No ‘mass exodus’ after Boy Scouts vote to admit gays
By Kerri Bartlett, Assistant Editor
As the wave of change recedes following the Boy Scouts of America’s monumental vote in late May to admit openly gay scouts as members, no mass exodus has yet occurred by dissenting groups as some had predicted.
According to a survey administered to about 4,000 Boys Scouts members by the Middle Tennessee Council before the vote, it was estimated that up to 40 percent of charter partners in Middle Tennessee – mostly representing faith-based institutions – would revoke their charters if the BSA voted to admit openly gay scouts.
However, Hugh Travis (pictured), Middle Tennessee Council Scout Executive, said that no steep drop has been seen in area membership.
However, the full effect of the national council’s vote on BSA membership still remains to be determined. The Middle Tennessee Council is in “wait and see” mode until the end of the year Travis said. Charter members are not up for contract renewal until Jan. 1.
“We won’t know the ramifications until early next year,” Travis said. “Some [charter members] will renew and some could silently walk away.”
However, no matter the results, Travis remains dedicated to the BSA mission.
“The delegates from across America have spoken, and we will strive to serve Scouting and our communities with a quality program and continue to be the best Boy Scouts Council in America,” Travis said.
Only about “three or four” units dropped their charters immediately after the decision, Travis reported. Although he declined to disclose the units, Travis said, “It’s not all Baptists, and it’s not all Christians. It’s not just one group.”
The Southern Baptist Convention openly denounced BSA’s decision in June by passing a resolution opposing the admittance of gay scouts in the BSA. However, the Southern Baptist Convention does not control decisions made by individual churches, according to Sing Oldham, vice president for convention relations for the Southern Baptist Convention’s executive committee.
Travis and Oldham agree that many dissenting groups have chosen to place the decision aside for the time being.
“Families are concentrating on summer programs right now and creating memories,” Travis said. “This year, we’ve had the highest participation ever in summer camp activities in scout history. We plan to end the summer with about 8,000 scouts in summer camps.”
Oldham predicted that families would stay a while with their home troops before making any decisions about leaving.
“When this issue came about, I predicted that there would be no mass exodus, but a slow drop [in charter members] over time,” Oldham said.
“People have to process and assess,” he said. “Moms and dads are not going to pull their children out tomorrow.”
“We are watching to see what happens, whether any lawsuits occur now that the BSA message has changed,” Oldham said.
Changing that message is a sign of progress for Brad Hankins, national campaign director of Scouts for Equality. Hankins lives in Tennessee.
“It shows that even in Boy Scouts of America change is coming,” Hankins said. Scouts for Equality, founded in June 2012 by five eagle scouts who are straight advocates for the gay community, has advocated for the issue since the organization’s commencement.
Hankins’ statement reflects the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic decision June 26, which declared part of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and granted same-sex married couples federal benefits. Currently, 12 states honor same-sex marriage.
“Although there might be some losses, over the long term, the decision will lead to a stronger scouting program,” Hankins said. “It’s in line with the direction that America is moving now – in embracing equality – and scouting should reflect that change in society.”
Hankins said that he and his organization believes in the principles that the Boy Scouts of America has always set forth – a place that welcomes all faiths and upholds strong values.
“There’s no change other than letting these kids be honest,” Hankins said.
“We are absolutely not advocating for any misconduct in scouting,” Hankins told the Herald earlier this year. “Sex always has and should continue to be, for adults only. In adolescence, they come to terms with who they are, and the fact that the program that they love tells them that they are not good enough, is morally reprehensible.”
Posted on: 6/26/2013