New Boy Scouts of America Policy Could Allow Gay Scouts, While Still Banning Gay Scout Leaders and Atheists

Yesterday, the Boy Scouts of America announced a proposal that would finally allow the inclusion of gay scouts. But gay scout leaders would still be banned. (And forget about atheist scouts altogether.)

“While perspectives and opinions vary significantly, parents, adults in the scouting community, and teens alike tend to agree that youth should not be denied the benefits of scouting,” the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) said in a statement on Friday.

“For this reason, the executive committee, on behalf of the national executive board, wrote a resolution for consideration that would remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone and would maintain the current membership policy for all adult leaders of the Boy Scouts of America.

It’s a *huge* baby step forward. It’s like they were saying, “We’ve decided we’re only going to be kinda homophobic.”

As one reader remarked on Twitter: “And remember, gay Scouts, don’t expect to be able to pass on what you have learned from Scouting when you grow up.”

GLAAD wasn’t pleased with the halfhearted change either:

“By refusing to consider an end to its ban on gay and lesbian parents, the Boy Scouts have missed an opportunity to exercise leadership and usher the organization back to relevancy,” Rich Ferraro, vice president of communications at GLAAD, said in a statement. “We’re living in a culture where, until every young person’s family is treated equally and able to contribute, the Boy Scouts will continue to see a decline in both membership and donations.”

American Atheists supports the policy change but calls for even more inclusion:

American Atheists applauds the national Boy Scouts of America (BSA) decision to vote on whether to lift the ban on gay participants, but calls for the organization to also retract its ban against nontheists.

“We’re pleased that the Boy Scouts of America is stepping into the 21st century,” said American Atheists President David Silverman. “This is a step in the right direction. But the organization’s leaders still continue to discriminate not only against gay leaders, but against atheists, too. Just because our children don’t profess a god belief doesn’t mean they can’t be good Scouts. This organization is only hurting the children. That’s not right. It’s discrimination; it’s bigotry, plain and simple. It’s time to end this once and for all.”

“The Scouts are losing privileges such as public accommodations and corporate support because of this discrimination. If the BSA continues to exclude atheists, American Atheists will fight to ensure BSA does not get these privileges back. We call upon the gay community to support our inclusion as we have worked and continue to fight for its inclusion,” Silverman said.

“If the Boy Scouts is going to determine membership qualifications by vote, we ask for a survey about children of nonbelievers,” said Dave Muscato, Public Relations Director. “We think it’s wrong to label children by religious views since we believe all people can be good without gods.”

The policy still has to be voted on in May in order to take effect. You would hope the BSA leaders at least have the courage to stand up to the bigots and support this bare-bones policy change, but considering that it took them this long just to suggest gay scouts should be treated the same as straight ones, forgive me for being pessimistic.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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