Is this the beginning of the end for the Boy Scouts of America (BSA)?
While dramatic, the question is one that is currently being asked in the wake of the organization's decision to allow openly-gay children to be members. In the end, the reality is that the policy will likely have both positive and negative effects on the traditional group -- an organization that, quite interestingly, plans to simultaneously uphold its decision not to allow gay scout leaders.
News of Thursday's vote was welcomed by gay rights advocates and derided by many Christian groups who stand firmly against homosexuality. Among the voices of opposition was Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, a group that opposes same-sex marriage.
In a statement, he decried the lift on the gay ban, calling Thursday "a sad day for the Boy Scouts of America."
Jennifer Tyrrell (L) of Bridgeport, Ohio, speaks at a news conference as Pascal Tessier, 16, of Kensington, Maryland, wipes his eyes at a news conference held at the Great Wolf Lodge May 23, 2013 in Grapevine, Texas. Credit: Getty Images
Rather than making a decision based upon values, Brown accused the organization of buckling under political pressure and steering away from its traditional and historic roots. And he warned that this action will lead the BSA down a path in which courts will order the allowance of gay scout leaders.
"Unfortunately, what they have done is said to the world that their oath no longer means much," he said of the BSA. "Their decision to admit openly gay scouts will end up sexualizing the organization."
Ultimately, Brown warned that the group could collapse as a result of churches pulling their support. He called the move "the beginning of the end" for the BSA.
And he wasn't alone, as others mirrored this sentiment. David Cortman, a lawyer with Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian group, also decried the decision to admit children of any sexual orientation, The Christian Post reports.
"Sadly, the Boy Scouts Executive National Council's decision disregards not only the nearly 19,000 Americans who signed a petition urging BSA to 'uphold the values that have defined the organization for over 100 years,' but also the millions of Americans who have supported the program," Cortman said.
"With its decision today, BSA has rejected its freedom to promote and practice the values that have served to shape our nation's boys into leaders for the last century," he added.
John Stemberger, an Eagle Scout and Orlando, Fla. based attorney speaks out during a news conference against the Boy Scouts of American decision allowing openly gay scouts to participate in scouting Thursday, May 23, 2013, in Grapevine, Texas. Local leaders of the Boy Scouts of America voted Thursday to ease a divisive ban and allow openly gay boys to be accepted into the nation's leading youth organization one of the most dramatic moves the organization has made in a century. Credit: AP
These views come in stark contrast to those who support the BSA's evolution on the issue. Groups like GLAAD are praising the move, but maintain that they would also like to see the gay scout leader ban be lifted. Some gay rights leaders and organizations are still accusing the organization of sending a mixed message in the affirmation that gay children can participate, while gay adults cannot. The battle over the latter restriction will likely continue.
While some conservative and religious groups are giving some harsh assessments, others who oppose gay marriage seem to be taking a more measured tone. In the wake of the decision, the National Catholic Committee on Scouting said it is going to explore how the change will impact its associated scouting groups. And the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also released a statement about the decision.
"The Church appreciates BSA’s reaffirmation of its commitment to 'duty to God,' which includes service to others and moral behavior -- central principles of our teaching to young men," the release read. "As in the past, the Church will work with BSA to harmonize what Scouting has to offer with the varying needs of our young men."
"We trust that BSA will implement and administer the approved policy in an appropriate and effective manner," the group added, offering a more measured response to the decision.
As TheBlaze previously reported, local Scout leaders voting at the group’s annual meeting in Texas supported the change by more than 60 percent; the new policy will go into effect on January 1, 2014. The restriction on openly-gay members was in effect for 103 years before being amended this week.
Now, definitively answering how this will impact the organization's future isn't possible at this point, as only time will tell. But if conservative groups make good on their threats to abandon the group, it's likely that membership will take a hit.
Then again, individuals who previously felt excluded may warm up to the BSA (but that could depend on how the scout leader issue is handled). In sum: The BSA's future is uncertain.
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