Watch or read the full speech HERE.
Many of the news sources focused on Gates’ comments on the political and judicial changes taking place in the country, including internal challenges and potential legal conflicts that “could end up with a broad ruling that could forbid any kind of membership standard, including our foundational belief in our duty to God and our focus on serving the specific needs of boys.”
As difficult as Gates’ comments may have been for some, I’d like to focus on the latter half of Gates’ talk—the part that the gives me hope in the face of these potential changes—that would allow 70% of the BSA to make their own membership standards for the leaders of their boys: the rights of the chartered organization in the BSA and the protections for religious freedom under the First Amendment.
What is a chartered organization and what are their rights in the BSA?
A chartered organization is any organization that chooses to partner with the BSA to focus on helping young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values and principles taught in the Scout Oath and Scout Law. Examples of chartered organizations include religious, civic, and educational organizations. Each of these organizations have specific objectives they are trying to accomplish as part of their mission to help youth and use the Scouting program as a tool to realize these objectives.
The responsibilities and rights of the organizations are listed in the Annual Charter Agreement that is signed by both parties when the charter begins and every year following the organizations charter with the BSA. The most important point in the Annual Charter Agreement to mention here is that chartered organizations have the responsibility and right to choose their own unit leaders. Click here for more information about chartered organizations.
Chartered Organizations determine standards for Scout leaders
Consistent with these rights and privileges, Gates said that the BSA must ultimately change their membership policy, allowing the chartered organizations to have the final say in determining their own standards for their Scout leaders.
“Such an approach,” he said, “would allow all churches, which sponsor some 70% of our Scout units, to establish leadership standards consistent with their faith.”
Gates said that he would support a policy “that accepts and respects different perspectives and beliefs, allows religious organizations—based on first amendment protection of religious freedom—to establish their own standards for adult leaders, and preserves the Boy Scouts of America now and forever.”
“We must, at all costs, preserve the religious freedom of our church partners to do this,” he said. “Our oath calls upon us to do our duty to God and country.”
Keep in mind that there is no official change in policy at this time and the issue will continue to be reviewed at every level of the BSA. Gates’ comments have opened the dialogue for further considerations on the membership policy.
“For now, I ask that in the days and months ahead, everyone here reflect and pray on our path forward,” Gates said.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the largest BSA chartered partner, mentioned in their statement that they will also be monitoring the discussion on the issue.
Despite the dialogue going on around us, Scout leaders can know one thing—they are saving and changing lives. In a world of conflict and change that can shake us off our feet, Scouting is needed more than ever in the lives of our young men.
Gates said in his closing remarks, “Every day, in every community in America, Scouting is changing the lives of boys and young men—teaching them skills and leadership, helping them build character and integrity. Every day, in every community, Scouting makes those communities better places to live. We have been doing this for 105 years. I am confident we will do so for another 105 years as long as we stand together, united in our singular mission to serve American youth. I am honored to work with all of you to give our young people the wisdom, direction and confidence to be the best they can be.”
Author: Melany Gardner | Editor, The Boy Scout, Utah National Parks Council, BSA