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What is the BSA position on homosexuality?

Date: 3 Sept 2000

Released June 28, 2000

Boy Scouts of America
By United States Supreme Court

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.

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."

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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

Additional 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).

    Ref: "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 example.

    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.

    Ref: "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:

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