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Robin O'Neal holds a sign during a prayer vigil at the Boy Scouts of America headquarters in Irving, Texas, on Feb. 6. The Boy Scouts of America have delayed until May a vote on whether to end a controversial ban on gay members.

“Bob is 15 years old, and the only openly gay Scout in a Boy Scout troop. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for the troop leader to allow Bob to tent with a heterosexual boy on an overnight camping trip?”

“Tom started in the program as a Tiger Cub, and finished every requirement for the Eagle Scout Award at 16 years of age. At his board of review Tom reveals that he is gay. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for the review board to deny his Eagle Scout award based on that admission?”  

These are some of the questions on a survey being conducted by the Boy Scouts of America as the private youth organization prepares to decide whether it should end its controversial policy banning gay Scouts and leaders. The Boy Scouts intends to make a decision in late May on the ban, which has roiled the organization in recent years.

More than 1.4 million surveys have been emailed to registered volunteers, parents of Scouts and alumni. The questionnaires were part of a biannual survey, “The Voice of the Scout Survey,” that the BSA conducts of leaders, parents and youth over 14 years old. But this time, the BSA used the survey to add questions about the policy banning gays (those questions went only to adults).

BSA spokesman Deron Smith, who provided the questions on the survey to NBC News, said in an email that “the BSA is committed to dialogue on the topic of its membership standards policy, within the Scouting family at the local and national levels.” The group was in the listening phase, which included the survey of key stakeholders, he added. 

The Boy Scouts’ policy has increasingly been a sore spot for the organization over the last year, following the dismissal of a den leader because she is a lesbian and the denial of the Eagle Scout rank to a California teen because he is gay. Some of the questions on the survey provide similar scenarios and ask respondents how acceptable or unacceptable these situations are.

When the BSA announced in late January that it may ditch the national policy and instead let local sponsoring organizations decide if gays can join, the organization received a flood of responses from both sides. It then decided to push a decision to May, when some 1,400 members of Scouting's National Council will vote on a resolution the Boy Scouts' officers are crafting on the policy. The survey results will be shared with those officers, Smith said.

On July 27, the Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) changed its adult membership standards. According to the resolution, “No adult applicant for registration as an employee or non-unit-serving volunteer, who otherwise meets the requirements of the Boy Scouts of America, may be denied registration on the basis of sexual orientation.” Previously, the same policy applied to all youth members as a result of a policy change in 2013.

We recognize that existing standards for adult leaders are still the foundation of scouting including the adherence to the Scout Oath and Scout Law, the Declaration of Religious Principle, and the highest level of good conduct consistent with scouting’s “codes of conduct.”

The new policy will not change the process for selecting Scout leaders. The decision of who will lead a unit (Cub Scout pack, Boy Scout troop, or Venturing crew) chartered by a United Methodist Church still resides with the local church. Local churches will continue to select and approve Scout leaders based on the church’s Christian convictions and the evaluation of the character and skills of potential Scout leaders.

As part of the current charter agreement, the local church is protected by general liability insurance for its board, officers, and volunteers related to authorized scouting activities. As related in the resolution:

“The Boy Scouts of America will defend and indemnify to the fullest extent allowed by law any bona fide religious chartered organization against any claim or action contending that the chartered organization’s good faith refusal to select a unit leader based upon the religious principles of the chartered organization is in violation of the law.”

All Scout volunteers, regardless of their sexual orientation, are required to take and follow principles of the BSA Youth Protection Training. Any Scout leader found in violation of any of these principles is subject to immediate dismissal.

Within the current annual charter agreement signed by a local church and a local BSA council, the BSA agrees to fulfill an array of duties including, training Scout leaders, providing program resources, developing professional and support services, providing youth-protection training and conducting criminal background checks on leaders.

The Office of Civic Youth-Serving Agencies/Scouting, GCUMM, has enjoyed partnerships with four civic youth agencies for many years, including the Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of the USA, Camp Fire and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.

WHEREAS, it is the mission of the Boy Scouts of America to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Scout Law:

On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
And to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
Mentally awake, and morally straight.

WHEREAS, the Scout Oath begins with duty to God and the Scout Law ends with a Scout's obligation to be reverent, and that will always remain a core value of the Boy Scouts of America, and the values set forth in the Scout Oath and Law are fundamental to the BSA and central to teaching young people to make better choices over their lifetimes; and

WHEREAS, the vision of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare every eligible youth in America to become a responsible, participating citizen and leader who is guided by the Scout Oath and Scout Law; and

WHEREAS, for more than 103 years, programs of the Boy Scouts of America have been delivered to youth members through cooperation with chartered organizations that select adult leaders who meet the organization's standards as well as the leadership standards of the Boy Scouts of America; and

WHEREAS, numerous independent experts have recognized that the programs protecting Scouts today, which include effective screening, education and training, and clear policies to protect youth and provide for their privacy, are among the best in the youth-serving community; and

The applicant must possess the moral, educational, and emotional qualities that the Boy Scouts of America deems necessary to afford positive leadership to youth. The applicant must also be the correct age, subscribe to the precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle (duty to God), and abide by the Scout Oath and the Scout Law.

While the BSA does not proactively inquire about sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.

The Rev. Matthew Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, listens to debate during the 65th Regular Convention of the LCMS on Wednesday, July 24, 2013, at America's Center in downtown St. Louis. Photo by Erik M. Lunsford elunsford@post-dispatch.com

The Rev. Matthew Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, listens to debate during the 65th Regular Convention of the LCMS on Wednesday, July 24, 2013, at America's Center in downtown St. Louis. Photo by Erik M. Lunsford elunsford@post-dispatch.com

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the St. Louis-based organization with 6,200 congregations in the U.S. and Canada, will honor a decision by the Boy Scouts of America to allow gay members, but with a key caveat.

Matthew Harrison, president of the synod, issued a statement Monday afternoon saying the church had signed an agreement with Scouting that would allow it to remove from troops boys who are “advocating for a moral view that is inconsistent with the church.”

The Memorandum of Understanding between the church and Boy Scouts stipulates that no Boy Scout authority “supersedes the authority of the local pastor,” who as part of the agreement is authorized “to enforce set boundaries up to and including removal (of boys) from the troop.”

He said sexuality wasn’t an issue in Scouting until the Boy Scouts of American made it one. “But we think the church can still be active in the Boy Scouts. The church does not exclude people based on their sexuality.”

In a letter to members of the church, Harrison said the process of deliberating the issue had spanned months. His letter offers a tepid take on the importance of Scouting to the church, pointing out that the church has historically neither encouraged nor discouraged participation by churches. In the same letter, Harrison mentions the organization Trail Life USA, a conservative alternative to Boy Scouts.

“It cannot be emphasized enough that congregations desiring to participate in Scouting should do so only after careful consideration and with a commitment to provide guidance and direction for the troop,” Harrison states. “Congregations that have little to no involvement with their Scouting troop should consider their reason for remaining involved.”

The council, which represents more than 14,000 local Scouts, is calling for a policy that would include gay Scout leaders as well as gay Scouts. The resolution to allow homosexual Scouts will be voted on this month by the 285 Boy Scout Councils across the country.

The vote will decide whether the Boy Scouts of America will admit gay youths or no gays at all. The current national policy excluding openly gay adults from BSA leadership is not addressed in the resolution and would remain unchanged.

The WLACC proposes amending the document to read: "No youth or adult shall be denied membership or a position in the Boys Scouts, whether as a leader, volunteer, or staff member, solely on the basis of their sexual orientation or preference."

Gates, a former Eagle Scout who has earned the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award and been inducted to the Order of the Arrow, the group’s national honor society, assumed his position at the helm of the Boy Scouts of America in 2014. He previously served as secretary of defense for both President George W. Bush and Barack Obama, overseeing the military’s transition after “don’t ask, don’t tell” was repealed in 2010.

In 2013 more than 60 percent of Boy Scout leaders across the country voted to institute a policy that no children could be denied membership based on their sexual orientation. The group did not, however, change its policy on gay group leaders at the time.

“It seems like the Boy Scouts will continue an internal dialogue about the subject and that a change within the next year or two is imminent,” said a statement from Zach Wahls, the executive director of Scouts for Equality, an organization that has advocated pro-LGBT changes at the BSA.

The Utah National Parks Council is ordering all scout leaders to be up-to-date on its Youth Protection Training, or they will not be allowed in the organization. Scout troop charters will not be renewed unless the training is completed.

The Youth Protection Training is given to every adult in scouting, covering topics like child abuse, bullying and sexual predation. It includes recognizing signs of abuse, reporting it and preventing it. The Utah National Parks Council said it offers the training through classes, a DVD and online.

While the national organization, Boy Scouts of America, has required Youth Protection Training for adult leaders every two years, the Utah National Parks Council is encouraging its people to take the training every year.

The Utah National Parks Council is made up of 89,000 youth and 5,000 units of Cub and Boy Scout troops -- mostly in wards of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Gailey said as much as 10-percent of the scout units are not current with their training.

The Boy Scouts of America has faced lawsuits in the past over allegations of sexual abuse. The Utah National Parks Council said it is not currently facing any accusations or legal troubles, but wanted to ensure a greater compliance with the policy. The move has gotten the attention of other scouting organizations across the western United States, Gailey said.

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The National Council of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) will vote on Thursday, May 23, 2013, on whether to end discrimination against youth based on their sexual orientation.  During the past few months, there have been many strong opinions expressed in opposition to changing this policy. But I am happy to report that there have also been many voices from across America that have ardently supported ending the discrimination.   This includes people of different denominations and faiths -- Catholics, Methodists, Lutherans, United Church of Christ (UCC), Jews, and most recently, the Latter-day Saints.  Leaders in both the public and private sector have come out to support ending BSA’s discriminatory policy.

National polls have consistently shown that America supports ending discrimination in Boy Scouts.  During their campaigns last year, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney supported ending discrimination in BSA’s membership policies.  BSA’s leadership needs to hear from us this week that we support the proposed resolution to end the ban on gay, bisexual and questioning youth, as a first step to ending discrimination in the BSA programs.   

We urge every church to contact their local Boy Scout Council and if you have a past or present affiliation with Boy Scout, please identify your affiliation to the Council staff member (alumni, formerly registered volunteer, currently registered member or volunteer, member of charter partner).

You can find your local scout council at:  https://beascout.scouting.org/   From this page, choose one of the colored tabs (e.g., cub scouts, boy scouts, venturers and sea scouts, or volunteers), and then enter your zip code.  The website will give the local council name and phone number on the right side of the map.

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Publically demonstrate the strong faith based support for inclusion by helping the Facebook page, People of Faith for Gay Scouts and Scout Leaders , get to 10,000 "Likes" by Monday.  Please "Like" the page and share the page with your frie nds and networks, urging them to like it, too.

The Boy Scouts of America has helped shape the lives of American youth for the past century, and its positive influence is needed today more than ever. One in three children in our country lives apart from his or her father; in 1960, this statistic was approximately one in 10 . Studies show that by the age of 21, the average American will have spent 10,000 hours indoors playing video games — mostly alone. And a daily scan of the newspaper provides countless examples of people not working together to solve our country's challenges.

Scouting addresses all these problems. It provides positive role models, instills values, gets kids outdoors and fosters an appreciation of the natural beauty that surrounds us. It teaches leadership, teamwork and the power of an optimistic outlook. Scouting prepares kids to be adults. But those of us involved in Scouting need to make an important change to ensure our ability to continue to fulfill our mission. We need the Boy Scouts to serve all youth and include all leaders, irrespective of their sexual orientation. The Boy Scouts must evolve as America has.

For the past 13 years , the Boy Scouts has been entangled in controversy over this issue. I'm hopeful, though, that the conversation has shifted in the past few months. The BSA's recent decision to vote on welcoming gay Scouts is a great step in the right direction. But I'm disappointed that we're not also being given the opportunity to vote to allow gay Scout leaders.

Now is the time for a new path forward. We will vote on whether to change our policy, as it relates to youth, in Dallas on Thursday . Unlike other significant issues the organization has confronted, this issue will be decided by the 1,400 representatives who make up the national council. The voting members come from local councils in cities like yours.

So I'm asking for your help. If you have been involved with the Boy Scouts or care about Scouting and this issue, please call your local council and let them know that you support a "yes" vote to welcome gay Scouts into the program, and that you would like to see the Boy Scouts include gay Scout leaders as well. Failure to change would be a disservice to our youth.

The table below includes the publication and SKU numbers and copyright dates for a number of handbooks and other publications of general use by Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts and their Leaders and Advisors, and those Venturers working on Boy Scout Advancements. 

The information in the table below reflects publications available as of January, 2016. When the publication is available for download from BSA's web site, you may click on the publication name in the table.

First, some background. From 1998 until 2004, I was a proud member of BSA Troop 199 in Oldwick, New Jersey. I made a lot of friends and even acquired a few mentors during my time in the scouts. One of my proudest accomplishments in my 26 years was attaining the rank of Eagle Scout in October 2004. I remember the ceremony as if it was just yesterday. It was a lot of hard work, but it was more than worth it.

I am still in touch with several of my fellow Eagle Scouts (some of whom just might be reading this right now!) And man do we have a strong opinion on what is happening to the program we were privileged to be a part of during our teenage years.

I should also mention (proudly) that I am a theologically and culturally conservative Christian who after attending a more moderate church for 15 years was saved earlier this year after attending an Independent Baptist church for two weeks. I am proud to call Sun Valley Baptist Church in Anthem, Arizona my new home church.

The reason why I am specific in terms of what kind of Christian I am is because sadly, a LOT of Christianity has been watered down in America. Whole denominations are indifferent to traditional marriage, “social justice,” the increasing usurpation of our God-given liberties under multiple recent administrations, and even abortion.

When it comes to marriage, I subscribe strictly to its biblical definition. (To some people, that makes me a “bigot,” an accusation I will proudly wear with a badge of honor.) Why, you may ask? Because God did not create Adam and Steve, nor Alice and Eve. He created Adam and Eve. End of story.

I believe that Christians are to hate sin while at the same time loving the sinner. It is not gays themselves I am opposed to. It is the gay lifestyle, which is shamelessly promoted on television, Hollywood, the rest of the media, and the Democratic Party (this should not suggest that I am any fan of the Republican Party, FYI.) It is specifically promoted as a “normal” lifestyle, which just simply is not true to the many of us Christians who read the Bible for ourselves.

It is not the job of Christians to call them names (i.e. “perverts”, “queers”, or worse.) Unfortunately, some Christians will distract fellow church-goers from the fact that they are sinners by just demonizing gays (or immigrants or Muslims) all the time. These Christians should know better as we are all sinners, whether we like it or not.

The so-called “homosexual agenda” is not about homosexuality. It is not about “equality.” It is about gaining special privileges that straight people do not have (i.e. “hate crime” laws.) What they will end up doing, whether they realize it or not, is direct more animosity towards gays. (And Christians who hate sin yet love sinners at the same time are accused of hating gays?!)

 

 

 

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