Religious Groups Upset Over Boy Scouts' Decision To Lift Ban On Gay Leaders

Download Audio
A detail view of a Boy Scout uniform in Irving, Texas. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
A detail view of a Boy Scout uniform in Irving, Texas. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

The Boy Scouts of America announced yesterday that it was ending its longtime ban on openly gay adult leaders, two years after it lifted its ban on gay youth.

The new policy does allow troops sponsored by religious organizations - about 70 percent of all troops - to continue to choose leaders "whose beliefs are consistent with their own."

But that may not be enough to keep the more conservative churches in the fold. The Mormon Church, for one, is already saying that it may leave the Boy Scouts, and possibly start its own program.

A group of conservative Christian leaders already did that in 2014, after the Boy Scouts opened its membership to gay youth. Here & Now's Robin Young talked with John Stemberger, chairman of the board of that organization, Trail Life USA.

Interview Highlights: John Stemberger

On the decision to lift the ban on gay Boy Scout leaders

“This is a very sad day in my judgement. The purpose and the mission of Boy Scouts of America, which they rarely talk about, is to really prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices. And so what are we saying to young people when we just look at the polls and what’s popular to determine what our values and morals are going to be? And that’s the problem with the decision. It is unsustainable, but it’s unsustainable for churches, I think, because they’re going to undergo risk and liability that they’ve never had before.”

Why he opposes allowing openly gay scouts and leaders

“Prior to this compromise on the Boy Scouts of America’s part, there were people, both adults and young people, with the same-sex attraction in scouting. Everybody knew who they were, but they were appropriate, they were discreet, they didn’t act out, they didn’t make a big deal about it. Under the new policy, they can be now openly gay, and in America that means flaunting, that means sexual innuendo - completely inappropriate behavior in a youth program... You look at anything that has the title gay on it, and it’s usually inappropriate, has innuendo in it, and inserts sex. It makes it the big deal of the day. And so it’s just inappropriate. Kids should not be around a campfire learning about what homosexuality is.”

Whether Trail Life USA limits young people in an increasingly diverse world

“In our program, we will allow any boy of any faith. We will allow a boy that has same-sex attraction or even has gender issues. We will even allow an atheist boy, for the reason that we want to influence that young man and show him that the beauty of the creation screams that God exists and try to help him to think clearly about that issue. ... It feels to me like part of America dies as a result of this. This is a cherished institution that is literally going to gut its own membership. If the Catholic and the Baptist church leave in addition to the Mormon Church, then it's really going to be sad thing. This institution is now basically defying its own law and its own oath and 104 years of tradition.”


This segment aired on July 28, 2015.


More from Here & Now

Listen Live