A Letter to National Voting Members
April 19, 2013
Dear National Voting Member:
Thank you for your service as a voting member of the National Council. Enclosed in this email is a resolution proposing that the Boy Scouts of America amend its membership standards policy so no youth can be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone, while maintaining the current membership policy for all adult leaders of the Boy Scouts of America.
For 103 years, the Boy Scouts of America's focus has been on working together to deliver the nation's foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training. Today, Scouting represents approximately 2.6 million youth and 1 million adult members across the nation, with diverse beliefs about a number of important issues.
Recently within the Scouting family, there has been significant discussion about the BSA's membership policy regarding sexual orientation, including requests to engage in dialogue about the current BSA policy.
Scouting's current membership requirements are:
The applicant must possess the moral, educational, and emotional qualities that the Boy Scouts of America deems necessary to afford positive leadership to youth. The applicant must also be the correct age, subscribe to the precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle, and abide by the Scout Oath or Promise, and the Scout Law.
While the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.
The Supreme Court of the United States, in the case of Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, 530 U.S. 640 (2000), recognized the First Amendment right of the BSA to select its leaders and members based upon the assertion by the BSA that homosexual activity was inconsistent with the Scout Oath and Law.
Even after the favorable Supreme Court decision, challenges and funding restrictions did arise in some parts of the country. Several high-profile issues throughout the years have created calls for a reexamination of the membership standards from BSA members, alumni, local councils, longstanding chartered organizations, and traditional supporters.
In 2012, the BSA announced findings from a two-year review of the policy—conducted by a committee convened by the Chief Scout Executive and the national president—to engage in meaningful review of the membership policy among Scouting families and other parents to determine whether continuing the policy was in the best interest of the Boy Scouts of America.
The committee decided that, at that time, it was in the best interest of the organization to maintain the policy. This finding was announced to the National Executive Board at its February 2012 meeting and publicly announced in July 2012.
The decision to maintain the policy began an even deeper dialogue within Scouting. Out of respect for Scouting's chartered organizations, the National Executive Board spearheaded discussions about the issue.
This created an outpouring of feedback from the American public, from both those who agree with the current policy and those who support a change. This feedback reinforced how deeply people care about Scouting and how passionate they are about the organization.
To continue and expand this important discussion, in February 2013 the Executive Committee directed its committees, representative of Scouting's members, to further engage a wide range of Scouting's family and listen to their perspectives and concerns.
The BSA has engaged in an internal dialogue by hosting informative town hall–style meetings at more than 250 local councils across the nation, discussed the concerns with nonprofit and youth-serving organizations' executive leaders and with private and corporate donors, and engaged experts in the fields of youth protection and safety. Also, Scouting interacted with chartered organization representatives, leaders, parents, and members of alumni organizations through a survey sent to 1.1 million members of the Scouting family, and collected feedback through a national survey of parents and a Harris Interactive Survey of the nation's youth.
After carefully reviewing this thoughtful work, the officers of the BSA are pleased to present this resolution to you for your consideration. We believe the BSA can no longer sacrifice its mission, or the youth served by the movement, by allowing the organization to be consumed by a single, controversial, and unresolved societal issue.
America needs Scouting, and our policies must be based on what is in the best interest of our kids. We believe good people can disagree and still work together to accomplish great things for youth. Going forward, we will work to stay focused on that which unites us. Thank you for being a part of this discussion and for staying engaged and continuing your role in Scouting. The kids in your community need you.
On behalf of the National Executive Committee