Boy Scouts survey seeks feedback on ban of gay Scouts

Published: Tuesday, March 12 2013 6:30 p.m. MDT

A Boy Scout wears an Eagle Scot neckerchief during the annual Boy Scouts Parade and Report to State in the House Chambers at the Texas State Capitol, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, in Austin, Texas. Perry says he hopes the Boy Scouts of America doesn't move soften its mandatory no-gays membership policy.

Associated Press

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Boy Scouts of America has turned to its volunteers, parents and alumni for input on the organization's ban on gay Scouts and Scout leaders.

The Boy Scouts sent out 1.1 million surveys using its email list and will distribute an additional 325,000 surveys to members of the Scouting Alumni Association and National Eagle Scout Alumni Association seeking comment, according to spokesman Deron Smith.

"We are currently in the 'listening phase,' where the BSA's committees engage key stakeholders for input and develop a summary report," Smith said in an email response to questions.

The survey comes as a result of a February decision to allow Scout committees "to further engage representatives of Scouting's membership and listen to their perspectives and concerns" about a possible change in policy excluding gay Scouts and Scout leaders.

The survey, which was not sent to youths, features 13 questions — including several detailing various hypothetical situations and Scout interactions — and asks respondents to rate their opinions on a five-point scale ranging from "Totally acceptable" to "Totally unacceptable."

"I believe their intent is to ask direct questions," John Gailey, spokesman for the Utah National Parks Council of the BSA, said. "'How would you feel if a particular decision or particular topic was discussed … but also trying to put situational environments in front of people to get their feelings from that particular situation."

Justin Muir, a Scoutmaster with responsibility for 32 Scouts in Utah County from Lehi to Payson, received the survey Tuesday.

"I think their questions are right along with all the other Boy Scout things," he said. "They're about Bob, Johnny and Tom; they're trying to make everything a story. Their questions are open-ended to get a feel of what everyone is going to say."

The situational questions include:

• "Bob is 15 years old, and the only openly gay Scout in a Boy Scout troop. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for the troop leader to allow Bob to tent with a heterosexual boy on an overnight camping trip?"

• "David, a Boy Scout, believes that homosexuality is wrong. His troop is chartered to a church where the doctrine of that faith also teaches that homosexuality is wrong. Steve, 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?"

Muir said the questions are designed to get parents of Scouts, as he is, to think about the impact of policy changes.

"I think they're trying to use this as a platform to say, 'We would be open but the majority says we shouldn't,'" Muir said. "I would like to see them leave it up to the charter organizations. Let them make the decisions. If your son is in a group sponsored by LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender), then you put your son into that Scout troop and you know what you're getting into."

The Boy Scouts of America reaffirmed its policy prohibiting gays from participating in or leading Boy Scouts in July after a two-year review. Then, in January, it was announced that the BSA's board of directors would vote on a resolution that would eliminate the ban from the national organization's rules and let each individual chartered organization make its own decisions based on its own principles or beliefs.

The day the board was to vote, it instead released a statement announcing its decision to delay its vote due to the "complexity of this issue" until May. A number of groups, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is the single-largest sponsor of Scouting units in the nation, praised the decision to delay the vote until its implications could be evaluated.

The results of the survey will be put into a larger report that will be considered by voting members of the National Council before they vote at the National Annual Meeting in May. 

Gailey's council was one that asked the board to take more time. He said the survey was the sort of thing they were hoping to see.

"The objective was to do exactly this," he said. "Let's spend some time to talk to those who are partnering with us, our key chartered organizations to find out what would work for them and what would help them deliver the best Scouting program.

"I think it's very Scout-oriented to get everyone involved and be very open and honest in the discussion and really understand well before a decision is made."

Those with a Scout ID that may not have received the survey can respond to it here: Scouting.US.Qualtrics.com.

OTHER SAMPLE QUESTIONS:

1. Tom started in the program as a Tiger Cub, and finished every requirement for the Eagle Scout Award at 16 years of age. At his board of review, Tom reveals that he is gay. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for the review board to deny his Eagle Scout award based on that admission? 

2. Johnny, a first grade boy, has joined Tiger Cubs with his friends. Johnny's friends and their parents unanimously nominate Johnny's mom, who is known by them to be lesbian, to be the den leader. Johnny's pack is chartered to a church were the doctrine of that faith does not teach that homosexuality is wrong. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for his mother to serve as a den leader for his Cub Scout den?

Contributing: Andrew Adams

E-mail: emorgan@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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