(Photo: REUTERS/Tim Sharp)
Boy Scouts leaders and parents are announcing the launch of a national coalition on Saturday to keep openly gay individuals out of the organization even as the Boy Scouts of America is scheduled to decide in May whether or not to allow open homosexuality.
Parents, Scoutmasters, Eagle Scouts and other Scouting leaders from across the country, who are supportive of the BSA's no openly gay membership policy, will announce the launch of a national organization and a coalition of concerned BSA members in Orlando, Fla.
Saturday's press event on the sidewalk areas outside of the Bob Carr Auditorium will immediately follow the Central Florida Council's Town Hall Meeting in Orlando, which will be attended by BSA CEO Wayne Brock and National Commissioner Tico Perez.
The coalition plans to run a national campaign to influence not only the resolution committee and the BSA voting delegates but also the general public regarding the legal, social, political and financial implications of changing the membership policy. The campaign will communicate through rallies, petitions, speaking out at BSA meetings and other activities.
In January, the BSA announced that they would reconsider their national policy banning openly gay leaders and members. The new proposal would strike down the national ban and allow local BSA chapters to decide whether or not to admit openly gay members.
"This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization's mission, principles, or religious beliefs," said Deron Smith, BSA's director of public relations.
BSA lawyers are expected to draft a resolution to be released next month to be voted on by the national council on May 22-23 in Grapevine, Texas, as to whether or not to allow open homosexuality in the Boy Scout program.
Last month, BSA leaders instructed committees to "further engage representatives of Scouting's membership and listen to their perspectives and concerns."
The Great Salt Lake Council, which is one of the largest Boy Scout councils in the U.S., overseeing several troops in four Utah counties, has also called for a status quo on the existing membership policy until more thought and discussion can be put into lifting the ban. "We're the largest council in the United States and we were uninformed and totally caught off guard that national was pursuing this course," Kay Godfrey, a spokesman for the council, told FOX 13.
Additionally, the council said on its website that in requesting the ban remain intact, it reaffirms the mission of the BSA, which is "to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law."
The Family Research Council and 41 other allied organizations recently released an ad in USA Today urging the BSA to keep the gay ban, saying that the youth organization must "not surrender to financial or political pressures by corporate elites on the issue of homosexuality."
The proposed policy change has been hailed by President Barack Obama and some national leaders. Obama has said: "I think that my attitude is that gays and lesbians should have access and opportunity the same way everybody else does in every institution and walk of life."
According to the BSA website, more than 70 percent of the organization's 100,000 scouting units are chartered to faith-based groups, though not all of them see eye to eye on the issue.
The Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution in February urging the BSA leadership to not change their policy. "… we call on and urge the representatives of the approximately 1,400 voting members of the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America courageously to stand strong on their moral convictions and vote to reject the proposed resolution from the national Scouting leaders, retaining the current policy of moral rectitude that has marked the Boy Scouts of America for more than one hundred years," reads the resolution.
The Roman Catholic Church has also criticized the proposed policy change.
However, a letter written by Geoffrey Black, president of the United Church of Christ, to the executive board of the Boy Scouts says the UCC supports lifting the ban and "the values of extravagant welcome."
A BSA survey meant to help the organization's national leaders decide whether or not to lift the ban on gay members is underway. The brief survey on membership standards, which includes scenario-based questions, has been sent to about 1.1 million adults who are either volunteers or parents of Scouts, according to an emailed statement provided by Smith.