With one vote earlier this week, the Boys Scouts of America (BSA) ended its national restriction on openly gay adult leaders and employees.
On Monday, July 27, the national executive board voted to ratify a resolution that effectively ends the gay ban, but the resolution still gives religious chartered organizations the ability use “religious beliefs as a criteria for selecting adult leaders, including matters of sexuality,” according to the BSA official blog.
BSA President Robert Gates released a statement that says the new policy is a result of “social, political, and legal changes taking place in our country and in our movement.”
“I did not believe the adult leadership policy could be sustained. Any effort to do so was inevitably going to result in simultaneous legal battles in multiple jurisdictions and at staggering cost,” Gates said in the statement.
Gates went on to say he hopes the new policy will bring the BSA organizations across the nation closer together.
“For far too long, this issue has divided and distracted us,” he said. “Now it’s time to unite behind our shared belief in the extraordinary power of scouting to be a force for good in a community and in the lives of its youth members.”
Locally, the metro-Atlanta area chapter of the BSA won’t feel much of a change with the new policy in effect, according to Jason Baldridge, safe scouting director for the Atlanta Area Council Boy Scouts of America (AAC).
He says the AAC, which covers Rockdale and Newton Counties in the Yellow River District as well 11 other counties in the metro-Atlanta area, will follow the policy from the national executive board, but prior to the new policy, the AAC didn’t require adult leaders or employees to disclose their sexual preference.
“When leaders sign up we don’t ask. We’ve never asked,” Baldrige said. “There’s no interview for this.”
Since it was a national vote, Baldridge wouldn’t “speculate” on why the gay ban has been a topic of discussion for the last several years within the BSA organization.
“Locally, we just focus on how to make programs better for kids,” he said.
Church-sponsored BSA troops aren’t exactly thrilled with the national vote. Mormon Church officials released a statement saying The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is “deeply troubled” by the vote and will decide whether to continue its association with the BSA.
“When the leadership of the Church resumes its regular schedule of meetings in August, the century-long association with Scouting will need to be examined,” according to the official statement. “The Church has always welcomed all boys to its Scouting units regardless of sexual orientation. However, the admission of openly gay leaders is inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church and what have traditionally been the values of the Boy Scouts of America.”
Rev. Chris Brandscomb, senior pastor at Ebenezer United Methodist Church, 2533 Stanton Rd, Conyers, says that he doesn’t anticipate the church breaking away from the BSA because the new policy won’t have a huge effect on their troop leaders.
“I have mixed feelings about (the new policy) personally because of what scripture says, but I doubt it’s going to affect the leaders here that much,” he said. “I understand that they (the BSA) wants to be an organization that’s inclusive of all people.”
The AAC has 32,000 scout members, 10,000 adult leaders and 750 local units across the 13 counties, including Carroll, Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fulton, Gwinnett, Haralson, Newton, Paulding, Pickens and Rockdale Counties. Of that, the Yellow River District has 900 members, 350 adult volunteers and 24 units.