On April 19 the B.S.A. released the Membership Standards Study Initiative Executive Summary and the Membership Standards Resolution to be voted on in our May national meeting.
Like many people on both sides of the question my first impression of the membership standards resolution was disappointment and frustration. (My opinion of the question of inclusion is explained here). As someone who supports inclusiveness I was disappointed that the resolution did not end the policy of excluding adults based on sexual orientation but I was heartened to see that the resolution removed the ban for youth members. Obviously this resolution creates an untenable situation for a gay Scout who wishes to continue to remain involved in Scouting once they become an adult but It’s not my intention to address that particular problem now.
A careful reading of the Membership Standards Study Initiative Executive Summary helped me understand the resolution, I may not be completely happy with it but at least I understand it better. Here are some of the key reasons our national leadership arrived at the resolution they issued:
While perspectives and opinions vary significantly, parents, adults in the Scouting community, and teens alike tend to agree that youth should not be denied the benefits of Scouting.
The executive summary states a number of indicators that lead them to conclude the most workable resolution addresses youth members.
- A majority of current Boy Scouts and Venturers do not believe the current policy represents a core value of Scouting.
- Adult volunteers who support the policy tend to agree that it is not proper to remove a youth member based on orientation alone.
- The majority of parents of our Scouts do not support the present policy.
- Overwhelming majorities of all groups surveyed strongly agree it is unacceptable to deny an openly gay Scout an Eagle Scout Award solely because of his sexual orientation.
- Many religious chartered organizations stated their concern is with homosexual adult leaders and not with youth.
I have long contended that my opinion (and the opinion of the rest of the Scouting establishment) is not particularly important in comparison with the opinion of the parents of the Scouts we serve, or the Scouts themselves. It’s clear from the executive summary that if Scouts and their parents alone were making this decision we would resolve to end the ban for both youth and adult members.
Even the highest levels of B.S.A. leadership are split on this question:
- Slightly more members of the Board and Advisory Council initially supported the current policy, but Board members reversed themselves to slightly opposing the current rules after responding to the scenarios.
- A majority of the Board does not consider the current policy to be core to Scouting’s values, while a majority of the Advisory Council does.
- A large majority of the respondents believe they can find a way to continue in Scouting whether or not the BSA’s decision agrees with their own views.
A key part of the summary dismisses two persistent myths about sexual orientation as it relates to youth protection;
Youth safety and role modeling are two of the biggest concerns mentioned by members who oppose a change in the policy. In addressing issues related to youth protection for the membership standards study, the Boy Scouts of America tasked its director of Youth Protection, Michael V. Johnson, to consult with leading experts in the field of youth protection and child sexual abuse prevention that the BSA has consulted in the past in formulating the BSA’s Youth Protection policies and curriculum:
David Finkelhor, Ph.D.
W. Walter Menninger, M.D., psychiatry
Charol Shakeshaft, Ph.D.
Victor Vieth, J.D.
All four experts were consistent in their findings and recommendations, including:
• “The nearly universal opinion among sexual abuse authorities is that same-sex sexual interest or same-sex sexual experience, either in adults or youth, is NOT a risk factor for sexually abusing children.”
• In regard to role modeling: “Most of the research on the effect on children of associating with self-identified homosexual adults has been done about homosexual parents. The clear conclusion from this research is that there appear to be no effects on children’s adjustment, mental health or sexual orientation.
Our national leadership has drafted a resolution that I am reluctant to support because I don’t think it goes far enough, but it is a definite step in the right direction and I think I understand the reasoning behind this resolution better after reading the executive summary a couple of times. Until the rest of us; adult volunteers at all levels, our chartered partners and other stakeholders in Scouting, catch up with the families and the youth we serve this half measure will have to do.
I note that this issue is tends to be discussed in more emotional than logical terms. In the interest of focusing the discussion in the comments I ask you to review the Membership Standards Study Initiative Executive Summary and the Membership Standards Resolution before commenting.
Noting that the internet is a big place with lots of opportunities to express your opinion we won’t be discussing the biology, origins, or politics of sexual orientation. If you have questions about these issues see this page. We also won’t be discussing specific sectarian religious views on the matter. If you have questions about the place of religion in the B.S.A. see these resources.
If you have a question or comment on the subject you can contact me directly or submit a comment for moderation below.