Wait & See, Not Far Enough
Boy Scouts of America Haven’t Earned Back Corporate Support Yet
On July 27, 2015, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) ratified a resolution that removed the national restriction on openly gay leaders and employees. The resolution allows chartered organizations to select adult leaders without regard to sexual orientation. However, the resolution provides an exemption that allows religious chartered organizations to continue to discriminate if doing so is in keeping with religious beliefs.
Since the announcement was made, there has been considerable speculation about whether or not the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) would continue its affiliation with the BSA. The LDS Church is the largest sponsor of the BSA and had been opposed to the resolution. The LDS Church had indicated that the relationship with the BSA would be reevaluated in light of the new resolution.
The LDS Church ended the speculation on August 26 with the release of a statement which reads in part, “In the resolution adopted on July 27, 2015, and in subsequent verbal assurances to us, BSA has reiterated that it expects those who sponsor Scouting units (such as the Church) to appoint Scout leaders according to their religious and moral values “in word and deed and who will best inculcate the organization’s values through the Scouting program.” At this time, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will go forward as a chartering organization of BSA, and as in the past, will appoint Scout leaders and volunteers who uphold and exemplify Church doctrine, values, and standards.”
At ACCP we’ve seen a great deal of discussion about the BSA decision. It has been a very active topic on LINK, ACCP’s member community, and in conversations we’ve had with members. Interestingly enough, the same reason cited by the LDS Church to remain a chartering organization for the BSA is the reason that many, though not all, of the corporations we represent are not yet ready to resume funding the BSA.
The majority view is that the ability to discriminate still exists and that as long as it does, many corporations will not fund the BSA. Put simply, corporations do not allow discrimination in the workplace and they will not fund an organization that does, no matter how much the mission of the organization is admired.
These decisions are not made lightly, with many executives sharing that the discussions around this issue extend into the C suite. Many companies evaluated allowing funding of local troops if a non-discrimination policy was in place. However, for many companies, there is no separating the policies of the BSA and local troops.
Several corporations highlighted discrimination issues that go beyond sexual orientation. The BSA still discriminate based on religion – or more specifically the absence of religion.
The BSA youth membership application specifically states:
Excerpt from the Declaration of Religious Principle
The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God and, therefore, recognizes the religious element in the training of the member, but it is absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward that religious training. Its policy is that the home and organization or group with which the member is connected shall give definite attention to religious life. Only persons willing to subscribe to these precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle and to the Bylaws and codes of the Boy Scouts of America shall be entitled to certificates of membership.
Policy of Nondiscrimination
Youth membership in the BSA is open to all who meet the joining requirements. Membership in Scouting, advancement, and achievement of leadership in Scouting units are open to all youth without regard to race, ethnic background, or sexual orientation, and are based on individual merit.
In short, if a boy does not believe in God, the boy cannot be a scout.
The BSA have a history of allowing discrimination by religious organizations. As recently as 1974, the BSA allowed the LDS Church to racially discriminate. A lawsuit brought by the NAACP on behalf of a 12-year-old African American Boy Scout, who was being denied a senior patrol leadership position because of his race, ended the policy of discrimination before the case went to trial.
It can be hoped that the BSA will see the light as they did with racial discrimination and prohibit all discrimination based on sexual orientation and religion, or more specifically, the absence of religion. When that happens, I predict corporations will once again be enthusiastic supporters.