The Boy Scouts of America is part of the fabric of this nation. Our focus is on working together to deliver the nation's foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training. Somehow, Scouting has become one of the focal points in the debate on homosexuality. However, it is not the role of the Boy Scouts to resolve this complex issue, nor can the decision we will make today.
In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled that the BSA has the right to set its membership standards. It is worth noting that the court's decision was not about whether homosexuality is right or wrong; rather, it affirmed that private organizations have the right to set membership rules based on their beliefs and values.
At the BSA's National Annual Meeting today, the 1,400 voting members of our National Council will vote on a proposed resolution that would end the restriction on gay youth membership. That's the right decision for Boy Scouts.
Duty to God
Today's proposed resolution reaffirms our core belief in doing one's "duty to God." It would remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone and would maintain the current membership policy for all adult leaders. Further, the resolution reinforces that Scouting is a youth program, and that any sexual conduct, heterosexual or homosexual, is contrary to the virtues of Scouting. It also prohibits the use of the organization to promote or advance any social or political positions or agendas.
While some people wish the proposed resolution would go further, it was clear from our listening phase that changing adult standards would have conflicted with the majority of our partners, 70% of which are religious organizations, and would have disrupted our ability to deliver Scouting. Conversely, some have asserted that the proposed change for youth runs counter to the 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. We reviewed a variety of policy options and concluded this option would provide kids a place to belong while they learn and grow.
About the kids
The change to the Boy Scouts of America's membership policy is not the result of pressure from outside; it is the result of extensive dialogue within the Scouting family. Parents, adults in the Scouting community and teens alike tend to agree that youth should not be denied the benefits of Scouting. The resolution is not about adults; it is about what is best for young people.
Some have voiced concerns that this proposal could put children at risk of being abused. The BSA makes no connection between sexual abuse and homosexuality. The nation's leading experts agree. The BSA has stringent polices that protect the safety and privacy of youth and has always worked to ensure that it is a supportive and safe environment.
The BSA's executive committee unanimously presented this resolution because it stays true to Scouting's mission and remains focused on kids. No matter what your opinion is on this issue, America needs Scouting, and our policies must be based on what is in the best interest of our nation's children.
Wayne Perry is the president of the Boy Scouts of America.
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