Founded in 1910, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) describes itself as a values-based youth development organization. The BSA provides a program for young people through camping, hiking and skills building activities, that builds character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develops personal fitness. The BSA in January 2014 officially began accepting gay men into their ranks, after a more than two-decade-long ban. The Boy Scouts' national council voted to no longer deny membership to youths on the basis of sexual orientation, but it retained its ban on gay and lesbian adult Scout leaders. After years of legal wrangling and internal strife the BSA officially ended its ban on gay scout leaders. But while doing away with the blanket ban on gay adults in scouting, the BSA will apparently grant individual chapters license to continue to bar gay adults from being Scout leaders or employees.
This proposed change was expected to be ratified on Monday, July 27, 2015, by the organization's 80-member national executive board, after a smaller governing committee this month unanimously voted to lift the prohibition. The board said, "The planned policy change will allow scouting's members and parents to select local units, chartered to organizations with similar beliefs, that best meet the needs of their families. This change would also respect the right of religious chartered organizations to continue to choose adult leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own."
AdvertisementThe Boy Scouts, with nearly 2.5 million members and around a million adult volunteers, had been beset by internal fighting and legal wrangling, amid defiant moves by some scout councils to flout the national BSA ban and allow gay scoutmasters. But about 70% of Boy Scout chapters are run by church groups, complicating efforts to reform the ban.
The Mormon Church, also known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, runs the greatest number of BSA chapters. Earlier in July, 2015, it issued a statement after the executive board vote asserting that it has always had the right to select Scout leaders who adhere to moral and religious principles that are consistent with our doctrines and beliefs. However, the organization said, "The move lifting the ban was inevitable, given US social and political changes of recent years."
Back in May, 2015, the BSA's national president Robert Gates warned at its annual meeting that the courts could force the organization to change its membership policies if it failed to do so of its own accord. Gates, a former CIA director and defense secretary, said, "We must all understand that this will probably happen sooner rather than later."