Perhaps it should not have been a surprise, but it was to me when the Boy Scouts of America announced the organization was prepared to reverse its position on homosexuals as Scouts or leaders.
The organization, a private one with voluntary membership, has won a Supreme Court decision upholding its policy of banning gay teen-agers and men from the program. The key has been that it’s a private organization, not one directly supported with taxpayer money and thus is free to establish its own standards for membership.
That all could change this week when the national board of directors is expected to vote to give each local group the flexibility to include or exclude gays.
The national group is abandoning its principled stand under consistent political pressure from the gay rights groups who have been targeting donors, particularly big businesses. The challenge for those organizations is that they, correctly, cannot discriminate in hiring—but the Scouts have the right to determine standards for membership—they are different issues.
The local option being pursued by the Scouts is way too familiar because it’s a tactic that the Presbyterian Church USA has taken since 2006 when it moved to give local governing bodies the flexibility to ordain pastors and elders based on whatever standards they established. It was one of several breaking points along a 40-year slide that has seen the denomination shrink to half of its all-time size. Changes to a new form of government wiped out the unifying connection.
The same will be true for the Scouts.
And it will have the same result with confusion and major challenges at the local level. Each troop is sponsored by an organization—many of them are churches. The church I attend, Centerpointe, has sponsored a Scout troop for decades. There are many Scout groups chartered through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) who will have the same challenge Centerpointe will with the policy.
Centerpointe welcomes all, but holds to the biblical standard that marriage is between a man and a woman and officers should either be married or celibate in singleness. That doesn’t fit well with the narrative in society about civil rights and doing your own thing. I can understand that when it comes to government, but voluntary associations need to be free to follow their own standards.
Finally, I have long remembered a conversation I had with former Pleasanton Mayor Ken Mercer who related what he discussed over dinner with current state Treasurer Bill Lockyer. Lockyer told Ken that gay marriage would not be an issue in 15 years because views will change. That was a number of years ago and Lockyer was sadly prophetic.