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Conservatives Slam Boy Scouts Leader's Comments on Gay Adults

Image: Conservatives Slam Boy Scouts Leader's Comments on Gay Adults
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By    |   Thursday, 21 May 2015 09:52 PM

Conservative and religious organizations Thursday blasted Boy Scouts of America President Robert Gates for calling for an end to the group's ban on gay adults, with an official of the Southern Baptist Convention telling Newsmax that it was "an incremental step" toward full Scout participation by homosexuals.

"We are disappointed, but we're not surprised," said Roger Oldham, a vice president of the SBC, which represents the nation's largest Protestant denomination. "The Boy Scouts telegraphed two years ago that this was their end-game goal, and the compromise they reached two years ago ended up being the first step toward where they really were heading all along."

John Stemberger, chairman of the Trail Life USA, said the Florida-based group was "saddened by the announcement regarding the anticipated membership change in Boy Scouts of America, as many families and boys will be negatively affected by this departure from their own long-standing principles.

"It is tragic that the BSA is willing to risk the safety and security of its boys because of peer pressure from activist groups," Stemberger added. "Trail Life USA remains committed to timeless Christian values."

Trail Life has 23,000 members in hundreds of chapters in 48 states. It was founded in 2013 by former Boy Scout members who left after the Scouts lifted its gay ban on youths that year.

In a speech at the Boy Scouts national annual meeting in Atlanta, Gates said that the group's ban on gay adults could not be sustained.

"We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be," he said. "The status quo in our movement's membership standards cannot be sustained."

Gates was named to the BSA post in May 2014, served as U.S. secretary of defense, and helped end the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that barred gays from serving in the military.

He said that no change in the policy would be made at the national meeting, raising the possibility of later revising the policy so that local Scout organizations could decide on their own whether to allow gays as adult volunteers and paid staff.

The Scouts agreed to allow openly gay youth as Scouts, but not gay adults as leaders, in 2013 after a bitter internal debate. The change took effect in January 2014. The organization is based in Irving, Texas.

He noted last month's announcement by the BSA's New York City chapter that it had hired the nation's first openly gay Eagle Scout as a summer camp leader. He also cited broader developments related to gay rights.

"I remind you of the recent debates we have seen in places like Indiana and Arkansas over discrimination based on sexual orientation, not to mention the impending U.S. Supreme Court decision this summer on gay marriage," Gates said.

The organization technically could revoke the charters of councils that defied the ban on gay adults, but the BSA president said this would be harmful to boys in those regions.

Gates' comments came as a Gallup poll reported Thursday that surveys showed that Americans estimate one in five people — or 23 percent — as being gay or lesbian.

The figure is slightly lower than the 25 percent estimate in 2011 — but it remains many times higher than the 3.8 percent of adults who identified themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender in Gallup's daily tracking polls in the first months of this year.

The SBC opposed the Scouts' decision on gay youth in 2013. Southern Baptists are the world's biggest Baptist denomination, with 46,125 churches and more than 15.7 million members.

The convention, founded in 1845, is based in Nashville, Tennessee.

"At the time that this all happened, many Baptist pastors and other Baptist leaders were thinking it would be a one-to-two-year process before this next step was taken — and we're right at the two-year mark," Oldham told Newsmax.

That Gates did not push for a policy change at the national meeting, nor call for revoking charters of noncompliant councils, was insightful, he said.

"Actually, he's encouraging the national board to look the other way when local chapters defy the ban on having adult leaders who are openly homosexual to provide leadership in local chapters," Oldham said.

"He probably is concerned that if he tried to go the full length of the field on one play, that he might not be able to get all the way to the goal line. But by taking it in incrementally, he'll be inexorably leading the Boy Scouts toward the direction that they set into motion two years ago.

"A lot of times when people are wanting to turn society around 180 degrees, they find it's easier to do it 10, 15, or 20 degrees at a time, to let people get accustomed to that shift," Oldham continued. "And then, they'll turn it another 10 or 15 or 20 degrees — and eventually they made the full 180 and try to minimize the full brunt of any possible backlash by taking it in incremental steps."

The SBC has left decisions about Boy Scout participation to its individual member churches, Oldham said.

"Each church is independent, so it makes its own decisions about its relationship with specific organizations in the community, but we encourage churches to carefully weigh in and evaluate how this decision would impact their ability to continue working with the Boy Scouts.

"The Boy Scouts' numbers have dropped over the two years since" the 2013 decision, he said. "We predicted they would, that there would be attrition over time — and that has taken place.

"We would just predict that the same course that they've already set into motion would continue."

According to its most recent annual report, the Boy Scouts had 2.6 million youths in 288 local councils in 2013. That compared with 2.7 million Scouts in 291 councils the previous year.

"Two years ago, I said we grieved that the Scouts had planted a seed of their own eventual destruction, and I said then that it won't happen overnight, but the course has been set," Oldham told Newsmax. "This is just a continuation of that course."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Conservative and religious organizations Thursday blasted Boy Scouts of America President Robert Gates for calling for an end to the group's ban on gay adults, with an official of the Southern Baptist Convention telling Newsmax that it was an incremental step "toward full...
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