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Proposed Changes to the BSA Membership Policy

Posted by on Monday, 28 January 2013

Today the Boy Scouts of America sent out a statement about changes they are discussing that would remove the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation.

In part it reads:

“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, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs. BSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families.”

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While I welcome the news, I have to remind myself that this is an announcement that there is a discussion, not a final determination. I sincerely hope it is a sign that the current prohibiting national policy will be revoked allowing local Charter Organizations (COs) to enact policies that are consistent with the values of their organization.

“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.”

Many people will claim that this is the National Council “passing the buck” or “not taking a stand”, but in actuality it would put the sexual orientation issue on the same footing as any other membership question. For example, while the BSA is not tied to a specific religion, there are plenty of Troops, Packs, and Crews that are. I have met Scouts from units that are all members of the same church, chartered by that church and restricted in membership to families in that church. That works for them, and has no impact on the other units I know that are Muslim (chartered by a mosque), Orthodox Jews (chartered by a neighborhood religious organization), or have a mix of many faiths like my pack, chartered by a secular organization. This allows the BSA to be partners with a wide range of organizations with diverse principles, families to participate while teaching their own held religious beliefs. When these units gather at Scouting events, they find that they aren’t that different after all, and we get one step closer to Baden Powell’s idea of worldwide Messengers of Peace.

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Personally, I hope this change is enacted by the National Council. The opportunity to join Scouting is something that should be offered to every kid, the things that are learned around leadership, service, values, and citizenship are not the sole domain of any one group.

If this is implemented there will be a lot of hand-wringing, many loud statements of how this is ruining the Boy Scouts of America, and some may leave Scouting all together. Then the rest of us will get back to work, doing our best to teach service and citizenship to Scouts around the county, and in a few months the hysteria would die down. Eventually we would look around and see that the change did not destroy Scouting, and it actually brought us closer to living the principles we try to teach.

Remember, it’s not a done deal yet.