Boy Scouts End Ban

Boy Scouts End Ban

New policy allows openly gay adult leaders

Psychologists have found that emotions, such as sadness, fear, anger, and happiness, influence information processing and memory in different ways. We’re more likely to recall events that happened decades ago due how we felt at that time over the details of a business conference call from last week.

This morning I watched the video announcing a monumental policy shift by Boy Scouts of America (BSA) President and former Secretary of Defense, Dr. Robert Gates. As you are most likely aware, the BSA has removed the national restriction on openly gay adult leaders and employees. This significant step forward by BSA is not without its detractors. The youth organization’s longtime religious partner, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), who make up 17 percent of Cub and Boy Scouts members, are considering launching an international program similar to scouting.

After watching Dr. Gates’ remarks, I recalled in great detail, an ACCP Conference more than a decade ago. Then BSA Chief Executive, Roy Williams, delivered a very different message to the corporate funders in attendance. Mr. Williams began his remarks by enthusiastically highlighting the tried and true formula of how scouting builds character, leadership skills, and honor in young people. However, the session turned contentious as Mr. Williams, and his staff, attempted to defend the indefensible sanctioned discrimination mandated by a national youth organization seeking support by corporate donors. 

This event has stuck with me for twelve years for a couple reasons. First, it sparked an acknowledgment by scout leadership that pushing down decision-making to local chapters was not an effective policy; it was capitulation. More than a decade ago, ACCP spotlighted the issue of BSA’s discrimination based on sexual orientation was inconsistent with corporate anti-discrimination policies. There were no gray areas, none what-so-ever.

Second, BSA leaders were visibly flummoxed that their plan to woo this skeptical corporate audience was sinking like a lead balloon. The tension in the room almost reached a breaking point. Both sides defended their position with equal passion and force. BSA leaders left clearly rattled by the exchange. I sat dumbfounded by what I had witnessed.

Fast-forward more than decade to Monday, July 27, 2015. Dr. Gates, in his prepared remarks, announced that “due to the social, political, and legal changes taking place in our country and in our movement, I did not believe the adult leadership policy could be sustained.” Our county has come a long way, and so has the leadership of the Boy Scouts of America.

ACCP is proud to have been part of the conversation then and to continue the conversations still required to foster equality for all.

Mark Shamley
President & CEO