BSA survey: Can gay, straight scouts share tents overnight?
By Ed Payne and Devon Sayers
(CNN) — The questions go to the heart of the issue, presenting scenarios some may find challenging.
The Boy Scouts of America, now considering a change in the group’s longstanding policy against allowing openly gay members, has sent out a questionnaire that goes beyond a simple yes or no on the subject.
Among them: Is it acceptable for a gay scout and a straight scout to share a tent on an overnight camping trip?
The survey sent to leaders and parents includes five multiple-choice answers ranging from “totally acceptable” to “totally unacceptable.”
In February, the Boy Scouts of America’s national executive board postponed a vote on lifting its outright ban on openly homosexual scouts and troop leaders.
The decision will be made at the organization’s annual meeting in May, where about 1,400 members of the group’s national council will take part, the board said.
The organization said at the time that it would “further engage representatives of Scouting’s membership and listen to their perspectives and concerns.”
The Boy Scouts said in a statement Tuesday that they’re in the “listening phase” and are “reviewing a number of issues and how they will impact the BSA, including youth, chartered organizations, parents, and financial, fundraising, and legal concerns.”
The survey’s nine questions directly address those concerns and point to the complexities of the issues involved.
Here’s one of the questions from the survey:
“David, a Boy Scout, believes that homosexuality is wrong. His troop is chartered to a church where the doctrine of that faith also teachers that homosexuality is wrong. Steven, an openly gay youth, applies to be a member in the troop and is denied membership. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for this troop to deny Steve membership in their troop?”
Another question asks if a lesbian mom should be allowed to be den leader, if the church it’s chartered to has no problem with homosexuality.
The issues are challenging for an organization that has many ties to organized religion, many of them conservative.
Before the Scouts postponed their vote in February, the executive board was expected to consider a proposal to let local groups set their own policies
The decision disappointed critics, who had hoped to see the organization end its ban despite a 2000 Supreme Court ruling saying it had the right to keep it.
“Every day that the Boy Scouts of America delay action is another day that discrimination prevails,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin. “Now is the time for action. Young Americans, gay and straight, are hurt by the inaction … The BSA leadership should end this awful policy once and for all, and open the proud tradition of Scouting to all.”
Conservative groups and some religious organizations have argued against making any change, saying it would dilute the Boy Scout message of morality and potentially destroy the organization.
The Boy Scouts announced in January that the organization would consider changing the policy, a sharp reversal of its previous support for excluding openly gay members and scout leaders.
The new policy would allow local leaders to decide “consistent with each organization’s mission, principles or religious beliefs” whether to open troops they sponsor to openly gay people, the group said in a statement at the time.
The proposal comes more than a decade after a Supreme Court ruling that found the organization has the right to keep gays out, but also amid declining participation in the venerable American institution.
Membership is down
Membership in Boy Scouts has declined by about a third since 1999. About 2.7 million people now participate in scouting nationwide, with more than 70% of troops affiliated with a church or religious groups.
The organization has also endured frequent criticism from gay rights groups and other critics who say the Boy Scouts should not endorse discrimination.
Among more recent controversies, the organization came under fire last year after Jennifer Tyrrell, an Ohio den leader, was dismissed by her local Boy Scout officials for being a lesbian.
A poll released in February suggests the public is in favor of lifting the ban. The poll, conducted January 30 to February 4 by Quinnipiac University, found 55% of respondents favored lifting the ban. The school said 33% were opposed. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.
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