The Boy Scouts of America has often-times been criticized for its ban on gay members and leaders. But a new report from NBC News claims that the organization may be preparing to do an about-face on the contentious issue. According to inside sources, the Boy Scouts may very well decide in the coming days to lift the controversial regulation. Rather than an endorsement of same-sex lifestyles, the new rules would remove the national ban and allow local scouting groups to decide for themselves whether they will admit gay youths and leaders.
In order to pass, the new regulatory structure would need to be adopted by the Boy Scouts board of directors. If this happens, the power to make decisions regarding the matter would be localized, likely moving the debate from the national organization to its affiliates.
“The chartered organizations that oversee and deliver scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with their organization’s mission, principles or religious beliefs,” said Deron Smith, a media representative for the Boy Scouts.
For those wondering how progressed these potential plans are, sources tell NBC News that a decision could be made — and announced — as early as next week. What is perhaps most perplexing about the situation is that, just seven months ago, the organization doubled down on its ban following a two-year review and consultation with organizational leaders. Now, less than a year later, the national governing body appears to potentially be stepping away from its traditional viewpoint on the issue.
Since the organization issued its findings that the gay ban should be kept in place, local affiliates have protested. Many are using an argument that is familiar in conservative circles — that the organization is a grassroots one that should be adaptable to local culture and practices — and not national mandates.
“We’re a grassroots organization. This is a response to what’s happening at the local level,” said an official familiar with the potential regulatory change.
The Boy Scouts find themselves in a tough spot. With human rights groups deriding them for the ban and supporters of it clamoring about ramifications should they abandon it, upsetting people on both sides of the issue is a reality. Regardless of that the organization does, some still won’t be happy and will voice their angst by refusing support, both financial, structural and in the press.
Even some leaders within the national board, like Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T and James Turley, CEO of Ernst & Young, have publicly said that they will try and end the ban – movement in this direction within its own bounds.
Part of the issue is that the Boy Scouts is massive in scale, as there are 290 local councils that govern 116,000 local organizations. Among these groups there are a multitude of opinions on the issue of gay scout members and leaders. Considering this factor — and the notion that a national mandate damages membership in areas where people are more liberal on this particular issue — the organization is faced with a difficult task: Trying to please everyone, while also maintaining a healthy membership.
According to Smith, should the new rules pass, they “would allow the religious, civic or educational organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting to determine how to address this issue.”
Update: The Boy Scouts issued the following statement to TheBlaze on Monday evening:
“For more than 100 years Scouting’s focus has been on working together to deliver the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training. Scouting has always been in an ongoing dialogue with the Scouting family to determine what is in the best interest of the organization and the young people we serve.
“Currently, the BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation. This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, but that the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with their organization’s mission, principles or religious beliefs. BSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit which best meets the needs of their families.
“The policy change under discussion would allow the religious, civic or educational organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting to determine how to address this issue. The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members or parents. Under this proposed policy, the BSA would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization’s mission, principles or religious beliefs.”
(H/T: NBC News)