Recent speculation over a Boy Scouts of America (BSA) proposal to end the blanket ban on gay scouts and leaders have led some observers to wonder about the future of Catholic scouting programs.
The Washington Blade reported on a statement released by the Boy Scouts of America about their consideration of ending a policy excluding gay individuals from joining the organization. There is currently a period of public comment so nothing has been approved yet, but the statement speaks to likely changes:
“Possibly in anticipation of strong opposition by conservative and religious groups, the BSA emphasized in its own statement that the change would allow local units to decide whether or not to admit gays.
“‘The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a policy to units, members, or parents…Under this proposed policy, the BSA would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization’s mission, principles or religious beliefs.’
“The BSA website says more than 100,000 scouting units are owned and operated by independent chartered organizations.”
Among these 100,000 units, nearly seventy percent are sponsored by faith-based organizations, including ten percent by the Catholic Church.
The American bishops supported the BSA’s decision to affirm the anti-gay policy last year, but no statement has been released by them in this recent controversy. The Huffington Post covered comments by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ spokesperson, Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, who said:
“The bishops hope the Boy Scouts will continue to work under the Judeo-Christian principles upon which they were founded and under which they have served youth well.”
David Gibson of Religion News Service questions the viability of Catholic involvement in the BSA if gay scouts and adult leaders gain broad acceptance. While no official statement by Catholic leaders lays out their position, past actions in scouting controversies do not inspire hope. Gibson is not positive in his assessment when coupled with recent actions of the bishops against the Girl Scouts as well:
“[Ending the ban on gay scouts] would effectively put an end to Catholic-sponsored scout troops…
“The Girl Scouts are already in the Catholic dock over charges (or an “urban legend,” some say) that their cookies support contraception and abortion programs. (Catholics make up a quarter of the nation’s 3 million Girl Scouts.)
“Is this the end of Catholic scouting? Or are there alternatives?”
Not all view a pro-LGBT decision by the BSA as the end to church-based scouting, with blogger Tim MacGeorge questioning “Which Catholic parish will be first to welcome Gay Scouts?” on his site, Image and Likeness. where he ponders what parishes will do if the Scouts lift their ban:
“. . . I pray that there will be one Catholic parish somewhere in these United States that will have the faith, the courage, and the decency to do the right thing. I pray that there will be one courageous pastor who will lead his parish in making a decision that puts them ‘on the right side of history,’ and allows the scout troop under their auspices to accept openly gay scouts and leaders.
“Hopefully Sister Mary Ann and the bishops for whom she works will one day learn that exclusion of people because of who they are as God made them to be is not really a ‘Judeo-Christian principle.’”
With this issue so unknown, we want to know what Bondings 2.0 readers think. Will the Boy Scouts allow openly gay scouts and leaders? If they do, will this signal an end to Catholic scouting or open a new chapter of inclusiveness? Leave a comment below.