The proposed policy, unanimously approved by the Boy Scouts executive committee, differs significantly from a proposal that was discussed in February that would have allowed openly gay leaders and youth to join. That policy would have made it a "local option," whereby each sponsoring organization would decide the policy. Under the new proposal, there is a national standard and no local option.
"No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone," the proposed resolution states in part.
The resolution criticizes sexual activity by youth, saying Scouting "is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether homosexual or heterosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting." Two paragraphs later it further says that "youth are still developing, learning about themselves and who they are, developing their sense of right and wrong, and understanding their duty to God to live a moral life."
The Boy Scouts leadership appeared poised in early February to lift its prohibition on gay Scout leaders and youth but -- facing pressure from its base -- decided to put the matter before its 1,400 voting members at the national convention, which will be in May.
Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee, was outspoken earlier this year in urging the Boy Scouts to keep their current policy.
"We said in January we wished the Scouts would listen to the whole scouting family, not just a few," Page said Friday. "The leadership listened. Chief among the concerns they heard is the influence of adult leaders on impressionable youth. Though this resolution is more acceptable to those who hold a biblical form of morality than what was being considered before, we would still prefer no change in the policy. A No vote keeps the current policy in place, an outcome we would overwhelmingly support."
Also on Friday, the Boy Scouts released the results of a series of surveys it conducted.
Among the findings:
-- 61 percent of adult Scout members favor the current policy, while 34 percent oppose it.
-- 61 percent of Boy Scout parents support the current policy, while 50 percent of Cub Scout parents back it (45 percent of Cub Scout parents oppose it).
-- 51 percent of major donors support the current policy while 33 percent oppose it. But a majority of Fortune 500 companies want to see the policy changed.
-- A majority of teens ages 16-18 in the Boy Scouts program oppose the current policy. A percentage was not given.
The Boy Scouts also said that parents, teens and the Scouting community "do not favor" a local option as proposed in February.
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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