gay leaders, even while some expressed joy that gay scouts would no longer be removed.
The Rev. Peter Morales, President of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), issued the following statement:
While long opposing the BSA's discriminatory policies, the UUA has consistently noted the many benefits that scouting offers to boys and young men, and we applaud the fact that these benefits will potentially be available to all boys and young men who want to participate in scouting. However, it is abhorrent to continue to discriminate against scout leaders.
As a religious community, Unitarian Universalists are called to affirm the worth and dignity of every person regardless of sexual orientation. Starting in 1985, the UUA has spoken out in opposition to the BSA's discriminatory practices.
This resolution further illustrates how the BSA remains out of touch and inconsistent with their own values of respect and kindness, but also with the changing attitudes of the American public.
The proposed resolution from the BSA is a step in the right direction, but it falls short of ensuring equality for gay scout leaders. Unitarian Universalists remain hopeful that there is still time to persuade the BSA to move from discrimination and prejudice to inclusion and respect for all Americans who wish to participate in scouting.
The United Church of Christ, which sponsors over 1,000 troops, cheered that gay scouts would be accepted by the Boy Scouts of America, but expressed bitter disappointment at the continued ban on gay adult leaders. Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer, United Church of Christ Minister for LGBT Concerns said the following:
Because youth are a primary concern, I support the proposed Boy Scouts of America (BSA) resolution to change their membership policies to allow gay youth to participate in scouting programs. I urge the delegates at the upcoming Annual Meeting to adopt the change and I encourage the scouting program to take all the necessary steps to welcome gay scouts, and provide a safe and nurturing space for their full participation.
At the same time, I’m dismayed by the decision to maintain the current “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy with regard to gay scout leaders. This aspect of the proposal sends a mixed message to both youth and adults. It communicates to youth that if you’re “out” about being gay you will not be allowed to one day become an adult scout leader and share the leadership and other skills you have learned; a not so subtle message that you are not as good as your fellow straight scouts. To adults, it communicates that if you want to be a scout leader you must stay in the closet about your sexual orientation, compromise your integrity and live with the stress that should someone choose to out you, or you decide to come out, you must face the scandal of being removed. This current policy of excluding gay scout leaders is inconsistent with the core values of scouting and there is no good reason for it to continue.
Emily Eastwood, Executive Director of ReconcilingWorks: Lutherans for Full Participation, noted the tension that many Lutheran congregations feel about being welcoming to all people, while sponsoring a troop that continues to practice discrimination. Currently, Lutheran churches sponsor nearly 4,000 troops across the country.
Lutherans are one of the biggest groups of Christians in the United States. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Lutheran congregations throughout the United States that host Boy Scout troops. Many of these congregations welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people not only on Sunday mornings at worship, but also LGBT people who may be part of the Boy Scout troop that uses the building at other times. When these churches say all are welcome, they really mean all. To accept gay scouts but not openly gay leaders results in a “don’t ask, don’t tell” double standard. This standard would be detrimental to gay scouts who would come to believe that in order to succeed they would have to hide who they are. We applaud the faithful service of the many scouts and troop leaders of all sexual orientations and gender identities whose work is a witness to what Scouting is all about – helping boys develop values such as loyalty, helpfulness, kindness, thrift, bravery, and duty to God. We call upon the leadership of the Boy Scouts of America to set a policy that welcomes and includes all.
GLAAD first started calls for the Boy Scouts of America to end its ban on gay scouts and scout leaders in April 2012 after Jennifer Tyrrell, a mom and den leader from Ohio was removed from her 7-year-old’s Cub Scout Pack for being gay. Tyrrell’s Change.org petition has attracted more than 330,000 signatures in support of ending the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay Scouts and leaders.
More than GLAAD has led several campaigns, which has highlighted several scouts and leaders who have faced discrimination, targeted corporate donors, and even challenged the National Geographic Channel to say that a "tough scout" is one who supports equality. See the timeline and take action at http://www.glaad.org/scouts.