(Photo: REUTERS/Darrell Byers)
Nearly 19,000 Americans, most of whom are past or current members of Boy Scouts families or are former Scouts, have signed a petition, which was delivered to the Boy Scouts of America, urging the organization to keep its century-old policies and not allow gay members to serve as members or leaders.
"The Boy Scouts should once again stand firm on moral principles that have successfully shaped our nation's boys into leaders for generations," said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel David Cortman, whose group delivered the petition.
"This is the expressed desire of thousands of Scouts and their families who have signed this petition. The Constitution protects the Boy Scouts' freedom to promote the values that have defined the organization and to ensure that its leaders and members adhere to those values."
The BSA will hold its National Council in Texas on Thursday, when it will decide on whether to allow openly gay members within its organization. Last month, a proposal was made to keep the ban on gay leaders but allow gay scout members to join.
Public opinion on whether BSA should change its 100-year-old policy or not remains mixed. A Washington Post-ABC News poll on May 9 found that 63 percent of Americans support allowing gay scouts to join the organization. Fifty-six percent say gay adults should be accepted too. Thirty-two percent agree with keeping the ban on gay scouts, and 39 percent say gay adults should remain banned as well.
However, a November 2012 Gallup/USA Today poll found that only 42 percent of respondents believe that BSA should change its policies and allow gay adults to serve as camp leaders, with 52 percent voting that the ban should stand.
Additionally, an internal "Voice of the Scout" survey found that 72 percent of chartered organizations and 61 percent of Boy Scout parents support preserving the current policy.
ADF explained in a letter along with the petition that "the best course for BSA – both for the best interest of its members and the defense against legal challenges – is for BSA to maintain its long-standing values-based membership policy."
The letter noted that for over a century, BSA has represented morals such as belief in God, self-determination and service to others. "Among those values is the belief that open homosexuality is incompatible with being 'morally straight' and honoring God," the law group argues.
"Boy Scouts of America was founded upon rich and timeless principles. It shouldn't give in to intimidation or abandon its values," added Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley, who is an Eagle Scout. "Its leadership should defend the Scouts' honor and stand strong on the principles that have made the Boy Scouts one of America's most revered institutions."
Earlier on Tuesday, a collective of 48 Christian leaders signed a letter asking BSA to maintain its current policy when it comes to gay members.
"We strongly support the Boy Scouts of America current prohibition on open homosexuality and retaining it without revision," said the statement, signed by notable figures such as Robert Duncan, archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America. "In our current culture, it is more important than ever for our churches to protect and provide moral nurture for young people and for the Scouts."