NEW YORK – The Boy Scouts of America faces intensifying criticism from the left and right over a proposal to move away from a mandatory no-gays membership policy and allow troop sponsors to decide the matter for themselves.
The Human Rights Campaign, a major gay-rights group that initially welcomed the BSA’s possible shift, said Thursday that it was inadequate and demanded that the Scouts adopt a nationwide policy to accept gays as scouts and adult leaders.
The HRC said corporations that continued to donate funds to the Scouts if any troops were allowed to discriminate would lose points in an annual evaluation of how employers deal with gay-related workplace issues.
Meanwhile, conservative groups which support the long-standing no-gays policy asked their followers to flood BSA headquarters with phone calls opposing any change,
Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, urged callers to persist even if they couldn’t get through at first.
“The BSA national leadership were not prepared for the thousands of Americans who were shocked to hear that an organization that could always be counted on for standing for what’s right was about to cave in to homosexual activists and corporations,” Perkins said in an emailed appeal.
“It is so important that you keep the pressure on, to show them how devastating this moral collapse will be for the Scouts and the country,” he said.
Similar appeals were made by other conservative groups across the country.
The Boy Scouts, who emphatically reaffirmed the no-gays policy just seven months ago, announced on Monday that they were considering a major change. Instead of mandatory exclusion of gays, the different religious and civic groups that sponsor Scout units would be able to decide for themselves how to address the issue — either maintaining the exclusion or opening up their membership.
The proposal is expected to be discussed, and possibly voted on, at a meeting of the Scouts’ national executive board next week in Texas.
Deron Smith, the Scouts’ national spokesman, declined comment on the Human Rights Campaign’s announcement and denied reports that the Scouts were taking a poll to gauge public sentiment on the plan.
“When we receive calls we allow people to provide feedback, but if the board decides to address this topic, it will be about what is in the best interest of Scouting,” Smith said.
Many Scout units are sponsored by relatively conservative religious denominations — notably the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Southern Baptist churches. Catholic and Mormon leaders have withheld official comment on the proposal, but Southern Baptist officials have criticized it.