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What is the BSA position on homosexuality?
Date: 3 Sept 2000
Released June 28, 2000
Boy Scouts of America
We are very pleased with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the Dale case. This
decision affirms our standing as a private association with the right to set its own
standards for membership and leadership.
By United States Supreme Court
This decision allows us to continue our mission of providing character-building
experiences for young people, which has been our chartered purpose since our founding.
For more than 20 years, the Boy Scouts of America has defended its membership
standards. We went to the highest court in the land, the U.S. Supreme Court, in order to
do so. The Boy Scouts of America, as a private organization, must have the right to
establish its own standards of membership if it is to continue to instill the values of the
Scout Oath and Law in boys. Thanks to our legal victories, our standards of membership
have been sustained.
We believe an avowed homosexual is not a role model for the values espoused in the
Scout Oath and Law.
Boy Scouting makes no effort to discover the sexual orientation of any person.
Scouting's message is compromised when prospective leaders present themselves as role
models inconsistent with Boy Scouting's understanding of the Scout Oath and Law.
Scouting's record of inclusion is impressive by any standard. However, we do ask all of
our members to do their best to live the Scout Oath and Law. Today, boys from every
ethnic, religious, and economic background in suburbs, farms, and cities know and
respect each other as they participate in our program.
We thank the parents, volunteers and friends of Scouting who have supported us in this
case and others. We respect other people's right to hold differing opinions and ask that
they respect ours.
In a support brief filed by three of Scouting's largest chartered organizations, they
addressed why Scouting has been so effective for 90 years: "Scouting's program for
character development is effective precisely because it teaches through both precept and
concrete examples of its adult leaders ... Scoutmasters exist not only to espouse the ideals
of Scouting, but more importantly to live and embody them; they are the role models of
the Scouting movement."
# # #
Asked by the Asbury Park Press about the Scouts' position regarding gay youth,
Greg Shields, BSA Spoksperson said, "The direction we give our leaders is if
a young man tells his Scout leader
he thinks he's gay, the leader should suggest to him to talk to his
religious advisers, his pastor, his priest and talk to his parents about
this."... Pressed as to whether such a boy would be ejected, Shields said, "This
isn't much of an issue for us. Most of our scouts are 12 years of age or
under . . . We have the legal right established in the Supreme Court to
prohibit avowed homosexuals. But it doesn't come to this."
See the Scoutmasters and Cub Leader's guides for more information
1. The Boy Scouts asserts that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with
the values embodied in the Scout Oath and Law, particularly with the
values represented by the terms "morally straight" and "clean."
The Boy Scouts asserts that it "teaches that homosexual conduct is not
morally straight," (see SCOTUS BSA Brief), and that it does "not want to
promote homosexual conduct as a legitimate form of behavior."
Obviously, the Scout Oath and Law do not expressly mention sexuality or
sexual orientation. And the terms "morally straight" and "clean" are by
no means self-defining. Different people would attribute to those terms
very different meanings. For example, some people may believe that
engaging in homosexual conduct is not at odds with being "morally
straight" and "clean." And others may believe that engaging in
homosexual conduct is contrary to being "morally straight" and
"clean." The Boy Scouts says it falls within the latter category. It is
their organization and they have the right to define their oath any way
they wish (that was one of the issues at stake in the Dale case).
"We believe that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the requirement
in the Scout Oath that a Scout be morally straight and in the Scout Law
that a Scout be clean in word and deed, and that homosexuals do not
provide a desirable role model for Scouts." BSA 1991 position statement
The Boy Scouts publicly expressed its views with respect to homosexual
conduct by its assertions in a number of court cases. For
example, throughout a California case with similar facts filed in the
early 1980's, the Boy Scouts consistently asserted the same
position with respect to homosexuality that it asserts today. See Curran
v. Mount Diablo Council of Boy Scouts of America,
No. C-365529 (Cal. Super. Ct., July 25, 1991); 48 Cal. App. 4th 670, 29
Cal. Rptr. 2d 580 (1994); 17 Cal. 4th 670, 952
P. 2d 218 (1998). The SCOTUS said of this policy: "We cannot doubt that
the Boy Scouts sincerely holds this view."
2. The BSA wishes Scout leaders to avoid questions of sexuality and
teach only by example. The BSA tells the Scouts to look up to the
leadership as role models. To be like their Scout leaders. The general
mission of the Boy Scouts is clear: "To instill values in young people."
The Boy Scouts seeks to instill these values by having its adult leaders
spend time with the youth members, instructing and engaging them in
activities like camping, archery, and fishing. During the time spent
with the youth members, the scoutmasters and assistant scoutmasters
inculcate them with the Boy Scouts' values--both expressly and by
3. The BSA feels that if an AVOWED homosexual was put in a leadership
role in the organization he would be telling the boys, by example, that
homosexual behavior was acceptable behavior. So the BSA does not
want homosexuals that could be known to the Scouts as homosexual in the
organization as adult leaders.
"The Boy Scouts of America has always reflected the expectations that
Scouting families have had for the organization. We do not believe that
homosexuals provide a role model consistent with these expectations.
Accordingly, we do not allow for the registration of avowed homosexuals
as members or as leaders of the BSA." 1993 position statement
4. Dale wanted to be a gay role model to Scouts. He said so in a
number of television interviews after the SCOTUS case ended.
The SCOTUS agreed that Dale would be a role model to the Scouts. "Dale
was the copresident of a gay and lesbian organization at college and
remains a gay rights activist. Dale's presence in the Boy Scouts would,
at the very least, force the organization to send a message, both to
the youth members and the world, that the Boy Scouts accepts homosexual
conduct as a legitimate form of behavior." (see Dale decision). Which,
as I have pointed out, is what Dale wanted (see television interviews
after the decision).
Here is how the SCOTUS drew this conclusion:
"First, associations do not have to associate for the "purpose" of
disseminating a certain message in order to be entitled to the
protections of the First Amendment. An association must merely engage in
expressive activity that could be impaired in order to
be entitled to protection. For example, the purpose of the St. Patrick's
Day parade in Hurley was not to espouse any views
about sexual orientation, but we held that the parade organizers had a
right to exclude certain participants nonetheless. "
"Second, even if the Boy Scouts discourages Scout leaders from
disseminating views on sexual issues--a fact that the Boy
Scouts disputes with contrary evidence--the First Amendment protects the
Boy Scouts' method of expression. If the Boy
Scouts wishes Scout leaders to avoid questions of sexuality and teach
only by example, this fact does not negate the sincerity of
its belief discussed above. "
"Third, the First Amendment simply does not require that every
member of a group agree on every issue in order for the
group's policy to be "expressive association." The Boy Scouts takes an
official position with respect to homosexual conduct,
and that is sufficient for First Amendment purposes. In this same vein,
Dale makes much of the claim that the Boy Scouts does
not revoke the membership of heterosexual Scout leaders that openly
disagree with the Boy Scouts' policy on sexual
orientation. But if this is true, it is irrelevant.(The record evidence
sheds doubt on Dale's assertion. For example, the National Director of
the Boy Scouts certified that "any persons who advocate to Scouting
youth that homosexual conduct is" consistent with Scouting values will
not be registered as adult leaders. App. 746 (emphasis added). And the
Monmouth Council Scout Executive testified that the advocacy of the
morality of homosexuality to youth members by any adult member is
grounds for revocation of the adult's membership. Id., at 761. ) The
presence of an avowed homosexual and gay rights activist in an as-
sistant scoutmaster's uniform sends a distinctly different message from
the presence of a heterosexual assistant scoutmaster who is on record as
disagreeing with Boy Scouts policy. The Boy Scouts has a First Amendment
right to choose to send one message but not the other. The fact that the
organization does not trumpet its views from the housetops, or that it
tolerates dissent within its ranks, does not mean that its views receive
no First Amendment protection. "
More information is in the SCOTUS opinion: