Boy Scouts encounter pushback on gay exclusionary policies

The Boy Scouts organization in the US has been having a hard time recently. The release of secret ‘perversion files‘ of sexual abuse by leaders stretching back over decades has brought further shame to it.

Now long-time partners of the group are splitting with it because of its policy of excluding gays. This article discusses various Jewish organizations that have chosen to sever long-standing ties.

They are even being hurt in their finances. The United Way in Cleveland has said that they will pull funding for Boy Scouts beginning in 2013. This is significant because United Way is quite a conservative organization with strong corporate influence.

Anti-gay organizations are being slowly pushed to the margins as gays are increasingly accepted into the mainstream of society. This is an irreversible tide and it is only a matter of time before the Boy Scouts too will have to reverse their policy if they want to remain viable. How they will square this with their religious policies will be interesting to see.


  1. glodson says

    When I was an exceptionally lazy Boy Scout in the 90’s, the religious part was there. But it wasn’t terribly important. At least, as I remember it. We did meet at a church, but we never read the bible, talked about god, or anything else. We just played with knives, ropes and went camping.

    I’m guessing that when they have to accept gays, it will be a return to form. I think it has only been the last several years with the big Church money that the religion part has been an emphasis.

    Then again, maybe I just missed the religious bits as I was an exceptionally lazy Scout.

  2. tubi says

    I was a Cub Scout in the 70’s, but only for a year or so. I just didn’t feel comfortable doing it, but I don’t recall any glaringly overt religious activity either. Now, as the parent of an 8 year old son, I get emails all the time from the local Cub Scout pack encouraging me to sign him up. I’ve pushed back personally, asking them about the anti-gay and anti-atheist policies. They say they don’t really follow those rules, but I suspect if they found out a kid was gay, or refused to acknowledge a creator, they’d have to boot him. I’m not going to give them the chance.

    Fun fact-the son of indicted Watergate conspirator Jeb Stuart Magruder was in my pack. We went to his Virginia farm for a long weekend retreat one summer, possibly while his dad was busy meeting with Dean and Mitchell to discuss the Liddy plan.

  3. smrnda says

    Someone told me that the Mormon Church provides considerable funding to the Boy Scouts, so this might just be LDS money talking. Does anyone have any current figures on that?

  4. raven says

    I find their anti-atheist policies just as obnoxious.

    The boy scouts are supposed to be an outdoor adventure group for kids.

    Being an atheist or gay should be irrelevant.

    Odd factoid. They refused to charter a Wiccan boy scout troop.
    The usual, hypocrites.

    I doubt they will ever change anything. They were taken over by fundies and Mormons long ago and Hitchen’s rule applies.
    Religion poisons everything.

  5. rory says

    To a large extent, the religious bits are opt ins. For example, there are religious medals scouts can earn and wear on their uniforms. I earned the Ad Alteri Dei medal, which was a Catholic award. I don’t really recall what work was required for it–I remember a workbook with readings and questions that had to be completed, but I don’t recall specifically what the content was. A number of other faiths have their own awards which Scouts can earn.

    The real problem is that the Scout Oath requires Scouts to “do their duty to god” and the Scout Law states that a Scout must be “reverent.” This has been interpreted as requiring belief in a higher power, which is how they justify excluding atheists. Gays may be excluded under the “morally clean” aspect of Scout Oath, based on religious attitudes toward the morality of homosexuality.

    It’s a shame. I loved being a Scout (my troop didn’t put much emphasis on the religious aspects) and there is much about them that I’d support, but I refuse to lend actual or moral support to an organization which holds bigotry as a virtue. I think I was as proud the day I sent back my Eagle award as I was the day I earned it.

  6. Zugswang says

    The scouts will change in the same way that religions change; when their survival or influence is significantly threatened.

    Right now, the Scouts are trapped between a rock and a hard place; there are those like myself who were very active with the Scouts and really tried to change the culture, and others who adamantly refused to be a part of any organizational change, and their financial contributions are far more significant. (the Southern Baptist Convention, the Catholic church, and the Mormon church are all significant financiers of the scouts) But since the scouts have chosen to reaffirm their discriminatory policies, many of us are rescinding our support, but our numbers are fewer than the ones who would have left, otherwise.

    Scouting will eventually moderate its position, though. And it will probably happen around the time the major religious groups in this country moderate their own, or at least cease to be so vocal about it, in a similar fashion to how religiously-motivated racism has decreased or been hidden away, because of the threat such a belief poses to gathering and maintaining membership.

  7. dano says

    As a current Boy Scout & Cub Scout leader I can tell you that there will never be a time when the BSA will allow gay, atheists, or wiccans in the organization. With that being said our charter organization is a Methodist church. We do not pray, read the bible, or talk about religion at our meetings or campouts. On the other hand we do teach what it means to be a great citizen, proper use of tools whether they are guns, knives or axes and many other skills that will be useful for a young man throughout his life.
    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints aka LDS or Mormons make up 34.8% of all units (boy scouts, cub scouts, explorer, venture, etc.) and that is based on a total of 48 different charter style organizations (churches, VFW, sporting associations, PTA, etc.). As you can see the Mormons are the largest player and with their influence and money I do not see any of these rules changing at a National level. With that said the rules can be bent at a local level. Local councils can decide if they want to abide or bend the rules to fit their local units and this is going on as I write.

  8. Seeing/analyzing says

    The boy scouts in my area may or may not be religious, but they’re certainly thugs. They’re quite aggressive and downright rude with the pan-handling.

    This year during popcorn-selling season, the doorbell rang, and I opened the door to a preteen boy scout. He pushed a form at me and said, “Buy popcorn!” I said, “No, thanks” and he retorted, “Then just give me a donation!” I repeated, “No, thanks” and as I was shutting the door, I heard him shouting disdainfully to someone, “They’re DEMOCRATS!”

    I thought it was just one particular idiot, but that evening when chatting with a friend on the phone who lives in another town, she reported getting the same abuse at a grocery store by another boy scouts. Apparently they’re being taught to demand money and call people (what they perceive as) slurs if they refuse.

  9. dano says

    This by no means is the norm. In fact even thou I am a scout leader I would have grabbed his troop number and called the local district to tell them how this scout was acting. Your belief that this is what we are teaching would be similar to my belief that all radicals aka democrats are idiots. No matter how often I hear one putting his or her foot in their mouth I know or rather hope that not all are such fools. P.S. I am currently looking for a part director of sales position as I know things will be getting worse at least for the next 4 years for our economy.

  10. rory says

    Admittedly it’s been a few years now since I was pushing popcorn for the BSA, but we were certainly never taught to behave that way. I think our Scoutmaster would have had some choice words for us if he ever heard of us behaving so poorly.

    That said, for good or for ill, an individual adult leader can have a lot of influence over the tone of his troop–a jerk of a leader is unlikely to reign in the bad behavior of his scouts and may even encourage it. On the other hand I’m anecdotally aware of a number of troop leaders who ignore the edicts of the national organization with regard to the ability of gays and atheists to participate, so relative independence of local leadership is a sword that cuts both ways.

  11. dano says

    Nice to see per your article that “All this will probably occur without any magic emanating from the Oval Office.” Obama is providing no help on this one. I hope the country does prosper but I think the wrong man was put back in office & if the last 4 years did not prove it perhaps Obama’s own words if I can’t fix the economy in 3 years I won’t be in the office for a second term (paraphrasing as I could not locate the exact speech but I am sure everyone on here is familiar with it).

  12. Mal Adapted says

    I hope the country does prosper but I think the wrong man was put back in office

    So, is there data available on what percentage of the BSA leadership are Republicans?

  13. Doug Little says

    proper use of tools whether they are guns, knives or axes and many other skills that will be useful for a young man throughout his life.

    Right because the Zombie Apocalypse is right around the corner. I was wondering when you were going to show up to spew your bigotry.

  14. dano says

    Doug, someone has to guide you towards the light otherwise you may not make it out alive. No need to thank me. Your simple banter with me is thanks enough.

  15. dano says

    Not to my knowledge but I am guessing somewhere. My best guess would be 70/30 conservatives/democrates.

  16. dano says


    My understanding is roughly several hundred scouts have returned their badge & some say closer to 1,000. With over 2,000,000 Eagle badges earned since 1911 this is a land slide if I ever saw one in favor of keeping the scouting ideals as they were originally intended. This is a private organization and if you do not agree you have every right to start your own group with your own rules and laws. YiS (Yours in Scouting for those not involved in the scouting movement)

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