Membership Resolution Points of Clarification

In April, the Executive Committee of the Boy Scouts of America drafted a resolution that maintains its current membership policy for all adult leaders and states that youth may not be denied membership in the BSA on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone. The resolution proposes the following:

Membership in any program of the Boy Scouts of America requires the youth member to (a) subscribe to and abide by the values expressed in the Scout Oath and Scout Law, (b) subscribe to and abide by the precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle (duty to God), and (c) demonstrate behavior that exemplifies the highest level of good conduct and respect for others and is consistent at all times with the values expressed in the Scout Oath and Scout Law. No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.

The Boy Scouts received reaction about the proposal from those who approve of the potential change and those who oppose it. Many of those who oppose it, both for personal and religious beliefs, have asked questions about the proposal and its potential impact on Scouting. The Boy Scouts of America respects the deeply held religious, moral, and ethical beliefs of everyone within the Scouting family and firmly believes that dedicated Scouters can be people of good will and still disagree about this policy. However, the Boy Scouts of America wants to address some key concerns and misunderstandings about the proposal and provide you with Scouting's perspective as you prepare to vote.

1. This proposal is in line with Scouting's principles and virtues.

Some have asserted that having different standards for adults and youth is illogical or contradictory and runs counter to the principles of Scouting. Asserting this proposal is contradictory is based on a misunderstanding of the resolution. The resolution states:

    • Youth are still developing, learning about themselves and who they are, developing their sense of right and wrong, and understanding their duty to God to live a moral life.
    • Any sexual conduct, whether homosexual or heterosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting.
    • The organization will maintain its current membership policy for all adult leaders.
    • No member may use Scouting to promote or advance any social or political position or agenda.
    • Members must demonstrate behavior that exemplifies the highest level of good conduct and respect for others and is consistent at all times with the values expressed in the Scout Oath and Scout Law.

By reinforcing that Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting, and that no member may use Scouting to promote or advance any social or political position or agenda, this resolution rightly recognizes there is a difference between kids and adults while remaining true to the long-standing virtues of Scouting.

2. This proposal is in line with the beliefs of most of Scouting's major religious chartered organizations.

Some have asserted that the proposed change for youth runs counter to values of and raises concerns among Scouting's religious chartered organizations. We are unaware of any major religious chartered organization that believes a youth member simply stating he or she is attracted to the same sex, but not engaging in sexual activity, should make him or her unwelcome in their congregation.

This proposal reinforces Scouting's belief that sexual conduct by any Scout, heterosexual or homosexual, is contrary to the virtues of Scouting and is reflective of the beliefs of most of our major religious chartered organizations.

While, if this resolution is passed, no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of stating their sexual orientation alone, Scouting expects appropriate behavior from all members, which includes sexual conduct, regardless of sexual orientation.

3. This proposal remains true to the long-standing virtues of Scouting and allows all youth who sincerely want to be a part of Scouting the chance to experience this life-changing program.

Some have asserted that this proposal didn't go far enough and the Boy Scouts should remove any sexual orientation standard for membership for both youth members and adults leaders.

The Boy Scouts recognizes some wish this proposal would have included changing the standard for adult members. The BSA reviewed a variety of policy options that would allow us to provide kids a place to belong while they learn and grow.

The conclusion the executive officers of the Boy Scouts of America reached is that this is the option that did not, in some way, prevent kids who sincerely want to be a part of Scouting from experiencing this life-changing program.

While people have different opinions about this policy, kids are better off when they are in Scouting.

4. The BSA is a leading expert in youth protection, and kids are safe in its programs. The BSA is fully equipped to administer this policy.

Some have asserted that this proposal will put children at higher risk of being sexually abused or bullied and that the organization will not be able to administer this policy while protecting the safety and privacy of all Scouts.

The BSA would never consider a proposal that increased risk to young people. To be clear, the BSA makes no connection between the sexual abuse or victimization of a child and homosexuality. The BSA takes strong exception to this assertion. Some of the nation's leading experts reinforce this position.

The BSA has stringent polices that protect the safety and privacy of youth and adult members and has always worked to ensure that it is a supportive and safe environment for young people.

As it relates to logistical issues for volunteers, Scouting is already equipped to address these issues. No other organization has the same level of expertise for administering logistics and protecting the safety of its participants.

Also, to further prepare the organization, the BSA has created an implementation task force to make sure it is ready, should this resolution pass. It is looking into how other organizations have dealt with these issues. The BSA chose the effective date of Jan. 1, 2014, to give the organization the time it needs to make sure it is operationally ready for this policy.

5. Scouting will remain focused on its mission, the Scout Oath, and the Scout Law.

Some have asserted that this proposal will unduly interject sexuality into the BSA and take away parents' rights to discuss sexuality at the time and place of their choosing. The BSA believes parents should decide if, when, and how to discuss matters of sexuality with their kids.

This proposal reinforces Scouting's belief that sexual conduct by any Scout, heterosexual or homosexual, is contrary to the virtues of Scouting.

While, if this resolution is passed, no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of stating their sexual orientation alone, Scouting expects appropriate behavior from all members, which includes sexual conduct, regardless of sexual orientation.

6. Boy Scouts of America membership is unequivocally unified about the value of Scouting.

Some have asserted that if this proposal is adopted—or if the Boy Scouts does not amend its current policy—Scouting will see significant and unrecoverable losses in membership and monetary support.

Recently, the Boy Scouts completed the most comprehensive listening exercise in its history, gathering perspectives from inside and outside of the Scouting family. At the time of this review, most regions, councils, and volunteers participated with the belief that the Boy Scouts was considering a change to its adult leader membership standards, a proposal significantly different from the resolution under consideration.

It is extremely difficult to accurately quantify the potential impact, in terms of membership and financial support, of maintaining or changing the current policy. However, over the course of nearly three months, more than a quarter of a million Boy Scout members and leaders participated in research that examined their views of Scouting.

The Boy Scouts of America is encouraged that this research showed, even with the uncertainty of which direction the membership standards policy might go, their loyalty to the BSA increased, and Scouting's parents, members, and leaders believe Scouting is fulfilling its mission to develop youth into responsible, capable adults.

Regardless of the results of the vote, the membership policy will not match everyone's personal preference. The Boy Scouts will undoubtedly face challenges; however, Scouting is bigger than this single issue, and good people can disagree and still work together to accomplish great things for youth.

7. The BSA is committed to listening to the Scouting family and engaging in open dialogue.

Some have asserted that the Boy Scout's leaders didn't listen to its Scouting family in this process or are keeping information from voters. Through this process, Scouting embarked on the most comprehensive listening exercise in its history, gathering perspectives from inside and outside of the Scouting family.

Over the course of nearly three months, more than 200,000 BSA members and leaders participated in research. Our review confirmed that this remains among the most complex and challenging issues facing the BSA and society today.

The BSA has been and remains committed to sharing information with voting members and the public throughout this process. To learn more about the BSA's review process and the proposed membership standards resolution, please visit www.bsamembershipstandards.org.

Scouting's vision is to serve every eligible youth in America, and this policy would allow it to serve more kids and focus on their development. The Executive Committee unanimously agreed that this resolution is in the best interest of Scouting. While perspectives and opinions vary significantly, parents, adults in the Scouting community, and teens alike tend to agree that youth should not be denied the benefits of Scouting.