Last winter the BSA announced that it was considering a change in its membership policies that would allow chartering organizations the freedom to decide whether or not it would allow gay males to join as either youth members or adult leaders. Currently such people are officially disallowed from becoming members of the BSA. After much feedback, it was decided to delay a decision on this important membership change until the BSA’s annual meeting in May. However, I have since received word from reliable sources within the BSA that a decision has been made, although the final legal details have yet to be completely worked out.
An acquaintance of mine, Eli Tillbush from Florida, was able to fill me in on some of the details. All are pending approval of the BSA Executive Board and may also still face legal hurdles on both the state and federal levels. Effective 4/1/15 the BSA will divide itself into two separate but equal organizations. One, to be known as the Boy Scouts of America, will maintain the current membership policy. The other organization, tentatively named the National Equality Scouting Association, will openly admit boys and adult leaders regardless of sexuality. This organization will prohibit discrimination based upon sexual preference.
BSA Deputy Assistant National Commissioner, Olaf Prilo, stated in a memo to Scout Executives and selected bloggers and journalists that he felt this organizational division was the best solution possible for the BSA. Legal battles have cost the BSA millions of dollars in recent years in attorney fees and lost financial support. Prilo cited BSA attorney Bradley Wavery’s opinion that the establishment of two separate but equal organizations would end the legal challenges and assuage donors. After all, Wavery points out this same solution worked for decades with the public education system in the United States.
Councils will be divided up among the two organizations based upon votes of the local council executive boards and chartered organization representatives. New councils will be chartered dependent upon the needs of each organization in various geographical areas. Tillbush also informs me that chartered organizations will be allowed and encouraged to choose with which organization they wish to affiliate. It is being suggested that local councils allow both organizations equal access to their camp properties. Each organization will continue to offer the honorary presidency to the president of the United States.
The National Equality Scouting Association will have its national headquarters in New York City. This is a nod to the history of Scouting within the USA. Also, it is thought this will help revitalize Scouting within that city which has been seriously harmed by reactions to the BSA’s membership policies. A regional office will be established in San Francisco to serve western interests. The US flag on the uniform will be replaced with a rainbow colored patch, signifying a greater inclusiveness. Steven Spielberg and Ellen DeGeneres have each pledged $10 million to help get this new organization established.
The BSA will maintain its national headquarters in Irving, TX. Also, in order to more closely coordinate its affairs with that of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a new office will be opened in Salt Lake City, UT. The Southern Baptist Convention has pledged its wholehearted support of this organization. The BSA’s program and timeless values are not expected to change
Likewise the OA will split itself into two separate and equal organizations. In a compromise move, the name “Order of the Arrow” will describe the lodges chartered to councils within the National Equality Scouting Association. In a move not too dissimilar from when the OA decided all sashes would be worn on the right shoulder and seemingly revised a ceremonial line to stress that only the right shoulder would be correct, lodges within the BSA councils will be part of the Order of the Straight Arrow (OSA).
The OSA will continue to use Native American themes in its programs and ceremonies. They will retain the use the of the arrowhead logo and the arrow sashes. It has been suggested the OA adopt a loosely strung bow as its symbol, representing its willingness to bend while working towards its goal of including all worthy youth and adult leaders within its brotherhood. In its role as Scouting’s honor society, it is expected it will adopt themes similar to that of school honor societies, a concept that should be familiar to many older Scouts.
These changes will be very dramatic. I expect there will be much confusion over the next two years as the details are worked out. I hope and pray for the wisdom of the leaders within the BSA, its councils and chartered organizations as they go through what will likely be a difficult and contentious process. Assistant Deputy National Commissioner Prilo told us he is excited about this challenge and is committed to making it work for Scouting and all youth within the United States.
Comments are welcome. However, as this is a controversial topic please remember the Scout Oath and Law in writing your thoughts and feelings. Also, please remember how the BSA and OA make official announcements of this sort. Lastly, please pay attention to the date on which this post was published.
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