TO: Scout Executives, Area Directors, Regional Directors, CSE
RE: Moving Forward – Addressing Misinformation Regarding Membership
We are aware that some non-Scouting organizations are attempting to gain publicity by creating controversy over the BSA’s new policy. Understanding this, we agree that it will be helpful for your volunteers and staffs to be able to clearly define the BSA’s policies and articulate the organization’s position as they talk with chartered organizations and parents. Messages in this memo should help.
Since the BSA’s National Annual Meeting in May, where the volunteer voting members of the National Council approved a resolution to remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone, some have taken this action to mean the BSA has made a fundamental shift in values. Nothing could be further from the truth. Scouting maintains the core values found in the Scout Oath and Scout Law. In short, the forthcoming change in policy simply allows more youth to benefit from Scouting.
The adult membership policy, which remains unchanged, states: “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 youth membership policy, which becomes effective Jan. 1, 2014, states: “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.”
While it can certainly be frustrating to hear naysayers misrepresent and criticize our great movement, it’s important to stay focused on the positive and not engage in debates of any kind when you hear supporters and detractors discuss Scouting. In conversations with Scouting audiences, verbally share that they should keep in mind that very little about Scouting has changed, including:
- The mission of the Boy Scouts of America remains the same, “to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.”
- As it always has, the BSA handbook defines morally straight as, “Scouts should be clean in speech and actions and faithful in religious beliefs,” and a clean Scout as “someone who keeps his body and mind fit, chooses friends who also live by high standards, and helps keep his home and community clean.”
- Any sexual conduct, whether homosexual or heterosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting. And, 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.
While some desire to use this opportunity to divide Scouts and Scouters for their own gain, the only change in BSA policy is that a youth member simply stating he or she is attracted to the same sex, but not engaging in sexual activity, does not make him or her ineligible for membership. Also, please keep in mind that BSA does not require any person to change their personal religious beliefs or convictions, and only asks its volunteer leaders to treat members the way they would want to be treated, and that is with respect, kindness, and dignity. This is true even when the subject matter may be difficult and sensitive.
The BSA is the same great youth organization it has always been, working with a variety of faith based and community organizations to serve youth and families.
Ultimately, we believe that focusing on this single issue, on which some may not agree, rather than on the many benefits on which we do agree is detrimental to serving the youth of this nation. Therefore, the BSA is focused on its mission and helping to accomplish great things for America’s youth. That said, we encourage you to use this memo to address any questions about the BSA or its policies.
For over 103 years Scouting has provided outdoor adventures and character development opportunities for America’s youth. Today, Scouting is proud of its legacy of youth development and the unique opportunities it provides young people and their families. While people have different opinions about one of the BSA’s policies, they all agree that kids are better off when they are in Scouting.
Thank you for all you do for Scouting and for the youth in your community.