At the 2015 BSA National Annual Meeting in May, our national president, Dr. Robert M. Gates, encouraged the Scouting family to reflect on the challenges facing the organization and potential alternatives for addressing them.
As a result, the Boy Scouts of America Executive committee held a special meeting on Friday, July 10, to review a resolution amending the adult leadership standards policy. This resolution was unanimously adopted by those present and voting. On Monday, July 13, it was shared with the National Executive Board, which will meet to ratify this resolution on Monday, July 27
This resolution allows chartered organizations to select adult volunteer leaders without regard to sexual orientation, continuing Scouting’s longstanding policy of chartered organizations selecting their leaders. This change allows Scouting’s members and parents 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. It is important to note that the 2013 youth membership policy is not affected by this resolution and remains unchanged.
Some of the Scouting community is concerned about the policy change that may be put in place at the end of this month. As we’ve read through this resolution and other BSA documents, a few major points stand out that may help our friends of Scouting and volunteers better understand what this resolution means for Scouting in our Council. The italicized sections come from the National BSA Update on Adult Leadership Standards.
1. The BSA is fully committed to its chartered partners. Leaders will do everything in their power to ensure that those partners can implement the Scouting program in a manner consistent with their beliefs and priorities. Chartered partners have always had the right to select their own leadership. This will not change. The BSA and local councils exist to help chartered organizations implement the Scouting program in a way that will benefit their youth. The Utah National Parks Council has shaped its programs and priorities to reflect the values of its chartered partners and will continue to do so.
Religious chartered organization choice allows religious organizations for which same-sex relationships are inconsistent with their religious beliefs to continue to select adult leaders in accordance with those beliefs.
2. Religious Organizations are protected by the First Amendment in their right to select their own leaders by whatever criteria they choose. Religious chartered organizations are free to select their own leaders independent of outside influence, provided those leaders commit to live by the Scout Oath and Law and meet the membership requirements. No religious organization will be forced to condone conduct by its leaders that is contrary to its moral values.
The Supreme Court has explained, “Requiring a church to accept or retain an unwanted minister, or punishing a church for failing to do so, intrudes upon more than a mere employment decision. Such action interferes with the internal governance of the church, depriving the church of control over the selection of those who will personify its beliefs.” When a religious organization charters a Scouting unit, the same protection applies to the selection of Scout leaders.
Religious chartered organization choice would protect leadership selections of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints (the “LDS Church”), the Catholic Church, the United Methodist Church, churches in the Southern Baptist Convention, and Orthodox Judaism, as well as any other church, temple, mosque, or similar religious entity whose religious values are inconsistent with homosexual conduct.
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.
The Boy Scouts of America rejects any interference with or condemnation of the diverse beliefs of chartering organizations on matters of marriage, family, and sexuality. The message of Scouting is one of toleration and respect for different religious and moral conclusions in this matter, acknowledging that reasonable minds may honorably differ.
3. The BSA will ensure that Duty to God will remain an integral part of the program. Duty to God is key in Scouting. In fact, according to Lord Baden-Powell, “There is no religious ‘side’ of the movement. The whole of it is based on religion, that is, on the realization and service of God.” The focus on duty to God and religious principle is not in danger of changing.
The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God.
4. This decision will protect the BSA from sweeping legislation that could jeopardize the organization’s commitment to duty to God. Not only does this potential change not diminish in any way the importance of duty to God in Scouting, it may very well be the best way to protect it.
Overly-broad court decisions could limit the BSA from maintaining any membership standard until an appellate court reaffirms the BSA’s and religious chartered organizations’ constitutional rights with respect to the duty to God. Let there be no doubt, the BSA will steadfastly defend the right of religious chartered organizations to select leaders whose beliefs are consistent with those of the religious organizations.
5. The BSA is and always will be committed to the development of youth. Scouting has three objectives for the young men and women involved: character development, citizenship training and physical fitness. In pursuit of these objectives, the youth promise to keep themselves “physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” The BSA is still as committed as ever to these objectives and the promises contained in the Scout Oath and Law. In order to best serve its youth and practice good citizenship, however, the organization has found it necessary to adapt to the changing political climate. In this way, the BSA can avoid outside intervention that could compromise its ability to continue to serve America’s youth.
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.
6. BSA Leaders are held to high standards. If this change takes place, it will not eliminate the other existing standards for adult leaders. Leaders in the BSA are held to an impressively high standard because they are entrusted with the development of our youth. BSA youth protection training and behavioral guidelines are in place to ensure leaders maintain this standard. Leaders are also held to the standards of the chartered organization.
Adult leaders in the programs of the Boy Scouts of America must (a) subscribe to and abide by the values expressed in the Scout Oath and Scout Law, (b) subscribe to and abide by the precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle, and (c) 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.
All other leader requirements, including “duty to God,” would remain in effect for all chartered organizations. Every adult leader must possess the moral, educational, and emotional qualities that the BSA considers necessary to provide positive leadership to youth. Every adult leader must abide by the Scout Oath, the Scout Law, the Declaration of Religious Principle, and the BSA’s behavioral standards.
We have seen Scouting programs change the lives of youth in our Council. We have seen young men gain confidence in themselves as they learn to do hard things. We have witnessed countless boys grow into capable, compassionate men as they give service, lead, teach, camp and cook. As we continue to expand and improve these programs we hope to provide opportunities for growth to future generations of youth for years to come.
We appreciate your interest in Scouting and the time and resources so many of you have committed to help it succeed. Please know that we will share any updates with you as new information is available. If you have any questions or would like to discuss this matter, please contact John Gailey at John.Gailey@scouting.org or 801-437-6233.
Author: Utah National Parks Council, Boy Scouts of America. Italicized portions come from the National BSA release HERE.