For virtually all of its existence as an organization, the Boy Scouts of America have banned openly gay Scouts and Scouters. This policy was based on the Scout Oath and Law that called for Scouts to do their "Duty to God" and to be "morally straight." The Scouting movement held firm in light of growing pressure from many fronts and recently announced a recommendation to its executive board that the BSA lift its opposition as an institution to gay Scouts and Scouters and allow local units and sponsoring institutions to determine based on their own standards whether gay Scouts and Scouters could participate in their local units. The executive council was set to consider that recommendation this week, but the final decision has been delayed until the May Executive Council meeting to allow more input from members and sponsors.
The move by the BSA staff away from the ban on gay Scouts and Scouters has deepened the rift within the Scouting movement. While some historic financial sponsors of Scouting have pulled away based on the exclusion of gay Scouts and Scouters, many of their sponsoring institutions are now questioning their support of Scouting if the ban is lifted. It will be interesting to watch many of the religious institutions who oppose homosexual behavior and sponsor Scout units to see if Scouting continues as a part of their program for boys and young men.
NPR has opined that the move was largely based on the loss of large financial contributions from sponsors who opposed the movement's position on gay Scouts and Scouters, but other more traditional sponsors such as churches and conservative groups could break from Scouting if the ban is lifted.
It will be interesting to watch this process unfold. Whichever way the Executive Board votes in May, it will likely change the face of the Boy Scouts of America for years to come.
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