A look at the resolution by the BSA prohibiting membership exclusion based upon sexual orientation alone

The Boy Scouts of America 2013 Membership Standards Resolution changed the membership standards


“While the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.”


“No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”

There are also two important associated clarifications

“Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether homosexual or heterosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting;”

“Boy Scouts of America does not have an agenda on the matter of sexual orientation, and resolving this complex issue is not the role of the organization, nor may any member use Scouting to promote or advance any social or political position or agenda”

So, what’s changed here? Let’s the things that are the same and the things that differ.

Scouters weren’t asked before, and they weren’t asked now. No change there, and that’s a good thing. Scouting is no place for that.

Both the previous and the new policy bring up the issue of homosexuality as part of the membership standards, so the BSA is violating its statement of belief either way:

“Scouting believes same-sex attraction should be introduced and discussed outside of its program with parents, caregivers, or spiritual advisers, at the appropriate time and in the right setting. The vast majority of parents we serve value this right and do not sign their children up for Scouting for it to introduce or discuss, in any way, these topics.” http://www.bsalegal.org/news-releases.asp

One key difference seems to be that individuals who have labeled themselves as bisexual or homosexual are now welcome to participate as youth members. Sexual orientation is distinct from gender identity, so we don’t need to try to untangle transgender issues; biological gender restrictions still apply to membership eligibility. Adults who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA (I wonder if that includes people protesting the policy change?) are unwelcome.

What is “sexual orientation” anyway? The APA (bunch of freaks, but they’re the experts…) says:

“Sexual orientation refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes. Sexual orientation also refers to a person’s sense of identity based on those attractions, related behaviors, and membership in a community of others who share those attractions. Research over several decades has demonstrated that sexual orientation ranges along a continuum, from exclusive attraction to the other sex to exclusive attraction to the same sex.”

What does that mean? It isn’t clear whether the “also” clause means “and” or “and/or”, and how far along this continuum does an individual need to go before they fall into a category? What’s an enduring pattern in a child of 11 versus an adult of 60? Is a passing phase of same sex attraction the same as embracing a lifestyle? What Who are we labeling here? Which youth were excluded before, and are they welcomed now? What’s sexual conduct? Not much is clear except that saying “I’m gay” is no longer grounds for excluding a youth from membership in the BSA. Given the blurry lines, this isn’t unreasonable.

 Previously, youth scouters couldn’t “engage in behavior” that would be a distraction to the mission of the BSA before, and “any sexual conduct” is still out of bounds now, but what about engaging in behavior that is a distraction to the mission of the BSA?

What is the mission of the Boy Scouts of America?

“The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.”

Scout Oath
On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.

Scout Law
A Scout is: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, Reverent


Previously, the Boy Scouts of America asserted that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the values it seeks to instill. <a href=”http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/99-699.ZO.html”>BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA V. DALE (99-699) 530 U.S. 640 (2000)</a>

This is the core of my disappointment with the new policy: The Boy Scouts of America voluntarily sacrificed a self-identified core value under pressure from donors who don’t share that core value. In doing so, they have betrayed their obligation to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices.

It doesn’t matter what the value is. The question isn’t whether the policy was right or wrong, or whether the new policy is step in the right direction or a step in the wrong direction. What matters is that the impetus for the change was motivated by the threat of lost funding, rather than by principle. That is not “putting kids first”, it is simply “business as usual” in America, and it is disgusting.

Wherever you stand on the social issues, the BSA made the wrong decision for the wrong reason. Either the BSA should take a stand for traditional values, or the BSA should stand on the leading edge of a progressive civil-rights movement. Two roads diverged, and the BSA? The BSA took the road more traveled, and that makes all the difference.

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  1. Pingback: A Resolution by the Hybner Family in Response to the 2013 Membership Standards Resolution by the Boy Scouts of America - euphemos

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