The expectation was that the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) would vote today on whether to end its national policy banning gay Scouts and leaders, but it has decided to delay making that decision until May. The delay came at the request of the Great Salt Lake Council of Boy Scouts, which opposes the change and joined with 32 other councils calling for an “open forum discussion with councils across the country.” In a joint letter, the Councils suggest polling should be done to determine the outcome:
Time must be allowed for accurate polling data to be collected from stakeholders at all levels and all areas in an unbiased way. The voices of existing chartered partners and financial contributors must be heard alongside those of our volunteer leaders and the parents who entrust their children to us. […]
We must ask, what could have so radically altered the results of the [July] study as to shift the position on such an important issue? What does this say about the validity of either position or the character of our organization if we are so readily willing to dismiss the former for the latter?
While we understand the urge to support those councils who feel that the current policies negatively impact their ability to remain viable we also think that equal support and consideration should be given to those councils whose ability to remain viable will be impacted by adopting the new policy.
The Mormon Church’s role in this decision cannot be overstated. Though the Church itself has not issued a comment, it is the largest faith-based sponsor of the Scouts, supporting more than 39,000 troops. Church President Thomas Monson has longstanding ties with the Great Salt Lake Council and sits on the BSA national executive board, as do other high-ranking Mormon officials. The Church recently updated its policies on homosexuality, but still condemns it as sinful and calls on gays to be chaste, and it continues to advocate against LGBT equality.
Deciding whether or not to discriminate is not a question that can be answered by polling. If the Scouts choose to make such a decision by catering to financial stakeholders, then any claim the organization has to promoting character is without merit.
The BSA has issued this official statement on the delay:
For 103 years, the Boy Scouts of America has been a part of the fabric of this nation, providing it’s [sic] youth program of character development and values-based leadership training. In the past two weeks, Scouting has received an outpouring of feedback from the American public. It reinforces how deeply people care about Scouting and how passionate they are about the organization.
After careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the Scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy.
To that end, the executive board directed its committees to further engage representatives of Scouting’s membership and listen to their perspectives and concerns. This will assist the officers’ work on a resolution on membership standards. The approximately 1,400 voting members of the national council will take action on the resolution at the national meeting in May 2013.