(Photo: The Christian Post)
GRAPEVINE, Texas – Opponents of the BSA's resolution to allow openly-gay membership in the scouts frequently speak about keeping sex and politics out of the scouts – an institution where young boys, many of whom grow up in fatherless homes, depend on mentors who can teach them how to become moral and upstanding citizens, according to Robert Schwarzwalder, senior vice president of the Family Research Council, who's asking delegates to vote "No" when they cast their ballots Thursday.
The Christian Post spoke with BSA delegates and members of the scouting community who are in Texas to witness the outcome of the vote. While non-voting members believe it's too close to call, many voting delegates expect the resolution to pass, but anticipate the Southern region to be the only major opposition to the resolution.
Delegates from Illinois told CP the Western region is split, but the majority of the delegates from the Midwest and Northeastern councils will be voting in favor of the resolution. A scout leader from Utah, whose husband is a delegate, said she fears that if the resolution passes, the BSA will end up like the scouts in Canada, whose numbers have drastically declined over the last 10 years. None the less, she believe the resolution will pass, eventually, if not this year.
Elizabeth Pritchard, the pack committee chair for Pack 928 in Southlake, Texas, told CP that her council, the Longhorn council, has eight delegates, and is expected to split their vote by six-to-two – six opposed to the resolution, and two voting in favor. "I just hope this is done upfront, very honestly, and that they listen to the membership. I'm optimistic; I'm hopeful," she said.
"My concern is, you've got a lot of people in the Northeast and a lot of people on the West Coast who are going to unanimously vote for this to happen, so we need enough people to vote against it to counteract them," Pritchard added. "I just can't imagine going to camp with my son, being with him every step of the way saying: 'I'm sorry, he can't sleep in tents with other boys. I'm sorry, he can't take a shower unless I'm outside the shower and he's the only person in there. I'm sorry, he can't go biking with other boys unless his father or I are there.' How is that scouting? I think if it doesn't pass, give it two years, and it will be up again."
Steve Hufstetler, a BSA supporter from Allen, Texas, who raised two sons that became Eagle Scouts – one of which is serving in Afghanistan – is opposed to the resolution, and told CP that he wants to "encourage delegates to vote 'No' on the resolution."
"The reason the resolution has come up is because they were encouraged by big money, namely AT&T and Ernst & Young, to allow openly-gay members," Hufstetler said. "I think the vast majority of the membership is opposed to that. I hope that they don't just look at the money. I hope that they can see what it might do to the scouts as an organization – it just may decimate the organization. So it doesn't do any good to collect a whole lot of money from big contributors if you decimate the organization, opposed to benefit it."
Schwarzwalder confirmed Hufstetler's claims and added that: "The reality is two of the major board members of the BSA are actively promoting this from within – the chairman of AT&T and the chairman of Ernst & Young. They said publically last summer that they were dissatisfied with the results of the two-year survey that showed 'a vast majority of scout parents want to retain the current policy,' and then pledged to work from within."
He continued: "The overwhelming majority of gay men are not predators. They're as horrified by predation as anyone else is. We know that. Yet within scouting, if you look at the roughly 20,000 files that the scouts have kept and recently released on abuse in scouting, about 98 percent deal with man-on-man or man-on-boy predation. Introducing an openly-gay man or young man into a tent with vulnerable trusting boys is a recipe for disaster."
In Schwarzwalder's opinion, it's about principle. "It's not about bigotry or hatred. It's about what does it mean to be morally straight? When my sons take the oath to be morally straight, they're committing themselves to making sure that they are aligning with the Judeo-Christian understanding of moral principles."
"Consequently," he continued, "this is not something that is being driven by the families, by the boys, by former scouts, by current scouts, or anybody having anything to do with scouts, except the senior leadership, who are afraid of a loss of money or bad publicity, or both from major corporate America."
John Stemberger, founder of OnMyHonor.Net, told CP he believes the BSA didn't take the scouting community's opinions into consideration. "The current policy is fair and it doesn't discriminate. They looked at public opinion polls from Gallup on gay marriage and they looked at public opinion polls from Gallup on the moral acceptability of homosexuality. They didn't listen to parents, they didn't listen to scout masters, they didn't listen to the scouting community."
He continued: "They did a two-year study from 2010 to 2012, and unanimously concluded that this was the absolute best policy for BSA. What happened is that activists throughout the country began to bombard them with very ugly communications, and some private respectful communications, that put tremendous pressure on the top leadership of the BSA. And they caved to the pressure and they caved to the polls instead of principle. We don't put our finger in the air to determine what the scout oath is, and that's precisely what the leadership has done."
Stemberger feels Thursday's vote could be very close. "I know there are many people who support the resolution, there's also many people that don't. The BSA had not released the names [of delegates] until just last week. We found a Texas statute that basically – it's a principle that if you have a corporation and their shareholders are making a decision, their shareholders can communicate. So we found a delegate out of Tennessee. We invoked this statute, and we actually got the list, but just last week. So we were able to send a piece of mail and an email to all of the delegates to communicate the other side of the story."
In his opinion, the BSA leadership has not been candid. "There's been no risk analysis about the increased risk to boys. They've just been hush hush on a lot of issues. They've been guarded. A fellow named Nathan Rosenberg out of California has been paid a very handsome sum while he sits on their board. So, I think that could backfire."
"What's sad is that membership in full and full participation is not good enough for the gay activists," Stemberger added. "They want to openly flaunt sexually and inject a leftist-political agenda. The only difference between the old and the new policy is now you can be open, and as defined by the gay community – I mean everything I look at – a gay blog, a gay parade, a gay website, it usually has partial nudity, inappropriate material for kids. So why we would cave to this under pressure makes no sense whatsoever and it will devastate the program."
The Boy Scouts of America will hold a press conference to announce the outcome of the vote at 6 p.m. ET on Thursday at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, Texas.