Thursday’s decision by the Boy Scouts of America to allow gay Scouts into its membership has raised questions about how the organizations that support Boy Scout troops at the state and local level will respond.
More than 60 percent of the BSA’s National Council members voted Thursday to lift the ban on gay Scouts by supporting a proposal drafted by the organization’s executive committee. The new policy, which goes into effect Jan. 1, will not remove the ban on gay adults who want to be Scout leaders.
While the BSA has addressed the controversial question of gay youth in Scouting, it remains to be seen whether the various organizations that charter troops, many with religious affiliations, will continue their support.
In the BSA’s Leon Valley District — which covers Killeen, Harker Heights, Copperas Cove and other areas in Central Texas — most of the organizations that charter local Scout troops are affiliated with a church or other religious group.
The district’s website shows that 14 of the 22 Boy Scout troops listed were chartered by churches such as Crestview Christian Church, Trinity Baptist Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Killeen and Cove, and St. Paul Chong Hasang Catholic Church, or by affiliated religious organizations such as the Knights of Columbus of Killeen.
Even with the policy change looming, local Scout troop leader Clair Stringham said he did not think things would change much for his troop.
“I think there has been individual concerns,” said Stringham, a Scout leader for Troop 243 in Killeen. “But overall, things for us won’t really be that different.”
Stringham’s Scout troop is chartered by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Killeen.
Shortly after the BSA announced the decision, the church released a statement that appears to indicate it would continue to support Scouting.
“Sexual orientation has not previously been — and is not now — a disqualifying factor for boys who want to join Latter-day Saint Scout troops,” according to the statement, released Thursday. “Willingness
to abide by standards of behavior continues to be our compelling interest.”
According to the Leon Valley District’s website, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints charters six area troops.
The website also shows that three local troops are chartered by Catholic churches or Catholic-affiliated organizations such as the Knights of Columbus. A statement from the National Catholic Committee on Scouting released Thursday said the church is still considering its response.
“Since the change in policy will not take effect until Jan. 1, 2014, the National Catholic Committee on Scouting has adequate time to study its effects,” the statement read. “The NCCS will determine how it may impact Catholic chartered Scout units and activities. In doing so, we will work within the teachings of our Catholic faith and with the various local bishops and their diocesan Scouting committees.”
Contact Chris McGuinness at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.