The Boy Scouts of America has authorized a new policy that will go into effect on Jan. 1 that has generated a lot of mixed feelings. A new policy approved in May by the group's National Council will go into effect this week allowing openly gay youth to join the Boy Scouts.
The organization said the new policy would mean that youth may no longer be banned from Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts or the coed Venturers program based on sexual orientation. However BSA has maintained its ban on gay adult leaders.
Brad Haddock, a BSA national executive board member told USA Today he hopes the transition will be a seamless one without much fuss.
"My hope is there will be the same effect this Jan. 1 as the Y2K scare," said Haddock. "It's business as usual, nothing happens and we move forward."
But there will be some restrictions to the new policy. "Any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting," one BSA document says. "No member may use Scouting to promote or advance any social or political position or agenda, including on the matter of sexual orientation."
The BSA has encouraged adult leaders to address certain issues over sleeping arrangements and private showering times, which have previously been of little concern.
"If a Scout or parent of a Scout makes a request to not tent with another Scout, their wishes should be honored," the spokesperson for the Boy Scouts of America said.
Some had warned of churches dropping their sponsorship of scout units due to the policy change, which would have major consequences for the Boy Scouts since 70 percent of the of the 110,000 scout units are supported by religious organizations. But so far "there hasn't been a whole lot of fallout," Haddock, a lawyer from Wichita, Kan., told the Associated Press. "If a church said they wouldn't work with us, we'd have a church right down the street say, 'We'll take the troop.'"
The Associated Press did report some churches and families were switching their sponsorship to an alternative group called Trail Life USA. But the two biggest sponsors of the Boy Scouts, the Roman Catholic and Mormon churches continue to support the organization. The Mormon Church released a statement applauding the Boy Scouts for a "thoughtful, good-faith effort" to address a challenging issue. The Roman Catholic Church has also accepted the new policy, leaving the decision to support the Boy Scouts up to individual bishops.
"As the new policy currently stands, I see no reason to prohibit our parishes from sponsoring Boy Scout troops," Rev. Kevin Rhoades, bishop of Indiana's Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese, told the Associated Press. "At the same time, it is critical that we be vigilant on how this new policy is interpreted and implemented."