Boy Scouts of America membership controversies

Boy Scouts of America membership controversies

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA), one of the largest private youth organizations in the United States, has policies which prohibit atheists and agnostics from membership in its Scouting program, and prohibit "avowed" homosexual people from leadership roles in its Scouting program as directly violating its fundamental principles and tenets. BSA has denied or revoked membership status or leadership positions of youths and adults for violation of these foundational principles.

The BSA contends that these policies are essential in its mission to instill in young people the values of the Scout Oath and Law.[1][2]

The organization's legal right to have these policies has been upheld repeatedly by both state and federal courts. In Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, the Supreme Court of the United States has affirmed that as a private organization, the BSA can set its own membership standards. The BSA's policies have been legally challenged but have not been found to constitute illegal discrimination; as a private organization in the United States the BSA has the right to freedom of association,[3] as determined in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale.[4] In recent years, the policy disputes have led to litigation over the terms under which the BSA can access governmental resources including public lands.


Boy Scouts of America's values affect membership criteria

According to its mission statement, the Boy Scouts of America seeks "to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law".[1] All members are required, as a condition of membership, to promise to uphold and obey both of these pledges. The texts of BSA's Scout Oath and Scout Law for Boy Scouting have remained unchanged since they were approved in 1911,[4] and every member agrees to follow them on their application form.

Scout Oath
On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.

Scout Law
A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.

Spirituality has been an integral part of the international Scouting movement since its inception. As early as 1908, Scouting founder Robert Baden-Powell wrote in the first Scout handbook that, "No man is much good unless he believes in God and obeys His laws."[5]

Religious organizations host/sponsor over 60% of the approximately 123,000 Scouting units in the United States and use the Scouting program as part of their youth ministration.[6][7] Officials from various religious organizations—including the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, and Presbyterian churches—are included on the BSA National Executive Board, its Advisory Council, and the BSA Religious Relationships Committee.

In reciting the Scout Oath, Scouts promise to be morally straight and to do their duty to God; the Scout Law holds that a Scout is clean and reverent. As early as 1978, the Boy Scouts of America circulated a memorandum among national executive staff stating that they held it was not appropriate for homosexuals to hold leadership positions in BSA.[8] Similarly, since at least 1985, the BSA has interpreted the Scout Oath and Law as being incompatible with agnosticism and atheism.[9] In both instances, the organization asserted that it was not a new policy to oppose and disfavor atheism, agnosticism and homosexuality; and, in support of that, to deny membership to atheists and agnostics, and to deny leadership roles to and occasionally expel "avowed" homosexual persons  — rather, the BSA argued it was just enforcing long-held policies which had never been published or publicly challenged.[8][10]


The Boy Scouts of America makes a division between its Scouting programs and the Learning for Life program. The Scouting programs are Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, and Venturing. The policies that are considered controversial apply only to the Scouting programs.

Learning for Life programs including Exploring are school and work-site based. Leadership positions and membership in the Learning for Life programs are open to youth and adults without restriction based on gender, sexual orientation, atheism or agnosticism.

Position on atheists and agnostics

The Boy Scouts of America's position is that atheists and agnostics cannot participate as Scouts (youth members) or Scouters (adult leaders) in its traditional Scouting programs. According to the Bylaws of the BSA, Declaration of Religious Principle:

"The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God. In the first part of the Scout Oath or Promise the member declares, ‘On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law.’ The recognition of God as the ruling and leading power in the universe and the grateful acknowledgment of His favors and blessings are necessary to the best type of citizenship and are wholesome precepts in the education of the growing members."[2]

During the membership application process and as a requirement to obtain membership, youths and adults are required to subscribe to the precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle and to agree to abide by the Scout Oath and Law, which include the words, "do my duty to God" and "reverent". Youths are also required to repeat the Scout Oath and Law periodically after being accepted as Scouts. The BSA believes that atheists and agnostics are not appropriate role models of the Scout Oath and Law for boys, and thus will not accept such adults as leaders.[2]

The BSA does not require adherence to any particular religious beliefs or ethos beyond this. The Boy Scout Handbook goes on to explain that "A Scout is Reverent" simply means that "A Scout is reverent towards God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others." Buddhists, followers of Native American religions, Muslims, Jews, Christians of all denominations, Wiccans, and many others, including those who define their own spirituality, can be and are members of the BSA. The BSA recognizes religious awards for over 38 faith groups including Baha'i, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Hinduism, and 28 varieties of Christianity.[11] Boy Scouts of America approved religious emblems exist for all these except for Wicca and Native American religions. The former exists but has not been approved due to the fact that there are fewer than 25 chartered Wiccan units.[citation needed]

Position on homosexuality

Since 1991, openly homosexual individuals have been officially prohibited from leadership positions in the Boy Scouts of America.[12] A 1991 Position Statement states: “We believe that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the requirement in the Scout Oath that a Scout be morally straight and in the Scout Law that a Scout be clean in word and deed, and that homosexuals do not provide a desirable role model for Scouts.”[4] The BSA thus "believes that a known or avowed homosexual is not an appropriate role model of the Scout Oath and Law."[13]

The language used to describe the BSA's policies on homosexual individuals has evolved over time. In a 1993 position statement, BSA said:

"We do not allow for the registration of avowed homosexuals as members or as leaders of the BSA."[14]

In 2004, the BSA adopted a new policy statement, including the following as a "Youth Leadership" policy:

"Boy Scouts of America believes that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the obligations in the Scout Oath and Scout Law to be morally straight and clean in thought, word, and deed. The conduct of youth members must be in compliance with the Scout Oath and Law, and membership in Boy Scouts of America is contingent upon the willingness to accept Scouting’s values and beliefs. Most boys join Scouting when they are 10 or 11 years old. As they continue in the program, all Scouts are expected to take leadership positions. In the unlikely event that an older boy were to hold himself out as homosexual, he would not be able to continue in a youth leadership position."[13] published these policies until February 2010, when it was removed from their website.[13]

The BSA stated in a 2000 press release that, "Boy Scouting makes no effort to discover the sexual orientation of any person."[15] BSA application forms for youth membership and adult leadership positions do not inquire about the applicants' sexual orientation and do not mention the BSA's policies regarding homosexuality.[16] In 2005, a high-level employee of BSA was fired by the National Council after the organization received a copy of his bill from a gay resort at which he had vacationed.[17] In 2009, the mother and civil union partner of a Vermont Scout were prohibited from volunteering for his pack when it was learned they were gay.[18]

Various BSA national and council policies either prohibit or mandate discrimination. Some types of discrimination, such as prohibiting child molesters from becoming leaders are widely accepted. Others, such as discrimination against racial minorities are widely rejected and prohibited by BSA policies. Where neither is the case, they are controversial, such as with BSA's prohibition of avowed homosexuals from leadership positions in most of its scouting programs. Non-discrimination policies can be either vague or specific and operative. The latter typically enumerate protected classes and attributes which may not be discriminated against.[19][20][21]

BSA local councils and Scouting units are required to adhere to National Council policies as a condition of their charters.[22] At least three local scout councils added “sexual orientation” to the enumerated protected classes or attributes in their non-discrimination policies; two in 1991 and one in 1993.[19][20][21] All three made statements that these changes were not in conflict with BSA national policy. In at least two of these cases, controversy ensued from those on both sides of the issue.[19][21] Those advocating liberalization of policies said that these did not represent true changes or that true changes did not occur.[23] Those against liberalization said that these changes were indeed in conflict with BSA national policy and needed to be rescinded.[19][24] At least one of these councils reversed the change,[24] and it appears that the others did the same. None of their websites currently contain non-discrimination policies with enumerated protected classes.

Position on gender

According to the BSA, "The Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs were designed to meet the emotional, psychological, physical, and other needs of boys between the ages of 8 and 14."[25] (Note: the Boy Scout program runs in age from 11 to 18). While the BSA does not admit girls to these programs, its Venturing and its Learning for Life (including Exploring) programs are open to young men and women ages 14 through 21.[26][27]

Reaction to nondiscrimination policies

In 2001, the Boston Minuteman Council adopted a nondiscrimination policy which included sexual orientation; however, when an openly homosexual man attempted to register as a merit badge counselor he was rejected on the basis of his sexual orientation.[23] The same year, nine BSA local councils proposed a resolution that would have allowed local councils to comply with nondiscrimination policies regarding homosexual persons but the resolution was rejected by the BSA National Council.[22] Also in 2001, the BSA revoked the charters of several Cub Scout packs in Oak Park, Illinois, because the sponsors, a parent-teacher group, adhered to a policy which banned discrimination based on sexual orientation.[22] In part due to a lawsuit (Cradle of Liberty Council v. City of Philadelphia), the Cradle of Liberty Council in Philadelphia adopted a nondiscrimination policy with respect to sexual orientation in 2003 but was ordered to revoke it by the National Council.[24]

Other youth organization membership policies

There are affiliated Scouting organizations in other countries with less restrictive membership criteria than the BSA by choice and/or because of nondiscrimination laws in their country, as well as organizations with similar policies. In the United States, other major youth organizations tend to have less restrictive policies.

World Organization of Scouting Movement programs

The Boy Scouts of America has belonged to the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM) since its founding in 1922. WOSM has a membership of 155 National Scout Organizations with more than 28 million individuals.[28] Only one Scouting organization per country is recognized by WOSM. In about ten percent of the countries, the National Scout Organization is a federation composed of more than one Scout association; some of the associations in a federation may be for members of a specific religion (e.g., Denmark and France), ethnicity (e.g., Bosnia and Israel), or native language (e.g., Belgium).

On religion, WOSM states the following about its Fundamental Principles:[29]

Under the title "Duty to God", the first of the above-mentioned principles of the Scout Movement is defined as "adherence to spiritual principles, loyalty to the religion that expresses them and acceptance of the duties resulting therefrom". It should be noted that, by contrast to the title, the body of the text does not use the word "God", in order to make it clear that the clause also covers religions which are non-monotheistic, such as Hinduism, or those which do not recognize a personal God, such as Buddhism.

It says nothing official on homosexuals.

The value system of the BSA and other Scouting associations may differ; this is evident in the different Scout promises and laws used by associations. Most other Scouting associations oaths and laws do not include the very specific wording to be "reverent" and "morally straight" which BSA added at its founding in 1910. Correspondingly, the membership policies of Scouting associations may differ as well (see Scout Promise and Scout Law).

For example, in contrast to the BSA's policy, homosexuals are not restricted from leadership positions in Scouts Canada and most European associations, including The Scout Association in the United Kingdom, Ring deutscher Pfadfinderverbände of Germany (German Scout Federation), and the Swedish Guide and Scout Association.[30][31][32][33]

"Duty to God" is a principle of worldwide Scouting and WOSM requires its member National Scout Organizations to reference "duty to God" in their Scout Promises (see WOSM Scout Promise requirements). Scouting associations apply this principle to their membership policies in different ways. The Boy Scouts of America takes a hard-line position by excluding atheists or agnostics from membership. Scouts Canada defines "duty to God" broadly in terms of "adherence to spiritual principles" and does not have any explicit policy excluding non-theists.[34] According to the Equal Opportunities Policy of The Scout Association in the United Kingdom:

"To enable young people to grow into independent adults the Scout Method encourages young people to question what they have been taught. Scouts and Venture Scouts who question God's existence, their own spirituality or the structures and beliefs of any or all religions are simply searching for spiritual understanding. This notion of a search for enlightenment is compatible with belief in most of the world's faiths. It is unacceptable to refuse Membership, or question a young person's suitability to continue to participate fully in a Section, if they express doubts about the meaning of the Promise."[35]

The membership policies of Scouting organizations also vary regarding the inclusion of girls, see Coeducational Scouting.

American youth organizations

The Girl Scouts of the USA accepts gays and lesbians, and allows its members to substitute another word in place of "God" when reciting the Girl Scout Promise.[36]

The American Heritage Girls is a Christian Scouting organization that provides an alternative to the Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA). American Heritage Girls' policies on homosexuals and atheists are similar to those held by the BSA. It was formed by parents who were unhappy that GSUSA accepted lesbians as troop leaders, allowed girls to substitute a word more applicable to their belief for the word "God" in the Girl Scout Promise, and allegedly banned prayer at meetings. American Heritage Girls has about 10,000 members,[37] whereas Girl Scouts of the USA has around 2,500,000 youth members and 900,000 adults. Some youth organizations do not have policies that exclude or restrict gays and atheists, and are coeducational, such as Camp Fire USA, SpiralScouts International, 4-H, and the BSA's Learning for Life program.[38]

Litigation over the membership policies

The Boy Scouts of America has been sued because of its membership, leadership, and employment standards.[39] Some of the lawsuits dealt with the BSA's standards that require Scouts and Scouters to believe in God, those in leadership positions to not be openly homosexual, and the exclusion of girls from membership in some programs.[2][13][40]

There has been some opposition to single-sex membership programs and organizations in the United States including some programs of the BSA.[41] The Boy Scouts of America admits only boys to its Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting programs. Several lawsuits involving girls seeking admission to these programs (see Yeaw v. Boy Scouts of America) have resulted in court rulings that the BSA is not required to admit girls.[25]

During the 1980s and 1990s,several people attracted media attention when they sued the BSA, attempting to make them accept atheists as members and homosexual individuals in leadership positions. In 1981, Tim Curran, an openly homosexual former Scout, sued asking that he be accepted as an assistant Scoutmaster (see Curran v. Mount Diablo Council).[12] In 1991, twin brothers William and Michael Randall, who had refused to recite the "duty to God" portion of the Cub Scout Promise and Boy Scout Oath, sued to be allowed to continue in the program (see Randall v. Orange County Council and Welsh v. Boy Scouts of America).[42] In addition, there were several other lawsuits involving essentially the same issues.[43] Ultimately, the courts ruled in favor of the Boy Scouts of America in each case.

The courts have repeatedly held that the Boy Scouts of America, and all private organizations, have a right to set membership standards in accordance with the First Amendment protected concept of freedom of association. In particular, in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that the BSA's Constitutional right to freedom of association gave them the authority to expel a gay assistant Scoutmaster.[4]

After the Dale decision, public opinion in some communities turned against the BSA; corporations, charities, and even some local governments criticized the policy, threatening to either cut off financial support or block the Boy Scouts from using public buildings for their meetings. While some segments of the public criticized the organization, other groups became more enthusiastic in their support of the Scouts.[44]

Since the Supreme Court's ruling, the focus of lawsuits has shifted to challenging the BSA's relationship with governments in light of their membership policies. A number of lawsuits have been filed by or with the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union over issues such as government association with the BSA and the conditions under which the BSA may access governmental resources.[45]

Governmental sponsorship of Scouting units

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has taken legal action to stop governmental organizations from serving as the chartered organizations (sponsors) of Scouting units in violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment. The Department of Defense announced in 2004 that it would end direct sponsorship of Scouting units in response to a lawsuit brought by the ACLU.[46][47] "The ACLU of Illinois charged that the Boy Scouts' policy violates the religious liberty of youth who wish to participate but do not wish to swear a religious oath, and that direct government sponsorship of such a program is religious discrimination."[48]

The BSA agreed in 2005 to transfer all charters it had issued to governmental entities to private entities in response to a request from the ACLU.[49] Previously, about 400 Scouting units had been sponsored by U.S. military bases and over 10,000 by other governmental entities, primarily public schools.[50]

Access to governmental resources

In certain municipalities, the conditions under which the Boy Scouts of America can access public and nonpublic governmental resources have become controversial, sometimes resulting in litigation. Historically, the BSA (and the Girl Scouts of the USA) has often been granted preferential access to governmental resources such as lands and facilities.

When a private organization such as the BSA receives access on terms more favorable than other private organizations, it is known as "special" or "preferential" access whereas "equal" access is access on the same terms. For example, state and local governments may lease property to nonprofit groups (such as the BSA) on terms that are preferential to or equal to the terms they offer to commercial groups, in other words they may give nonprofit groups either special or equal access. Special access includes access at a reduced fee (including no fee) or access to places off-limits to other groups. The categorization of access as "special" or "equal" is not always clear-cut.

Some cities, counties, and states have ordinances or policies that limit government support for organizations that practice some types of discrimination. When the BSA's membership policies are perceived as contrary to these laws, some government organizations have moved to change the terms under which the BSA is allowed to access its resources. Private individuals have filed lawsuits to prevent governmental entities from granting what they see as preferential access.[51] The BSA on the other hand has sued governmental entities for denying what it sees as equal access.[45]

In response to these changes and litigation, the federal government passed laws mandating the BSA's equal access to local and state-level governmental resources. The Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act, enacted in 2002, requires public elementary and secondary schools that receive U.S. Department of Education funding to provide BSA groups equal access to school facilities.[52] The Support our Scouts Act of 2005 requires state and local governments that receive HUD funding to provide BSA groups equal access to governmental forums (lands, facilities, etc.). State and local governments still have flexibility regarding the provision of special access to the BSA.[53]

Litigation regarding access to governmental resources

Litigation has challenged the granting of preferential or equal access of the Boy Scouts of America to governmental facilities and resources:

  • A US District Court's ruling against the BSA on the favorable terms under which the City of San Diego leases public land to the local BSA Council was referred to the California Supreme Court by the Federal Appellate Court. See Barnes-Wallace v. Boy Scouts of America.
  • Philadelphia revoked the terms under which the City of Philadelphia leases public land to the BSA. The local BSA council sued the city over the breach of contract. See Cradle of Liberty Council v. City of Philadelphia.[54] The US District Court ruled June 2010 in favor of the Boy Scouts of America and that the city's selective actions against the council were designed to impinge BSA's First Amendment rights.[55][56] Under federal Civil Rights Law, the Cradle of Liberty Council Council is now also entitled to collect its legal costs (estimated at one million dollars) from the city's unlawful action. As a result, the city and the Cradle of Liberty Council are engaged in negotiations to transfer the building from the city to the council in exchange for the council not collecting those legal costs from the city.[57]
  • In July 2003, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a decision by a U.S. District Judge that excluded the BSA from an annual workplace charitable campaign run by the state of Connecticut because of the BSA's policy on homosexuals. In March 2004, the United States Supreme Court declined to review the case.[58]
  • In March 2006, the California Supreme Court ruled in Evans v. Berkeley that the City of Berkeley did not have to continue to provide free dock space to the Sea Scouts.[59] In October 2006, the United States Supreme Court declined to review Evans v. Berkeley.[60]
  • In September 2006, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that recruiting by BSA in public schools did not violate the state's nondiscrimination laws.[61]
  • The U.S. Army gives the BSA special access to a base, Fort A.P. Hill, for its national Scout jamboree and the U.S. Department of Defense spends approximately $2 million per year in taxpayer funds to assist the BSA in staging it. On April 4, 2007 the US Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling on the basis of a lack of standing to sue, thus allowing the 2010 and future Jamborees to go forward with continued DoD support (see Winkler v. Rumsfeld).[45][62]

Reaction to Boy Scouts of America's membership policies

There has been opposition to BSA's membership policies from organizations and individuals. Some within the Scouting movement, as well as long-time Scouting supporters, parents, chartered organizations, and religious organizations have expressed opposition to the policies in ways ranging from protests to forming organizations that advocate greater inclusiveness. Some push for a voluntary change within the BSA, others seek involuntary change by filing lawsuits, still others choose to disassociate themselves from the BSA or encourage others to do so.

Perhaps the most vocal opponent of the policies has been the American Civil Liberties Union, which has brought or been a participant in fourteen lawsuits against the Boy Scouts of America from 1981 to March 2006.[63] A few members of the U.S. Congress have also spoken out against the BSA's policies.[64] Since the Dale decision, some Eagle Scouts (about 100) have returned their Eagle Scout badge to the BSA in protest.[65][66]

The Unitarian Universalist Association's opposition to the BSA's membership exclusions led to a dispute between the organizations. In 2001, the Union for Reform Judaism's Commission on Social Action, citing a commitment to ending discrimination in all forms, issued a memorandum recommending that congregations stop hosting BSA troops and that parents withdraw their children from all of the Boy Scouts of America's programs.[67] Additionally, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ issued a statement urging the BSA to change policy and stated that "Discrimination against anyone based on sexual orientation is contrary to our understanding of the teachings of Christ."[68]

The Secular Coalition for America has urged Congress to revoke the federal charter of the BSA, stating: "Our government must not entangle itself in religious organizations; nor should it establish, with government imprimatur, a private religious club."[69]

Loss of support

Some public entities and private institutions have ceased financial or other support of the BSA, primarily as a result of conflicts between their nondiscrimination policies and the BSA's membership policies. About 50 of the 1300 local United Ways, including those in Miami, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Seattle, have withdrawn all funding.[70] The BSA has also lost all funding from several large corporations that had been regular donors, such as Chase Manhattan Bank, Levi Strauss, Fleet Bank, CVS/pharmacy, and Pew Charitable Trusts.[70] For example, Pew Charitable Trusts, which had consistently supported the BSA for over fifty years, decided to cancel a $100,000 donation and cease future donations.[70] A number of public entities (including the cities of Chicago, San Diego, Tempe, Buffalo Grove, Berkeley, and Santa Barbara, as well as the states of California, Illinois, and Connecticut) have canceled charitable donations (of money or preferential land access) that had historically been granted to the Scouts.[70][71][72]

Eagle Scout filmmaker Steven Spielberg had been a long-time supporter of Scouting, depicting a young Indiana Jones as a Boy Scout in the 1989 film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and helping to create the Cinematography merit badge. Spielberg resigned from the BSA Advisory Council in 2001, saying, "it has deeply saddened me to see the Boy Scouts of America actively and publicly participating in discrimination."[73]

Efforts to change the membership and leadership policies

There have been numerous efforts (other than litigation) to change the BSA's membership policies regarding atheists and leadership policies regarding homosexuals; most have failed. At the BSA annual national meeting of local council representatives in Boston in 2001, nine local councils submitted a resolution to give more discretion for membership and leadership standards to local councils and chartered organizations; this resolution and two others also seeking to liberalize the policy towards homosexuals were considered by the BSA National Executive Board but the initiative failed in 2002.[74] The policy was revised to the current policy in 2004.

Some current and former Scouts and Scout leaders formed organizations that advocated the removal of atheism restrictions on membership and homosexual-related restrictions on leadership. In 1991, William Boyce Mueller, a former Cub Scout and grandson of original Boy Scouts of America founder William Dickson Boyce, helped start an advocacy group of gay former Scouts called the "Forgotten Scouts".[75] The Coalition for Inclusive Scouting was another organization. Both of these organizations are apparently inactive now.

Scouting for All seeks to promote tolerance and diversity within the BSA.[76] Scouter Dave Rice co-founded Scouting for All in 1993, initially for the purpose of changing the BSA policy on sexual orientation. In 1998, the Boy Scouts of America dismissed him after 59 years of membership for "involving Scouting youth" in his effort. Rice, who is not gay, stated that he obeyed all rules and guidelines and that he never misused his leadership status or promoted an agenda during troop meetings. He maintains that the Boy Scouts of America violated its own rules by summarily dismissing him without granting him a chance to present evidence to a regional review board as is required by the BSA's "Procedures for Maintaining Standards of Membership".[77][78]

Support for the Boy Scouts of America

The membership controversy and subsequent litigation, some of which has been in response to the 2000 ruling in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, has prompted a number of expressions of support for the BSA organization, program, or policies. In 2002, the National Executive Board of Boy Scouts of America reiterated its support for the policies and affirmed that "the Boy Scouts of America shall continue to follow its traditional values and standards of leadership".

Support from federal government

The U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have overwhelmingly passed resolutions in support of the Boy Scouts of America. In November 2004, the House passed a resolution, by a vote of 391 to 3, recognizing "the Boy Scouts of America for the public service the organization performs".[79] Then, in February 2005, the House passed a resolution by a vote of 418 to 7, stating that "the Department of Defense should continue to exercise its long-standing statutory authority to support the activities of the BSA, in particular the periodic national and world Scout jamborees."[80]

President Bush addresses the 2005 National Scout Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia.

The U.S. Congress has twice passed bills in response to the governmental resources access controversy. In 2001, the U.S. Congress passed the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act, which encouraged the BSA's access to educational facilities. In July 2005, the Senate voted 98 to 0 in favor of the Support Our Scouts Act, enacted in December 2005, which encourages both governmental support of the Boy Scouts in general and federal support of the national Scout jamboree.

Senator Bill Frist, one of the sponsors of the Support Our Scouts Acts, spoke highly of the BSA, saying:

"This unique American institution is committed to preparing our youth for the future by instilling in them values such as honesty, integrity, and character."

Of the Act, Frist explained:

"This legislation will allow the Boy Scouts to fulfill its mission without the distraction of defending itself against senseless attacks."[81]

President of the United States William Howard Taft began serving as the first Honorary President of the Boy Scouts of America in 1911; the tradition has been followed by each succeeding U.S. President. In July 2001, President George W. Bush addressed the National Scout Jamboree and, although he did not directly discuss the controversies, reiterated his support for the organization. At the Jamboree, Bush commended the Scouts for upholding "values that build strong families, strong communities, and strong character" and said that the Scouts' values "are the values of America."[82]

In January 2009, the American Humanist Association and eighteen other nontheistic organizations sent an open letter to then President-Elect Obama urging him not to serve as the Boy Scouts' honorary president because of the Scouts' positions on religion.[83]President Obama accepted the position and received the BSA's annual report from a group of Scouts in February 2009.

On July 29, 2010, Obama chose not to attend the Scouts' centennial Jamboree, accepting instead an invitation to do an interview on the daytime talk show The View. This decision was met with criticism, and raised speculation that the President's absence was a subtle protest against the Scouts' policies, or deferring to groups opposed to BSA's policies, although he does serve as Honorary National President and has hosted the annual Report to the Nation delegation from the BSA each year at the White House.

Support from others

A wide range of individuals, commentators, and conservative groups have spoken out in support of the Boy Scouts of America. The BSA legal website provides a list of editorials written in support of the BSA.[84]

A conservative civil libertarian group, the American Civil Rights Union (not to be confused with the ACLU), set up the Scouting Legal Defense Fund, and routinely helped with lawsuits.[85] In a legal brief filed in support of the BSA, the American Civil Rights Union argued that "To label [the BSA's membership policies] discriminatory and exclusionary, and a civil rights violation, is an assault on the very freedom of American citizens to advance, promote, and teach traditional moral values."[86] In 2000, a group of current and former members of the BSA created the group "Save Our Scouts", in order "to support and defend the principles of the Scout Oath and Law". This group has subsequently closed as a charity due to failure to file annual reports.[87]

Eagle Scout Hans Zeiger, author of Get Off My Honor: The Assault on the Boy Scouts of America, told the Washington Times, "Scouts' honor is under attack in American culture". Zeiger applauds what he sees as the BSA's courage in resisting political pressure, saying, "Regardless of what leads to homosexuality, it is a thing that has an agenda in our society and is very harmful to the traditional family and is causing a tremendous amount of harm to young men. The Boy Scouts are one of the few organizations that have the moral sense to stand against the homosexual agenda".[88]

An online petition, which had received over 375,000 electronic signatures, showed support for the Scouts from those who are "deeply troubled by the recent attacks which have come against the Boy Scouts simply because the Scouts have taken a stand for faith and moral values." The petition further asserted that, "As a private organization, the Boy Scouts has every right to set standards for leadership and morality."[89]

Following the Dale decision, a number of independent research organizations conducted surveys to determine American public opinion on the controversy. In these surveys, more respondents supported the BSA position than opposed it.[90]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), a longtime supporter of the Boy Scouts of America, teaches that homosexual activity is immoral.[91] The LDS Church is the largest single sponsor of Scouting units with over 30,000 units nationwide, which comprise about 13% of BSA's youth members.[6][92] The LDS Church has stated that it would withdraw from the Scouting program if it was ever compelled to accept homosexual Scout leaders.[6][93] This does not differ from the LDS Church policy of allowing "non practicing" self professed gay members to enjoy all the same rights and privileges as any other Church member.

The United Methodist Church, the second-largest sponsor of Scouting units, has taken no public position on the controversy surrounding allowing gay leaders in Scouting, although in recent years the Church itself has had an ongoing internal debate regarding whether or not to accept LGBT clergy.[citation needed]

Historical membership controversies

There have been membership controversies in the past that have been resolved such as the exclusion of women from some leadership positions, those related to the breakup of Exploring, and those resulting from racial segregation.

See also


  1. ^ a b "Core Values". Retrieved October 2, 2006. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Duty to God". Retrieved May 25, 2008. 
  3. ^ Volokh, Eugene (May 23, 2006). "Freedom Of Expressive Association And Government Subsidies" (PDF). Stanford Law Review 58: 1919–1968. Retrieved November 12, 2008. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Decision of Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division, A-2427-95T3, Dale v. Boy Scouts (1998)". Rutgers School of Law-Camden. Retrieved September 2, 2007. 
  5. ^ Robert Baden-Powell (1908) Scouting for Boys, quoted here
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  7. ^ Boyle, Patrick (2000). "Holy War". The Phoenix. Archived from the original on April 13, 2005. Retrieved December 8, 2006. 
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