By Bob Allen
The Southern Baptist Convention’s top official for moral concerns is urging the Boy Scouts of America to reject a proposal next week to drop its ban on youth members who are gay.
Richard Land, head of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, wrote Scout leaders May 15 to reiterate the denomination’s “strident opposition” to dropping the organization’s ban on admitting youth “who are open or avowed homosexuals.”
The proposal the 1,400-member BSA national council will consider at its annual meeting May 22-24 would leave intact a ban on gay Scoutmasters. The original idea was to remove the sexual-orientation restriction for both youth members and adult volunteers.
Land said Southern Baptists aren’t satisfied with the compromise. “In short, the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission remains opposed to any change in the BSA’s membership policy,” Land said.
Land called the proposed policy change “a serious departure from the BSA’s moral foundation and traditional values.” He said including gays would be inconsistent with the Scout Oath “to keep myself … morally straight.”
“Moreover, Southern Baptists do not believe embracing same-sex orientation is biblically acceptable,” Land wrote. “By introducing homosexual identification into Scouting, the Boy Scouts would effectively require church-sponsored Scouting units to endorse that which they consider incompatible with Scripture.”
“As you know, Southern Baptists have long played an integral part in the Boy Scouts, with Southern Baptist churches presently comprising a large number of the Scouting units chartered by the faith community,” he said.
“Yet allowing openly homosexual youth into Scouting would cause many Southern Baptist churches, as well as many churches from other denominations, to withdraw their sponsorship rather than compromise their convictions,” Land said. “Already, numerous churches have told us of their intent to do so.”
Interfaith Alliance head Welton Gaddy, like Land an ordained Baptist minister, said it is ironic that today’s controversy is being couched in religious terms, because when British army officer Robert Baden-Powell founded the Scouting Movement in 1920, it was an alternative to an existing group, the Christians-only “Boys Brigade.”
Gaddy said May 11 on his State of Belief radio program that while the debate over gay Scouts rages in the United States, members of the World Organization of the Scout Movement in Canada, Australia and most European countries have no restrictions on gay Scouts and leaders.
“Many on the self-identified ‘Christian right’ have responded ferociously to the Boy Scouts of America considering a change to the long-standing exclusionary policy regarding sexual minorities,” Gaddy said, “imagining a sacred institution under attack by liberal savages bent on destroying all that’s good and right about America.”
“That’s the fashion, right?” Gaddy commented. “The culture war flavor-of-the-month — those godless gays: They want to destroy marriage, and they want to destroy this nation’s youth. You know that pitch.”