The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Lifestyle

January 31, 2013

Scouts' future uncertain if ban on gays is dropped



NEW YORK (AP) — The Boy Scouts of America's proposed move away from its no-gays membership policy has outraged some longtime admirers, gratified many critics and raised intriguing questions about the iconic organization's future.

Will the Scouts now be split between troops with gay-friendly policies and those that keep the ban? What will a National Jamboree be like if it brings together these disparate groups with conflicting ideologies? Will the churches long devoted to scouting now be torn by internal debate over the choices that may lie ahead?

A top official of the Southern Baptist Convention, whose conservative churches sponsor hundreds of Scout units that embrace the ban, was among those alarmed that the BSA is proposing to allow sponsoring organizations to decide for themselves whether to admit gays as scouts and adult leaders.

"We understand that we are now a minority, that it is not popular to have biblical values, not popular to take stands that seem intolerant," said Frank Page, president of the SBC's executive committee. "This is going to lead to a disintegration of faith-based values."

Page had been scheduled to speak in July at the Scouts' National Jamboree in West Virginia, and he's now apprehensive there could be conflict as troops with differing policies converge. Asked if he might decide not to speak, Page said he would pray about it.

Of the more than 110,000 scouting units across the U.S., nearly 70 percent are chartered by religious organizations. Some were pleased by the proposed change, others were troubled.

Triggering the angst was the Boy Scouts' announcement Monday that it was considering replacing its long-standing ban on gays with a policy that would let troop sponsors make their own decisions. The change is expected to be discussed next week at a meeting of the BSA's national executive board.

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