The Southern Baptist Convention is warning that its members may boycott the Boy Scouts if they drop their national prohibition on gay members, even if the new policy would allow local troops to have the autonomy to either end or maintain the ban.
Frank Page, the president of the SBC’s Executive Committee, argued in a conference call with Boy Scout leaders that any shift “will be a death blow to Scouting.” SBC official A.J. Smith warned that “such a move is fraught with danger and is an affront to their core convictions on human sexuality.”
“Many Baptist charter organizations and Baptist parents will decide not to send their youth to such camps for fear of them being exposed to persons advocating a homosexual lifestyle,” Smith said. “This move appears to fly in the face of both the Scout Oath and Law.”
The Baptist Press reported on the call:
The Boy Scouts released a new statement Monday describing the proposal, saying that the national policy would be rescinded in favor of a policy allowing local councils to determine their own policy. That means that in each city, one council might allow gay leaders and another might not. The Boy Scouts board is expected to vote on the proposal next week.
Page told the Scout leaders that although the new policy might allow the sponsoring organization to set local policy, such autonomy would disappear when there is a national or even regional meeting.
"National policy will always trump local autonomy" in such situations, Page said. "I believe this will be a death blow to Scouting. ... I think this is a self-inflicted wound."
Meanwhile, the president of Association of Baptists for Scouting -- A.J. Smith -- says passage of the proposed policy "will likely be viewed as an affront by most Baptist church leaders." He also is urging people to voice their position to the national Boy Scouts office (see below).
"Such a move may result in a loss of units chartered through Baptist churches as well as a loss of Baptist youth currently registered through other charter organizations," Smith said. "It will, no doubt, be argued that under the proposed new guidelines the charter organization will have greater liberty in determining membership standards, and that would be true. Some Baptists will be more agreeable to that, certainly. Still, the move opens the door for hiring practices at council and national camps that would allow homosexuals in those settings. The BSA will have no legal recourse to prevent such applicants from filing discrimination suits if their applications are denied. In light of that, many Baptist charter organizations and Baptist parents will decide not to send their youth to such camps for fear of them being exposed to persons advocating a homosexual lifestyle. In short, from a Baptist perspective, such a move is fraught with danger and is an affront to their core convictions on human sexuality."
Many people, Smith said, will wonder if current Boy Scouts leaders "are truly committed to the principles and values of Scouting as envisioned" by Scouting founder Lord Baden-Powell.
"The goal or aim of Scouting is to instill in youth the ability to make moral and ethical decisions over a lifetime by a careful application of the Scout Oath and Law. However, this move appears to fly in the face of both the Scout Oath and Law."