NEW YORK (Christian Examiner) – The national executive board of the Boy Scouts of America has ratified a resolution drafted earlier in July that lifts the ban on adult homosexual employees and volunteers and, for the first time, opens the ranks of scouting leadership to them.
In a statement on the organization's website, the BSA said "chartered organizations will continue to select their adult leaders and religious chartered organizations may continue to use religious beliefs as criteria for selecting adult leaders, including in matters of sexuality."
"This change allows 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 also respects the right of religious chartered organizations to choose adult volunteer leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own," the statement also said.
In a video address, BSA President Robert Gates – formerly the U.S. Secretary of Defense and president of Texas A&M University – said the issue of homosexuality had distracted and divided the organization for too long. Now, he said, it was time for both sides in the debate to unite around the shared belief that scouting is "a force for good."
According to the BSA, 79 percent of those present and voting voted in favor of the resolution. After the vote, the national leadership said it would continue to "focus on reaching and serving youth, helping them grow into good, strong citizens. By focusing on the goals that unite us, we are able to accomplish incredible things for young people and the communities we serve."
Gates reiterated what he said in May in his address to the BSA's national leadership. Then, he said the social, political and legal changes taking place in the country and in the BSA movement made the ban on adult homosexual leaders "unsustainable."
Any effort to maintain the ban, he said in the video, "was inevitably going to result in simultaneous legal battles in multiple jurisdictions and at staggering costs."
Just why that would be the case is unclear. The Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that the BSA was a private association and could exclude individuals as members and leaders who did not uphold its views on homosexuality or moral purity.
The message Gates sent may also have some involved in scouting receiving mixed signals. Gates said religious charter organizations can "continue to use religious criteria for selecting adult leaders, including in matters of sexuality."
But he also said that youth cannot be denied admission to a scout troop based on sexual orientation alone. He also said "everyone associated with scouting agrees to follow national policies and comply with BSA's behavioral standards."