In spite of tremendous external pressure and the caving of other national groups, the Boy Scouts of America publicly affirmed its policy of excluding gays. The announcement came after a confidential two-year review and a relentless protest campaign by gay rights groups.
The Scouts’ national spokesman, Deron Smith said top Scout leaders reached their decision because the exclusion policy is “absolutely the best policy” for the 102-year-old organization. He said the study committee, comprised of adult volunteers and professional scout executives, was unanimous in its conclusion thus preserving a long-standing policy that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000.
Bob Mazzuca, the Scouts’ chief executive, contends that most Scout families support the policy, which applies to both adult leaders and Scouts. “The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers and at the appropriate time and in the right setting,” said Mazzuca. “We fully understand that no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society.”
The president of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest U.S. gay-rights group, depicted the Scouts’ decision as “a missed opportunity of colossal proportions.” He said, “With the country moving toward inclusion, the leaders of the Boy Scouts of America have instead sent a message to young people that only some of them are valued. They’ve chosen to teach division and intolerance.”
The Scouts did not name the members of the special committee that studied the issue, but said in a statement that they represented “a diversity of perspectives and opinions.” A statement from the Scouts said, “The review included forthright and candid conversation and extensive research and evaluations — both from within Scouting and from outside of the organization.”
Since 2000, the Boy Scouts have been targeted with numerous protest campaigns and been at odds with some local nondiscrimination laws because of the membership policy. One ongoing protest campaign involves Jennifer Tyrrell, the Ohio mother of a 7-year-old Cub Scout who was ousted as a den mother because she is lesbian.
Change.org, an online forum supporting activist causes, says more than 300,000 people have signed its petition urging the Scouts to reinstate Tyrrell and abandon the exclusion policy. The petition is to be delivered to the Scouts’ national headquarters in Irving, Texas, this Wednesday.
Eagle Scout Zach Wahls, an Iowa college student who was raised by lesbian mothers, said Tuesday’s announcement didn’t change his view that eventually the Scouts would relent under pressure from campaigns such as those that he and his allies have mounted. “I’m sure they’ll keep saying this until the day they decide to change the policy,” said Wahls.
He contended that the committee review process should not have been kept secret. “The very first value of the Scout Law is that a Scout is trustworthy,” Wahls said. “There is absolutely nothing trustworthy about unelected and unnamed committee members who are unwilling to take responsibility for their actions.”
At least for now, the Boy Scouts of America have refused to succumb to the pressure of a vocal minority. Retired Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin, executive vice president of the Family Research Council, praised the Boy Scouts of America for “standing up for traditional values” by reaffirming the Scout policy barring homosexual scoutmasters and scouts. “I think that we should all be applauding the Boy Scouts and the leadership for the decision that they have made, particularly given the fact that other similar organizations have not stood firm in terms of their traditional values on this thing,” Boykin told CNSNews.com Tuesday.
Gen. Boykin, the former commanding general of all Green Beret/Special Forces units in the U.S, and a former top commander of the Army’s elite Delta Force counter-terrorist unit, said the Scouts are simply acting in the best interests of the young boys in Scouting and the Christian origins of the organization.