Boy Scouts of America Finally Ends Ban on Gay Leaders, but Atheists Are Still Not Welcome

In 2013, the Boy Scouts of America finally said gay scouts would not be kicked out of the organization, but gay scout leaders were still banned.

Last month, the BSA’s own President, Robert Gates, said the homophobia had to stop or the organization wouldn’t be around much longer.

And today, the organization’s National Executive Board voted to officially end the gay leader ban for good:

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The Boy Scouts’ national executive board, composed of 71 civic, corporate and church leaders, adopted the changes with 79 percent of those who participated in a telephone meeting voting in favor, according to an announcement issued by the Scouts. The announcement did not say how many board members were not present.

To no one’s surprise, the Mormon Church was quick to denounce the decision:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is deeply troubled by today’s vote by the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board,” said a statement issued by the Mormon Church moments after the Scouts announced the new policy.

They’re upset even though the new rules allow religious troops to select their own leaders.

In an effort to avoid the wholesale defection of conservative religious groups, the Boy Scouts said church-based local units would remain free to exclude gay adults from voluntary leadership roles like scoutmasters and Cub Scout den and pack leaders.

So basically, Mormons are mad that gay people will be allowed in the organization at all, even though 70% of local troops have a religious affiliation and don’t have to accept gay leaders.

Bigots gonna bigot.

As much as I hate that the BSA has to compromise on saying no to anti-gay discrimination, they did something activists have been clamoring for for years and deserve credit for it. For years, gay scouts were welcome in the organization unless they committed the cardinal sin of turning 18. At least they can now return to the organization and pass on their wisdom.

All that said, it’s worth pointing out that the BSA still bans openly atheist scouts from joining the organization at any level. The Scouting Oath calls on boys “To do my duty to God and my country” while Scout Law honors “reverence.” If leaders find out you’re an atheist, they can kick you out (and they’ve done just that).

The Freedom From Religion Foundation called out the media for often ignoring this form of bigotry:

Nontheists, in other words, are still at the bottom of the totem poll in terms of social acceptance; so low, indeed, that discrimination against our ranks apparently doesn’t even rate mention anymore.

To be clear, the BSA is a private organization and they can set their own rules. But when the U.S. President serves as the group’s honorary President, and they have a congressional charter as a civic group, and they recruit kids at public schools, there shouldn’t be any religious discrimination happening whatsoever. If they want to keep it up, they have no business getting the support of our government and shouldn’t have access to public schools.

All of this is to say there’s still reason to protest the BSA, even though they took an important step forward today.

(Image via Shutterstock. Portions of this article were published earlier)

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