Gay leaders OK Boy Scouts; church-sponsored troops on their own

by Gregory Tomlin |

(REUTERS/Noah Berger/FILE PHOTO)Boy Scout Casey Chambers carries a rainbow flag during the San Francisco Gay Pride Festival in California June 29, 2014. Under the terms of a new policy adopted by the national leadership of the Boy Scouts of America July 13, the organization will no longer prohibit gay scout leaders. The group already allowed youth identifying as homosexual to participate in scouting in 2013.

WASHINGTON (Christian Examiner) -- The national leadership of the Boy Scouts of America announced July 13 it has unanimously adopted a new policy allowing homosexuals to serve as adult leaders.

While not a general affirmation of homosexuality, the statement from the organization's national office said the change was the "result of the rapid changes in society and increasing legal challenges at the federal, state, and local levels."

Under the new guidelines, the BSA will allow charter organizations (those that host a Scout troop) to determine the qualifications for and appoint their own leaders "without regard to sexual orientation."

That means a troop can appoint a homosexual leader without contravening national policy. At the same time, it means a religious charter organization can refuse to do so.

Religious chartered organization choice allows religious organizations for which same-sex relationships are inconsistent with their religious beliefs to continue to select adult leaders in accordance with those beliefs. Those religious organizations are exempt from most, if not all, state and local place of public accommodation laws and, even if they are not exempt, are protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
- Legal statement from BSA attorneys

In reality, the move by BSA leaders distances the national organization for lawsuits which might occur when a troop hosted by a conservative religious organization (such as a Baptist church) refuses to install a homosexual leader or dismisses one who is discovered to be a homosexual. Without the support of the national organization, the legal burden will fall squarely on the religious charter organization.

During the Boy Scouts of America national meeting in 2015, BSA President Robert Gates said the ban on homosexual leaders in the changing culture was "unsustainable" and the organization would have to learn to "deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be."

Gates also said the organization could not ignore the open defiance of its national policy banning homosexual leaders in places like New York City and Denver. But instead of defending the policy, as many leaders encouraged them to do, BSA's national leadership folded and said it would begin studying how best to precede.

Opponents of the change in policy knew the decision would not go in their favor when Gates said the organization could not "ignore the social, political and juridicial changes taking place in the country."

As early as 2011, BSA leaders began discussing opening the scouting ranks to homosexual youth, and in 2013 the BSA formally adopted a policy allowing youth identifying as homosexual to participate in scouting. Many argued then that the policy change opened the door to adult homosexual leaders.

As a result of the 2013 policy change, former BSA leaders founded alternative organizations, such as Trail Life USA, which have continued to grow as the BSA contracts.

According to the statement issued today, the national executive board of the BSA will meet to ratify the resolution on Monday, July 27.

With the statement issued by BSA leaders July 13, the organization also provided legal counsel to charter organizations on the appointment of scouting leaders. A guide provided by Hughes, Hubbard & Reed LLP in Washington, D.C., said:

"Religious chartered organization choice allows religious organizations for which same-sex relationships are inconsistent with their religious beliefs to continue to select adult leaders in accordance with those beliefs. Those religious organizations are exempt from most, if not all, state and local place of public accommodation laws and, even if they are not exempt, are protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States."

The statement from the attorneys also said allowing religious organizations to provide their own leadership standards and appoint their own leaders will protect churches, temples, mosques, or any "similar religious entity whose religious values are inconsistent with homosexual conduct."

Whether that is true or not remains to be seen. For it to be so, the U.S. Supreme Court will have to hold to the legal precedent in set in 2000.

Then, the high court ruled 5-4 in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale that the BSA, a private, non-profit organization, also held a First Amendment right to free association and, therefore, could dismiss a homosexual Scout leader without violating public accommodation laws. Under the ruling, the Scouts apparently had little to fear legally from future lawsuits.

For a full transcript of BSA President Robert Gates address on national leadership policy changes earlier in 2015, click here. To watch a video of the address, click here.

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