After careful thought I found five reasons why this resolution is right for Scouting.
Read the full resolution: BSA Resolution on Adult Leadership Standards
By far the most important fact surrounding this resolution is the BSA’s reaffirmation of the longstanding right of religious chartered organizations to select adult volunteer leaders according to their own standards and beliefs and who meet BSA Youth Protection requirements.
So, to be clear, this is not a policy decision that forces chartered organizations to accept leaders without regard to sexual orientation, but rather a non-policy on the issue, allowing the religious and community organizations to make the final call without the BSA limiting them with standards that not all organizations or even religious organizations agree on.
Nevertheless, based on first amendment protection of religious freedom, the BSA will defend to the fullest extent allowed by law any religious chartered organization against any claim or action that contends with this right to choose their adult leaders based on their religious beliefs.
Ultimately, the proposed change allows families to select local units, chartered to organizations with similar beliefs, that best meet the needs of their families. This change also respects the right of religious chartered organizations to choose adult volunteer leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own, which they have had the right to do for over 105 years.
More on the history of the concept of a chartered organization, which was largely brought about by the LDS Church’s relationship with Scouting HERE.
Truly this is a brave move by the BSA that respects all the different points of view represented in Scouting’s membership, while staying true to the religious principles that Scouting was founded on. In fact this resolution is not unlike the Utah LGBT anti-discrimination law passed this year to much applause from both sides of the issue.
The Scout Oath begins with the duty to God and the Scout Law ends with a Scout’s obligation to be reverent. Scouting respects and defends the rights of others to practice their own religious beliefs without criticism.
It is clear that the social, political, and legal changes taking place in our country are shaping the decisions that have to be made in many organizations across the nation. In an effort to “Be Prepared” for such changes and maintain our core values such as “duty to God,” the BSA has preemptively resolved to address the adult leadership standards issue and set its own course before any court involvement.
The potential cost of litigation aside, allowing the issue to remain unresolved and waiting for the courts to act could lead to “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. Waiting for the courts is a gamble with huge stakes,” Dr. Robert Gates said in his speech at the 2015 National Annual Meeting in May. More on Dr. Gate’s speech HERE.
To me, this is not a resolution brought about by fear, but by a sense of preparation for foreseeable consequences. People do not necessarily use a life jacket on a boat because they can’t swim, but because they want to be prepared for any circumstance.
“…if ye are prepared ye shall not fear” – D.&C. 38:30
By preemptively amending the adult membership policy to reiterate the right of religious chartered organization to choose their leaders according to their standards, I believe the BSA is being consistent with what they preach on being prepared.
In no way is this resolution the beginning of the end of the core values that the Boy Scouts holds dear. Duty to God and duty to country are immutable tenets of the Boy Scouts of America—forever unchangeable. The Scout Oath and Law are central to teaching young people to make better choices over their lifetimes and will not be abandoned for any reason—socially, politically or otherwise.
“The Scout, in his promise, undertakes to do his duty to his king and country only in the second place; his first duty is to God…we Scouts count ourselves a brotherhood despite the difference among us of country, creed, or class…In the Scouts each form of religion is respected and its active practice encouraged…[through this] we have the opportunity in developing the spirit of mutual good will and understanding., ” —Lord Robert Baden-Powell
Today we cannot and will not forget that the Scouting movement was based on religious principle. Youth and adult members of the BSA are required to agree to and adhere to the BSA Declaration of Religious Principle which says “that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God.”
In the matter of duty to country, we recognize that the United States of America is made up of countless families and communities, and that we should all work hard to be good family members and good citizens by striving to make our country better, obeying its laws, and serving our communities.
I feel proud when I think of how I live in a diverse country with people who are willing to work together despite differences in religion, class or creed to bring about good. Here we can fight for the right to our differences and then turn around and work together for benefit of all. That is what Scouting has always been about, and that’s darn-right American.
In Scouting there is a subtle overreaching spirit of inclusion. You’ll find countless stories of boys that don’t feel like they fit in anywhere, but find a place in Scouting, or about the boy who is passed up for positions in school or sports, but given opportunities for leadership experience in Scouting. It happens all the time and it’s because of what Scouting teaches.
Scouting teaches youth members and adult leaders to be helpful, friendly, courteous, and kind to all and to respect those whose beliefs—in particular religious beliefs—differ from their own. Scouting inherently teaches to be tolerant and respectful of different religious and moral beliefs, acknowledging that reasonable minds may honorably differ, without sacrificing their own deeply-held beliefs.
Nationally, Scouting represents approximately 2.4 million youth members and nearly 1 million adult leaders with diverse beliefs. Even among the religious organizations, there are differing opinions on the subject of sexual orientation which deserve respect.
This resolution is not contradictory to, but holds true to the BSA’s teachings on tolerance and respect while giving full rights for everyone to act according to conscience.
Matters of marriage, family, and sexuality raise profound social, moral, and theological questions. In an organization that has always been deeply respectful of the religious and moral beliefs of its chartering organizations, with so many differing voices, these questions cannot be answered at a national level.
To quote directly from the resolution: “The Boy Scouts of America affirms that sexual relations between adults should be moral, honorable, committed, and respectful. Adult Scout leaders should reflect these values in their personal and public lives so as to be proper role models for youth. The Boy Scouts of America affirms the right of each chartering organization to reach its own religious and moral conclusions about the specific meaning and application of these values.”
In today’s world morality has many different definitions, but that doesn’t mean that the BSA doesn’t have any required standards for their adult members; far from it, in fact.
All adult members of the BSA must:
- Pass a criminal background check
- Take Youth Protection Training and adhere to the principles
- Subscribe to and abide by the values expressed in the Scout Oath and Scout Law
- Subscribe to and abide by the precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle
- Demonstrate at all times behavior that exemplifies the highest level of good conduct and respect for others and that is consistent with Scouting’s values and codes of conduct.
Parents will always have the power to decide which Scout unit they choose to affiliate with according to that chartered organization’s definition of morality and values, and can choose that unit with beliefs that best match their own. In the end, Scouting is not an appropriate environment to discuss sexual conduct, ever.
The BSA will continue to have strict behavioral standards for its youth and adult members. Scouting is a youth program and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting.
With this resolution, Scouting will continue to focus on reaching and serving youth to help them grow into good, strong citizens. By focusing on the goals that unite us, we are able to accomplish incredible things for young people and the communities we serve.
Members of the BSA National Executive Board—including four members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints general officers, President Thomas S. Monson, Elder Jeffery R. Holland, Brother Stephen W. Owen and Sister Rosemary M. Wixom—will meet July 27 to ratify this resolution.
Read National BSA’s release HERE.
Melany Gardner | Editor, The Boy Scout, Utah National Parks Council, BSA