Scouting for bigots
FROM New Year’s Day, 2014, the Boy Scouts of America began implementing a new, inclusive policy that allows openly gay youngsters to join the movement.
This development is part of seismic shift in attitude towards LGBT communities in the US. A survey published by the Public Religion Research Institute in February shows a significant move the across the entire religious and political spectrum in every region of the country toward a greater tolerance of gay people – and a huge fall in numbers of people attending churches at which homosexuality is condemned.
The survey showed that currently a majority (53 percent) of Americans favour allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry, compared to 41 percent who oppose. In 2003, less than one-third (32 percent) of Americans supported allowing gay and lesbian people to legally marry, compared to nearly 6-in-10 (59 percent) who opposed.
A major driving force behind this increased tolerance is the fact that almost two-thirds (65 percent) of Americans report having a close friend or family member who is gay or lesbian, nearly three times the number (22 percent) who reported having such a relationship in 1993.
But for one Texas man – Ron Orr – the BSA’s decision to accept gay youngsters was a step too far, and he decided launch an alternative organisation called Trail Life where Christians – including his 15-year old son Andrew – son could indulge their prejudices and idiotic beliefs to their hearts content.
Orr, according to this report, is clear about his Christian faith and what it says about homosexuality: It is a sin that cannot be tolerated.
So the Orrs upped and left BSA in a huff and set out with other families to build a new organisation based on what they believe to be Christian values.
The Orrs and others in Trail Life say they are fighting for the traditional values of Christianity and of Scouting, which includes a command in the Scout Oath to be ‘‘morally straight”, “straight, of course, being the operative word.
As Christians from a scriptural basis, we love all folks, but the Scripture is very clear that being homosexual is a sin. We’ve got to be able to hold a strong line and set a consistent example for our young men.
His son agreed. He would forgo the century-old BSA for Trail Life, which officially launched just last month. Trail Life offers youngsters:
A journey established on timeless values derived from the Bible. Our vision is to be the premier national character development organization for young men which produces Godly and responsible husbands, fathers, and citizens.
Trail Life has established units in more than 40 states, gleaning members mostly from Boy Scouts and parents who feel their old organisation has lost its way. It has about 600 units up and running or in the process of registration, executive director Rob Green said.
As many as half of those who have expressed interest were not affiliated with the Boy Scouts beforehand, Green said. It is still a tiny movement compared to Scouting, which has nearly 2.5 million youth members and remains a powerful force in American life, even with a six percent drop in membership last year. Trail Life welcomes all boys, but adds
We grant membership to adults and youth who do not engage in or promote sexual immorality of any kind, or engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the program.
For over a century, Scouting banned openly gay youth and leaders, fighting all the way to the Supreme Court to defend its right to do so. Leaders who were revealed to be gay were excluded, and some boys were denied Eagle Scout awards by regional councils that were notified of their sexual orientation.
But the Scouts eventually began to face pressure from sponsors and CEOs who serve in Scouting leadership but lead companies with anti-discrimination policies.
BSA surveys also showed that youths and parents of Scouting-age children were supportive of allowing openly gay Scouts. Scouting leadership proposed a compromise: Accept openly gay youth, but exclude gay adult volunteers. BSA’s National Council voted in May to enact it.
Hat tip: Pete Hurren