(Photo: REUTERS/David Manning)
A Boy Scouts of America (BSA) survey meant to help the organization's national leaders decide whether or not to lift a ban on gay members contains several questions pertaining to faith-based organizations.
The brief survey on membership standards, which includes scenario-based questions, was recently sent to about 1.1 million adults who are either volunteers or parents of Scouts, according to an emailed statement provided by BSA Director of Public Relations Deron Smith. Another 325,000 surveys will also soon be sent to Scouting alumni groups to be filled out.
"David, a Boy Scout, believes that homosexuality is wrong," one of the scenarios reads. "His troop is chartered to a church where the doctrine of that faith also teaches that homosexuality is wrong. Steve, an openly gay youth, applies to be a member in the troop and is denied membership. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for this troop to deny Steve membership in their troop?"
"Johnny, a first grade boy, has joined Tiger Cubs with his friends," another scenario says. "Johnny's friends and their parents unanimously nominate Johnny's mom, who is known by them to be lesbian, to be the den leader. Johnny's pack is chartered to a church where the doctrine of that faith does not teach that homosexuality is wrong. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for his mother to serve as a den leader for his Cub Scout den?"
The survey was developed by North Star Opinion Research with the help of volunteers and professionals who have a variety of different opinions on the issue.
In addition to the survey, the BSA's National Executive Board has authorized committees to receive feedback from Scouts and their families and to review any issues pertaining to potential policy changes.
"The survey results, along with the committee's work, will be put into a larger report and along with other feedback will help inform the officers' work on a resolution regarding membership standards," said Smith in his email.
In January, the organization announced it was considering lifting the gay ban in favor of giving local groups the power to make their own membership policies. BSA leaders later postponed any decision until May, when voting members of National Council will resolve the issue at the group's National Annual Meeting.
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.
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."
The current ban "has caused pain to both gay and non-gay youth and adults, as well as to their families, friends and allies," Black wrote earlier this year. "It has invited gay or bisexual persons to feel diminished, invisible and marginalized. Thousands of boy scouts have felt shame and embarrassment about the current policy of exclusion, which is inconsistent with the values of dignity and respect that serve as a foundation of the Scouting program."
Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, in contrast, passed a resolution in February urging the BSA to keep the ban on gay members and leaders intact.
In the resolution, the SBC's Executive Committee expressed "its deep dismay and disappointment at the conduct of any Boy Scout leader who openly or surreptitiously built support for their proposal to reverse the Scouts historic position on this issue, thereby alienating conservative religious bodies that sponsor the vast majority of Boy Scout units."