Boy Scouts Drop Ban on Gay Scoutmasters

      DALLAS (CN) – The Boy Scouts of America voted Monday to end its decades-long ban on gay Scout leaders, to avoid “staggering” costs of litigation, despite religious groups’ protests against the policy change.
     The Scouts’ Irving, Texas-based National Executive Board approved a resolution that removes the national ban on openly gay adult leaders and employees.
     Approved by 79 percent of board members present, the resolution takes effect immediately.
     The resolution carves out an exception for local scouting groups to continue rejecting gay Scout leader applicants if hiring them violates the unit’s religious beliefs.
     “This change allows Scouting’s members and parents to select local units, chartered to organizations with similar beliefs, that best meet the needs of their families,” the BSA said in a statement Monday evening. “This change also respects the right of religious chartered organizations to choose adult volunteer leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own.”
     The lifting of the national ban comes two years after BSA voted to allow openly gay Scouts.
     BSA president and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates made headlines in May when he warned the organization that the ban on gay leaders must be lifted. He said at the time that the “status quo in our movement’s membership standards cannot be sustained.”
     Gates said the ban “was inevitably going to result in simultaneous legal battles” in several jurisdictions and “staggering” expense.
     “For far too long this issue has divided and distracted us,” Gates said in a statement Monday evening. “Now it’s time to unite behind our shared belief in the extraordinary power of scouting to be a force for good in a community and in the lives of its youth members.”
     The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints quickly criticized the Boy Scouts, saying it is “deeply troubled” by the change. So troubled that church leaders told the Deseret News on Monday that they will consider setting up their own alternative program to Scouting.
     “In spite of a request to delay the vote, it was scheduled at a time in July when members of the Church’s governing councils are out of their offices and do not meet,” the church said in a statement. “When the leadership of the Church resumes its regular schedule of meetings in August, the century-long association with Scouting will need to be examined. The Church has always welcomed all boys to its Scouting units regardless of sexual orientation. However, the admission of openly gay leaders is inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church and what have traditionally been the values of the Boy Scouts of America.”
     The Boy Scouts have faced criticism for years that its policies discriminate against homosexuals. An advisory panel of the California Supreme Court recommended in February 2014 that California state judges be barred from Boy Scouts membership because of the policies.
     In June 2008, Philadelphia officials tried to evict the Boy Scouts from a rent-free property that had been a local group’s headquarters since 1928, citing the Scouts’ anti-gay policies .
     A federal judge ruled in March 2012 that the Boy Scouts could recover nearly $900,000 in legal fees after it prevailed in the case. The BSA agreed to vacate the property in May 2013 under the terms of a settlement .

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