A new policy allowing openly gay youth to participate in Boy Scouts of America — but continuing to prohibit LGBT adults from serving as leaders — went into effect Wednesday. But despite dire warnings from anti-LGBT activists that even this half-measure would be “catastrophic” for the organization, very few religious organizations have abandoned the organization over the policy.
The organization voted to lift its ban on gay youth last May, with 61 percent in support. At the same time, it reaffirmed its policy requiring discrimination against any openly LGBT person over the age of 18.
A few religious groups objected to even this partial change. The Assemblies of God, an anti-gay Pentecostal denomination, and the Southern Baptist Convention both promised a “mass exodus” from the organization and a small group of anti-LGBT activists have launched a Christian-only BSA alternative.
But the mass exodus has simply not materialized. A BSA spokesman noted that the vast majority of religious groups have stayed with the organization despite the policy shift. The BSA estimates that less than 2 percent of its 116,000 Scout units were abandoned by their sponsors.
And even in some very conservative places, those abandoned troops have found new backers. Joey Kiker, spokesman for the Greater Alabama Council in Birmingham, told a local newspaper that while a few churches that sponsored Scout units have left, “every single unit that lost a charter partner, within an hour, had a new charter partner.” And Brad Haddock, a national board member from Wichita, Kansas likened the warnings to the Y2K scare. “There hasn’t been a whole lot of fallout,” he told the Associated Press, observing that “If a church said they wouldn’t work with us, we’d have a church right down the street say, ‘We’ll take the troop.’”
Thousands of Eagle Scouts, both honorary BSA president Barack Obama and former BSA national board member Mitt Romney, corporate CEOs, and the majority of Americans endorsed an end of the organization’s anti-LGBT ban. More than 2.7 million BSA youth members will be affected by the partial repeal.
The BSA continues to face pressure to lift its ban on LGBT adults. In December, Lockheed Martin became the latest corporate sponsor to announce it would no longer fund the organization due to its discriminatory policy.