But now the organization, which has guided millions, may be losing its way. Corporate elites and gay activists are demanding the Scouts drop their long standing prohibition against open homosexuality within the Scouts.
Changing the policy would be a drastic mistake. It would not only dramatically alter the ethos of Scouting, but would undermine the principles of being a Boy Scout.
An organization that teaches character, courage and conviction shouldn't be exploited for the purpose of sexualized political correctness. For decades, the BSA has kept the interest of the boys it serves as the focus of all its actions.
No matter what, the Boy Scouts of America could be counted upon to do the right thing and not yield to any societal pressure. That would change if they kowtowed now.
From a practical perspective, departing from their long-held policies would be devastating to an organization that has prided itself on developing strong moral character in boys. It would also place these impressionable young men at risk to unwanted exposure to values and behaviors contrary to those taught by their parents and pastors.
There is also no evidence that the Boy Scouts of America's members want this change. Last July, the BSA announced that after two years examining its longtime policy of excluding "opened and avowed" gays, it had decided to change nothing.
"The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers, and at the appropriate time and in the right setting," noted then-BSA chief Scout executive Bob Mazzuca.
Nothing has changed since then. According to a recent poll, parents are less likely by a two-to-one margin to want their sons to participate in a local troop led by an openly gay Scoutmaster.
Parents should be able to entrust their sons to the organization with the confidence that their desires will be honored, and that their sons will not be exposed to inappropriate sexual topics. The BSA should retain the current long-held and time-tested policy regarding gays.
Changing the current policy would likely result in drastic reductions in Scouting nationwide.
A similar policy, forced on Scouts in Canada, resulted in a 50 percent drop in membership. But that would not be the only consequence.
Once the Scouts drop their standard, the source of that standard will not be far behind. In the United Kingdom, after allowing gays, the push began to drop the requirement that Scouts believe in God. Scouting in America does not have to go the way of Canada or the U.K.
Thankfully, the BSA board's move to reverse tradition and abandon its policy on gays was stalled due to a public outcry from hundreds of thousands of Americans.
Unwilling to make a principled stand, the BSA board decided to put the decision to a vote of approximately 1,400 National Council members in late May.
Ultimately the Boy Scouts of America will decide to do one of three things: It could decide to keep the current policy, completely overturn it or take a middle ground and relegate the decision on gay leaders to local chartered organizations.
This decision would send the wrong signal from the national body: that political correctness ultimately triumphs over character. For a century, Scouts have stood honorably for God and country. Scouting has never been about political correctness. Making it so today would have disastrous results for the organization.
Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council. Readers may write to him at FRC, 801 G Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20001; website: www.frc.org.
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