The Boy Scouts of America’s Executive Board has delayed action on a proposed change to its policies that would allow homosexuals into its leadership ranks. This means the current policy banning homosexuals from leadership remains in effect until at least May, when the organization holds its nationwide annual meeting.
In a statement released Wednesday morning, the Scouts said, “After careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the Scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy.
The statement went on to say the executive board would spend the next three months listening to members’ “perspectives and concerns” before crafting a resolution the 1,400 voting members of the national council will consider during the May meeting.
The decision to postpone a vote on the policy came at the request of a task force made up of representatives of religious groups that charter Scout units. Churches and other religious organizations sponsor nearly 70 percent of all Scout units.
Groups on both sides of the debate mobilized on Jan. 28, when word leaked out that the Scouts would consider a policy change. The American Family Association sent a petition containing about 100,000 names asking the Scouts to retain the current policy.
Conservative and pro-family groups celebrated the decision as a victory. Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said, “The leaders of the Boy Scouts were wise not to abandon their longstanding national membership standards, as they were reportedly on the brink of doing. We thank the Scout parents and members of the public who responded to these reports with an overwhelming outpouring of support for maintaining the Scouts’ timeless values that have served the Scouts and the nation well for 103 years.”
But the Scouts remain in a difficult position. The pro-homosexual group Scouts for Equality called the decision an “abdication of responsibility.” And even the FRC’s Perkins was not wholly satisfied with the decision. He said, “It is not enough that they postpone a decision. Instead, the BSA board should publicly re-affirm their current standards.”
The BSA has experienced financial stress for at least the past five years because of the recent recession, membership declines, and the withdrawal of corporate support. Pro-homosexual groups blame the Scouts’ problems on its “anti-homosexual” policy, but Canada’s experience tells a different story. After the Boy Scouts of Canada allowed homosexual leaders in 1999, membership dropped by 36 percent over the next five years, from about 200,000 to about 122,000. Membership in Canada has continued to fall, to less than 100,000.