Reaction to the Boy Scouts of America's decision yesterday to allow openly gay scouts but continue the ban on gay adult leaders is drawing intense reaction from all sides.
LGBT advocates generally welcomed the move but said it didn't go far enough, while antigay groups are dismayed and some are predicting certain churches will cease sponsoring scout troops.
"The Boy Scouts of America can do better," said Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout, son of two mothers, and executive director of Scouts for Equality, in a statement issued by the Human Rights Campaign. "We welcome the news that the ban on gay scouts is history, but our work isn't over until we honor the Scout Law by making this American institution open and affirming to all."
"The new policy doesn't go far enough," said HRC president Chad Griffin. "Parents and adults of good moral character, regardless of sexual orientation, should be able to volunteer their time to mentor the next generation of Americans."
The HRC noted that the BSA continues to discriminate in employment, as the job application that is apparently in use throughout the nation states, "The Boy Scouts of America will not employ atheists, agnostics, known or avowed homosexuals."
James Dale, a former Eagle Scout who challenged the gay ban in a case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court, said the decision is "a bit of a step backward" for gay youth. "It sends a very convoluted, mixed message to gay kids," he told New Jersey's Star-Ledger newspaper. "It says that being gay is a youthful indiscretion, and that there's no future for you."
Jennifer Tyrrell, a lesbian mother in Ohio who was ousted as a leader of her son's scout troop, said, "I'm so proud of how far we've come, but until there's a place for everyone in Scouting, my work will continue," according to a National Public Radio report.
On the conservative side, Mat Staver, head of the right-wing legal group Liberty Counsel, said the Scouts "have betrayed their own principles to appease radical homosexual activists." In an emailed statement, he predicted, "Many parents and scouts who opposed the policy change will refuse to accept the risk of straight and homosexual young men sharing a tent." He also said, "Practicing homosexuals over the age of 18 will still be denied membership -- although (of course!) the giddy homosexual lobby has threatened relentless pressure on the Scouts until that policy is also changed."
Richard Land, an executive with the Southern Baptist Convention, said he expected many churches to quit sponsoring scout troops. "Frankly, I can't imagine a Southern Baptist pastor who would continue to allow his church to sponsor a Boy Scout troop under these new rules," Land, president of the convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, told the Baptist Press news service. "I predict there will be a mass exodus of Southern Baptists and other conservative Christians from the Boy Scouts."
However, some conservative religious groups had more measured reactions. The Mormon Church, which sponsors more scout troops than any other denomination, issued a statement saying, "We trust that BSA will implement and administer the approved policy in an appropriate and effective manner." And NPR reports that the National Catholic Committee on Scouting "responded cautiously, saying it would assess the possible impact of the change on Catholic-sponsored scout units."
The policy change takes effect January 1.