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Are Boy Scouts Faced With a No-Win Situation on Gay Membership?

Boy Scouts faced with dilemma over gay membership
(Photo by Al Barry/Three Lions/Getty Images)

Yesterday, the Boy Scouts of America national council delayed its decision on whether to allow openly-gay Scouts or leaders. But regardless of which way it decides in May, the outcome could be devastating.

Over the last couple of years the Boy Scouts of America have come under increasing pressure from gay, lesbian and transgender groups to relax or revise their long-standing policies. President Obama has openly asked the BSA to drop the ban as well.

In 2000, the Supreme Court upheld the BSA’s right to set its membership guidelines. But like a number of organizations, they have come under assault from pro-gay rights groups who say it’s not fair to exclude people from experiencing opportunities offered by groups such as the Boy Scouts.

According to various sources, scouting in America has declined from a peak of  about 6.5 million members to a current level of less than 4.3 million. Membership has declined for 13 straight years and is at about 1/3 of the levels it was in 1999.

It won’t get any easier come May. As reported here earlier, some 70 percent of Scout chapters are supported in part or entirely by religious organizations — well over 58,000 chapters.

Here is what BSA is up against:

  • If they choose to uphold their original policy of excluding openly gay leaders and scouts, they will most likely retain support from churches who, for Biblical reasons, do not support homosexual lifestyles. But they could also lose significant outside financial and logistical support. World Net Daily reports pressure from special-interest groups since last September has resulted in the United Parcel Service, Intel, and the drug company Merck pulling support from BSA, along with many other corporate donors.
  • If BSA rules to change its charter to allow openly-gay participation for scouts and leaders, they could lose the support of religious organizations and churches. World Net Daily reports:

LDS officials have declined to comment on the Wednesday vote. But when the Scouts policy was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2000, an LDS attorney wrote that the Mormon church would ‘withdraw from Scouting if it were compelled to accept openly homosexual Scout leaders.’

The second biggest church supporter of Scouting, the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, also has declined to comment ahead of the vote.

Frank S. Page, who leads the Southern Baptist Convention’s executive committee,   recently told NBC News he predicts a “mass exodus” from Scouting if the policy is changed. The SBC is the 3rd largest supporter of the BSA behind the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Catholic church.

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