On this page you will find the transmittal letter to BSA for the June 2001 Resolution, the Resolution, Appendix to Statement Regarding Matters of Sexuality, and the Background and Support for the Resolution on Matters of Sexuality.
April 27, 2001
To: The Resolutions Committee
Boy Scouts of America, National Council
1325 West Walnut Hill Lane
P.O. Box 152079
Irving, Texas, 75015-2079
Atten: Helen Rey
In our individual capacities as members of the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America, we hereby submit the attached resolution for consideration at the Annual Meeting of Boy Scouts of America on June 1, 2001. The first sentence of the resolution may be used as a brief description of its purpose.
Boston Minuteman Council
West Los Angeles County Council
Chicago Area Council
Los Angeles Council
Past Chairman of the Board
Orange County Council, California
Chairman of the Board
Cradle of Liberty Council, Philadelphia
Greater New York Councils
San Francisco Bay Area Council
Viking Council, Minneapolis
RESOLVED, that the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America adopt a policy, substantially in the form set forth below, (i) stating that membership and leadership positions are open to persons regardless of their sexual orientation,
subject to compliance with Scouting's standards of conduct, but (ii) recognizing that in selecting adult leaders, the Chartered Organization will also expect compliance with the requirements of the Chartered Organization for adult leadership positions in programs serving youth.
Boy Scouts of America
Statement Regarding Matters of Sexuality
As reflected in the Scout Oath and Scout Law, the Boy Scouts of America has established high standards of conduct for its members and adult leaders.
Sexual promiscuity, inappropriate sexual behavior, inappropriate discussion of
matters of sexuality, and/or the use of Scouting as a forum for discussion of' or advocacy of particular views with respect to, matters of sexuality are inconsistent with these standards. Overt sexual behavior of any kind is inappropriate in a Scouting activity.
Membership and adult leadership positions in the Boy Scouts of America are open
to persons regardless of their sexual orientation, subject to compliance with Scouting's standards of conduct. The Boy Scouts of America does not inquire about the sexual orientation of its members and adult leaders, nor does it inquire about the sexual orientation of prospective members and adult leaders in the course of recruitment and registration.
The Boy Scouts of America recognizes that in selecting adult leaders, the
Chartered Organization will expect compliance, not only with Scouting's standards of conduct, but also with the requirements of the Chartered Organization for adult leadership positions in programs serving youth.
The Boy Scouts of America also recognizes that Scouts do ask their adult leaders questions regarding matters of sexuality. Consistent with The Scoutmaster
Handbook, an adult leader should react to such questions with understanding and respect but encourage Scouts to look to their parents or guardians, religious leaders and health care providers for guidance in this area. The Scouting program does not provide sex education or counseling.
Questions about sexual orientation can be particularly sensitive and should be
handled in a manner that does not address the issue in terms of morality. If asked about sexual orientation it is reasonable for an adult leader to explain that:
- A Scout should consider the teachings of his religious faith and the beliefs of his parents or guardians in determining his own views on this issue; and
- Regardless of his own views, a Scout should treat all people with respect, regardless of their sexual orientation.
Appendix to Statement Regarding Matters of Sexuality
Set forth below are extracts from various publications of the Boy Scouts of America addressing morality, maintenance of a secure environment for boys, selection of adult leaders by Chartered Organizations, the role of the Scoutmaster in responding to questions regarding sexuality, and related matters.
Extract from the Boy Scout Handbook, 11th Edition, 1998, page 46
The explanation of the Scout Oath includes the following statement:
Morally Straight: To be a person of strong character, your relationships with others
should be honest and open. You should respect and defend the rights of all people. Be clean in your speech and actions, and remain faithful in your religious beliefs. The values you practice as a Scout will help you shape a life of virtue and self-reliance.
Extract from the Scoutmaster Handbook, 7th Edition, 1981, page 102
What you consider moral or immoral depends on your upbringing and background. Moral questions often fail to come out nice and neat. . . Despite the moral contradictions, we cannot let boys go unprepared to face the assorted moral crises that will confront them. They must go prepared-but with what? As evidence of a
boy's ability to act correctly when faced with a moral decision you might look for: 1) Courage about what he believes. Being called "chicken" doesn't divert him from doing what he believes is right or not doing what he believes is wrong. For example he resists the urging of his peers to experiment with smoking, drugs and alcohol; 2) Respecting the rights of others; 3) Compassion for other's feelings and needs; 4)
Acting as if the rights of others matter to him; and 5) Accepting others as equal in worth and dignity.
Extract from the Scoutmaster Handbook, 1998 edition, revised 2000, page 6
Scouting - A Values-Based Program
Scouting offers boys an environment in which everyone can feel secure both physically and emotionally. That sense of security comes from Scoutmasters and other adult leaders
- Setting an example for themselves and others by living the Scout Oath and
Law to the best of their abilities
- Refusing to tolerate name-calling, put-downs, discrimination, or any form of physical aggression.
- Communicating their acceptance of boys by taking a real interest in each Scout.
- Using the Scouting program to create a setting based on learning and fun. They seek the best from each Scout and do all they can to allow him to achieve it.
Extracts from BSA pamphlet II 18-981, 2000, Selecting Quality Leaders
Message to Chartered Organizations
Your organization has joined with the Boy Scouts of America to deliver a program of citizenship training, character development, and personal fitness to young men of
your community. Critical to the success of your Scouting program is the selection of quality leaders who represent the values of the Boy Scouts of America and your organization. The chartered organization has the responsibility for the selection of these individuals.
* * *
Characteristics of Successful Scoutmasters and Coaches [partial list]
- Commitment to the ideals of Scouting
- High moral standards
* * *
Reference Check Guidelines [partial list]
- Ask the reference about the applicant's positive attributes -- why would the individual make a good Scout leader?
- Ask the reference to describe personal observations of the applicant interacting with children.
- Ask if the applicant has any qualities relating to the welfare of children about which the committee should be concerned. Are there any reasons the
reference could explain that the applicant should be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America?
Extract from the Scoutmaster Handbook, 1998 edition, revised 2000, page 132
When it comes to sexual issues, a Scoutmaster's responsibility is the same as for
all other circumstances facing boys - to ensure that the troop is a supportive environment for them both physically and emotionally. Scoutmasters who have established a relationship of trust with troop members and who are willing to listen carefully and compassionately to what boys are saying have the best chance of understanding the Scout's concerns - sexuality included - and the greatest success in providing them with guidance that will have real meaning.
By their own example and through encouragement from others, Scout Leaders can steer Scouts away from vulgar jokes, disrespectful skits, inappropriate literature (which should be destroyed without a "display"), or other forms of negativity that denigrate people based on their gender or sexuality. Such behavior is not in
keeping with the Scout Oath and Law and should not be tolerated in a troop.
Scoutmasters must keep in mind that boys should learn about sex from their parents, guardians, or others empowered by their families to guide them. No Scoutmaster should undertake to teach Scouts, in any formalized manner, about
sexual behavior. If a Scout comes to you with questions of a sexual nature, answer them as honestly as you can and, whenever it is appropriate, encourage him to share his concerns with his parents or guardian, spiritual leader, or a medical expert.
Background and Support for the Resolution on Matters of Sexuality
The U. S. Supreme Court's decision, in June of 2000, to allow the BSA to determine its own fate on the issue of membership and leadership standards can result in a much stronger organization in the long run. The decision did not validate the BSA position of prohibition of homosexuals from membership and adult leadership roles. It did validate the BSA's legal right to take that position if it
chooses to do so. Over the last 20 years a group of dedicated professional and volunteer Scouters at the national leadership level have vigorously defended the right of the organization to interpret its own principles and policies while we have been under attack by activists seeking to have their own viewpoint on the controversial social issues of religion and sexual morality endorsed by the BSA. Those BSA leaders deserve our thanks and commendation for defending our First
Amendment rights successfully, and we can be thankful to the Court for confirming our right to self-determination on these issues.
The challenge we now face is to scrutinize our policies carefully in light of the history of the BSA, its stated mission, its guiding principles and the core values it has
championed so successfully over the last 90 years. Now that the legal right to determine our own membership and leadership standards has been confirmed, we should broaden the discussion among our constituency and our professional and volunteer leadership as to what the best standards and policies are for the future. Many of us believe we should adopt a policy that preserves the right to self-determination on these issues at the sponsoring Chartered Organization and Unit
Committee level. Such a policy would have a broad acceptance among Scouters, parents and the general community without asking any group to personally compromise what they believe to be critical religious and moral issues.
Reading the Opinion of the Court, written by Chief Justice Rehnquist, and the
Dissenting Opinion, 'written by Justice Stevens is very enlightening. The complete opinions can be downloaded from http://supct.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/99-699.ZS.html. Ironically, the arguments of Justice Stevens' Dissenting Opinion are particularly compelling. His analysis of our Boy Scout Handbook, our Scoutmaster's Handbook and the counsel they have always contained, which nowhere includes a
stand, pro or con, on sexual orientation or what religious faith a Scout should adopt is totally consistent with our experience over many years of participation as youth and adult leaders in this organization. While we are grateful for the Court's decision, the argument put forth by our attorneys that homosexuality is inconsistent with the "expressive message" of the BSA does not ring true for many of us. As Justice
Stevens points out, Scouting provides its programs to a wide variety of sponsoring Chartered Organizations with diverse religious viewpoints and differing viewpoints on the morality of homosexuality and the morality of discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Assessing the character and appropriateness of a person to serve as a role model
in an adult leadership position at the Cub Scout Pack, Boy Scout Troop or other Scouting Unit level is the responsibility, primarily, of the Unit Committee and sponsoring Chartered Organization. This is the level at which critical character assessments can best be made. This is the level at which the beliefs of the parents and sponsoring Chartered Organization should continue to be respected as they have been historically.
We have successfully defended the right of Chartered Organizations and Unit Committees to exclude homosexuals from membership and leadership positions in their programs, if they find homosexuality to be necessarily immoral in accordance with their religious beliefs. We should continue to uphold their right to do so. However, we should be equally as adamant in defending the right of Chartered
Organizations and Unit Committees that do not find homosexuality to be necessarily immoral, to accept homosexual members and leaders, subject to compliance with standards of conduct and behavior applicable to all BSA members and leaders.
Prohibitions against sexual misconduct, advocating a homosexual lifestyle, or
condemning a homosexual lifestyle should be maintained just as we maintain a prohibition against advocating a particular religious faith or political position. We should not allow the BSA to be polarized by these issues.
Scouting should be neutral on the issue of sexual orientation just as it is on the
issues of politics and religious preference as indicated in its literature. It should continue to foster tolerance and respect for different points of view and defer to a youth's parents and religious leaders for counseling on these subjects. For many Scouters and parents, the inclusive and ecumenical message implicit in so much of Scouting's literature and outreach programs is a very important reason for
participation in, and support of' the BSA. Although many Scouters support the present interpretation of policy, we believe a majority is waiting for a better interpretation out of respect for the great benefit our programs have always delivered to the youth of our communities. Without a better interpretation, we stand to lose that constituency steadily over time. For many corporations, foundations, the United Way, school districts, and government agencies, our present interpretation
of policy makes continued support for the BSA's traditional programs controversial and difficult. Without a better interpretation, these trends will continue to isolate traditional Scouting and limit its ability to serve more youth.
As a result of discussions among council presidents and council board members
from 9 major metropolitan councils, who share this viewpoint, a recommendation for a policy statement on Matters of Sexuality was submitted in the form of a resolution at the annual meeting of the National Council in Boston on June 1, 2001. The resolution was referred to the Relationships Committee of the National Council for consideration. Discussions of this resolution and other recommendations have taken place and will continue to take place at the national leadership level and the
perspectives and advice of council presidents, as well as council, regional and national board members can also provide helpful input in these deliberations. A copy of the resolution is attached for your consideration. Your opinion, pro or con, should be expressed through e-mail, fax or letter to your council president, regional president and/or our National President, Milt Ward and Chief Scout Executive, Roy Williams with a request that a copy be provided to the Relationships Committee of
the National Council.
Adoption of this resolution would allow us to move forward with our basic mission of serving the youth of our communities in a more positive way. It would be consistent with the BSA's historic emphasis on inclusion of minorities and deference to a Scout's parents and religious leaders on such issues. It would not require anyone to
compromise his or her personal convictions about homosexuality or discrimination based on sexual orientation. If we move quickly to adopt this interpretation we can strengthen the broad base of support for traditional Scouting. Without such action, polarization will continue to do irreparable harm to the BSA.
The suggestions offered for your consideration here are made in a spirit of support
and concern for the future of traditional Scouting. We would sincerely appreciate hearing the viewpoint of others within the organization on this subject. We look forward to participating in the development of better interpretations of policies for the future, and are grateful for the right, that our national leadership has defended and the Court has upheld, to develop those interpretations. The more quickly we do this the stronger the BSA will be.