The Boy Scouts of America Wednesday did what many of us do when faced with a tough decision: they put off making it.
Now the Scouts say they’ll decide at their annual meeting in May whether to lift the ban on gay scouts and leaders.
“After careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the Scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy,” the Scouts said in a statement.
Evidently, the Scouts are struggling with the issue.
On one hand, the Boy Scouts are a private organization. A 2000 U.S. Supreme Court decision affirmed that, saying the Scouts could not be forced to admit homosexuals if doing so detracted from the organizations “expressive message” included in its code of conduct.
The Scouts are supported by a number of religious organizations, many (but not all) of whom regard homosexuality as immoral.
However, on the other side are a growing number of organizations and companies that support the Scouts who want to remove the ban.
The Wall Street Journal reports, “Two prominent members of the Scouts’ board, Ernest and Young, LLP, Chief Executive James Turley and AT&T Inc. Chief Executive Randall Stephenson vowed last year to work internally to make the Scouts more welcoming to gays.”
America is slowly becoming more accepting of homosexuality. A key indicator is whether people believe sexual orientation is a matter of birth or lifestyle.
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reports that the percentage of Americans who believe people are born homosexual has risen from just 20 percent in 1985 to 41 percent today. Those who believe a person is born gay are more likely to accept homosexuals for who they are, rather than believe they can or should change.
The mission of the Boy Scouts is to instill values in young people. The Scout Law speaks of honor, duty to God and country, to be physically strong and mentally awake, and morally straight.
The last requirement invites objections from those who believe adherence to a moral code is incompatible with homosexuality. However, it’s worth noting that there are young men who have achieved the revered status of Eagle Scout who are gay.
The Boy Scouts, as a private organization, do not face a legal obligation to be as accommodating as public institutions. Therefore, the Scout leaders who want to keep the ban may prevail.
However, the country’s views on homosexuality are evolving, and it’s likely that eventually—whether later this year or sometime thereafter—the Scouts will catch up.