by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
The Boy Scouts of America reaffirmed its controversial anti-Gay policies in a statement to media on July 17.
According to BSA spokesperson Deron Smith, an 11-member special committee formed in secret by top Scout leaders in 2010 'came to the conclusion that this policy is absolutely the best policy for the Boy Scouts.'
Smith added that the committee, comprising professional Scout executives and adult volunteers, was unanimous in its conclusion.
Chief Scout Executive Bob Mazzuca said the organization's anti-Gay policy represented the views of most Scout families.
'The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers, and at the appropriate time and in the right setting,' Mazzuca said.
'We fully understand that no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society.'
The decision was an embarrassment to at least two prominent BSA board members who said they wanted a more inclusive policy. AT&T chair Randall Stephenson, who has been selected to take over as BSA president in 2014, and Ernst & Young CEO James Turley both support a change in the group's longstanding anti-Gay rules.
'My experience has led me to believe that an inclusive environment is important throughout our society and I am proud to be a leader on this issue,' Turley said in June.
'I support the meaningful work of the Boy Scouts in preparing young people for adventure, leadership, learning, and service. However, the membership policy is not one I would personally endorse.'
In a statement, the BSA executive committee acknowledged dissent among board members.
'Scouting believes that good people can personally disagree on this topic and still work together to achieve the life-changing benefits to youth through Scouting. While not all board members may personally agree with this policy, and may choose a different direction for their own organizations, BSA leadership agrees this is the best policy for the organization.'
Zach Wahls, a former Eagle Scout and son of an Iowa Lesbian couple who has emerged as a leading spokesperson for LGBT rights, said he was disappointed in the BSA leadership.
'What is most disappointing about today's announcement is the secretive nature surrounding how this conclusion was reached,' Wahls wrote to BuzzFeed blog.
'The very first value of the Scout Law is that a Scout is trustworthy. There is absolutely nothing trustworthy about unelected and unnamed committee members who are unwilling to take responsibility for their actions.'
Wahls said that the religious values that the Scouts claim to uphold should favor inclusion.
'In the Boy Scouts, I learned about the importance of religious respect. I learned and grew alongside Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Hindus,' he said. 'Regardless of your thoughts on homosexuality, surely we can agree that Gay people who serve our troops and communities deserve our respect and gratitude.'
Jennifer Tyrrell, an Ohio Lesbian ousted from her position as her son's Cub Scout den mother, posted a petition on Change.org urging the BSA to change its policy. She wrote to BuzzFeed that 'a secret committee of 11 people can't ignore the hundreds of thousands of people around the country - including thousands of Eagle Scouts, Scout families, and former Scouts - that want the ban on Gay Scouts and Scout leaders removed.'
Tyrrell told reporters she is on her way to Dallas to deliver more than 300,000 petitions to the BSA headquarters.
'This campaign doesn't stop, and we will continue to show the Boy Scouts that discrimination and intolerance have no place in Scouting,' she said.
Smith told the Associated Press that BSA officials would accept Tyrrell's petition but did not plan to discuss the policy further.
Not all LGBT rights advocates were as optimistic as Tyrrell about the prospects for change in BSA policies. Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out, which tracks anti-Gay religious activity, blamed the Christian right.
The Boy Scouts, he said, 'are influenced heavily by the Latter Day Saints church and Southern Baptists. Until the influence of these groups wanes, a new policy is doubtful, if not wishful thinking.'
'This is a missed opportunity of colossal proportions,' HRC president Chad Griffin said.
'With the country moving toward inclusion, the leaders of the Boy Scouts of America have instead sent a message to young people that only some of them are valued. These adults could have taught the next generation of leaders the value of respect, yet they've chosen to teach division and intolerance.'
'Clinging to a policy of exclusion and intolerance is hardly a good lesson for our young people,' NGLTF Deputy Executive Director Darlene Nipper said in a statement.
'Once again, officials of the Boy Scouts of America have turned their backs on a chance to demonstrate fairness, exercise sound judgment, and serve as a role model for valuing others, free of bias and prejudice. This is deeply disappointing. Discrimination is never the right policy, period.'
On the other hand, the Family Research Council, an anti-Gay group, congratulated the BSA on its decision.
'They deserve a major pat on the back,' the FRC said in a statement. 'They have defied the winds of political correctness and have said 'no' to a culture that wants us to accept as normative a pattern of sexual behavior which clearly violates God's intended design for men and women.'
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