IRVING, TX, January 29, 2013 (LifeSiteNews) – Just six months after reaffirming their commitment to keeping open homosexuals out of the Boy Scouts, the national leaders of the organization have signaled that they may be about to change their minds.
Last July, after a confidential, two-year review, an 11-member special committee made up of Scout executives and volunteers came to the unanimous conclusion that a national ban on openly gay scouts and leaders was “absolutely the best policy.” The Boy Scouts won a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court ruling recognizing their right to ban homosexuals in 2000.
But a spokesman for the Scouts said Monday they are considering dropping the national ban in favor of a policy allowing local scouting groups to determine their own policies. The change will be discussed next week by the organization's national board, the spokesman, Deron Smith, said.
The Scouts did not provide a reason for the possible change, but in recent months, gay activists have turned up the pressure on the group. Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout being raised by two lesbian women, gathered 280,000 signatures for a petition to overturn the ban. Multiple corporate sponsors have pulled funding from the group over the issue of homosexuality, including the Intel Foundation and the Merck Company Foundation. Adding to the pressure, gay activists demanded that an upcoming reality game show on the National Geographic Channel called “Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout?” contain a disclaimer denouncing the Boy Scouts for discriminating against homosexuals.
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National Geographic Channel spokesman Chris Albert said he thinks the show played a role in the abrupt about-face.
“Obviously I can’t say for sure,” Albert told the New York Times. “But I think the discussion around our show amplified the importance of this issue. And we think this is certainly a step in the right direction.”
Bryan Fischer, director of issue analysis for the American Family Association, condemned the move, calling it “craven capitulation to social pressure.” “[T]hey are putting the sexual integrity of the young boys that are entrusted to their care at risk,” warned Fischer.
Scouts spokesman Deron Smith said that under the proposed policy, local groups would have to decide for themselves whether to allow open homosexuals to participate. “[T]he B.S.A. would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs,” he said.
Zach Wahls said he would welcome the proposed changes, but thinks they don’t go far enough. “It’s a step in the right direction, and good to see that B.S.A. is softening its position,” he said. “But under the policy change, it will still be possible for some units to discriminate.”
Wahls said his group will focus their efforts on local Boy Scout councils to pressure them to accept gays if the national ban is overturned.