Ken Klukowski is Director, Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council. This article appeared on Breitbart.com, May 23, 2013.
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has changed its century-old policy to bring into membership open and avowed homosexual youths through age 17.
However, the Scouts will maintain the ban on anyone ages 18+ who is homosexual, meaning that a 17 year-old Eagle Scout will be expelled from the Scouts upon his eighteenth birthday, instead of transitioning into adult leadership. This incoherent policy could lead to crippling anti-discrimination lawsuits that could ultimately ruin the Boy Scouts.
As Breitbart News reported earlier today, attendees say the meeting was characterized by one-sided lobbying efforts that marginalized supporters of BSA's longstanding policy. BSA's new policy was adopted by delegates at its national meeting by a vote of 61.5% in favor of the change, and 38.5% of the vote against.
In 2000, the Supreme Court upheld the Scouts' rights to exclude open and avowed homosexuals in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale. The Court held that the Scouts have a First Amendment right to determine what its values are, and require that its membership be a reflection of those values. BSA's beliefs were that open homosexuality is incompatible with the Scout Oath that a Scout must be "morally straight," and the Scout Law requirement that a Scout be "clean." On that basis, the Court upheld BSA's right to exclude open homosexuals from membership.
A recent national survey showed that families involved in Scouting strongly supported this policy, with 61% supporting it while 34% supported repeal. Polling also shows that parents wanted to teach issues of sexuality-both heterosexuality and homosexuality-at home, rather than making it something that would be discussed in Scouting events like camping trips.
Those numbers notwithstanding, BSA's executive body proposed the change in April, and BSA delegates adopted the change today. BSA now says that open homosexuality is fully consistent with Scouting values yet will still ban all openly homosexual adults from Scouting leadership. And when an openly gay Boy Scout turns 18, he will be barred from Scouting for life, instead of transitioning into an adult leadership role as an assistant scoutmaster.
It is unclear how this policy will be implemented. One BSA lawyer claimed in a letter that sexual conduct will still be forbidden within Scouting. The policy is as yet unclear with regard to transgendered youths.
Separately confusing is why openly homosexual adults are being excluded. Some BSA leaders are saying homosexual adults must be excluded because they are not suitable role models for boys. But if homosexuality is consistent with Scouting values and principles, why are homosexuals not good role models? Supporters on both sides of this issue should reject that specious argument.
For the Scouts to say that homosexuality is compatible with Scouting but that homosexual adults cannot be involved in Scouting will land them in court. BSA can now be sued under numerous anti-discrimination and public-accommodation laws and will probably lose, since their exclusion is no longer driven by their beliefs protected by the First Amendment.
Also, a great many Scout troops are housed in churches. While more liberal churches might still embrace those troops, many more conservative churches will not continue lending their name, facilities, and sponsorship to organizations that now embrace a moral code that contradicts the church's teaching. Troops displaced by this change will likely need to rent secular meeting space.
The Boy Scouts of America was founded on Feb. 8, 1910, to instill traditional values of fitness, resourcefulness, preparedness, and morality to boys and young men. It now appears to be an organization adrift.
The Scout Motto is "Be Prepared." Time will tell whether the Boy Scouts are prepared for what will come next.