.- News that the Boy Scouts of America may soon approve of openly gay members and leaders has sparked a wave of concern and criticism throughout the country.
Eagle Scout Andrew Hill, who lives in Philadelphia, said that he is “disappointed” that the organization’s leadership appears to have “caved to external demands.”
“The Boy Scouts are now just another organization or public figure that has given in to societal pressure,” Hill told CNA on Jan. 31. “These are the times we live in, and as Catholics, we need to go forward aware of this reality.”
He added, however, that even if the policy change is made, he does not “expect this to have a significant effect on the majority of current and future scouts.”
“With so many troops being organized by and supported by churches, these troops will continue on as they were,” he explained.
Hill’s comments came in response to an announcement by the Boy Scouts of America that a ban on openly homosexual leaders and members is being reconsidered.
Deron Smith, director of public relations for the organization, announced on Jan. 28 that the group “is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation.”
He explained that the removal of a national policy would allow each local unit to set its own guidelines, permitting “the religious, civic, or educational organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting to determine how to address this issue.”
The announcement drew criticism from both religious and secular sources concerned about the well-being of future scouts.
“Boy Scouts leaders are exactly that – leaders,” said Greg Quinlan, president of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays. “Boys watch them very closely. Boys also look up to older Boy Scout members and want to imitate them and follow their examples.”
Quinlan, who identifies himself as a “former homosexual,” said that a gay man “who gently eases boys and young men into exposure of homosexuality by his own personal example promotes homosexual behavior as normal, natural and healthy.”
“This paves the way for youth to question their own sexuality and be affirmed into homosexuality,” he explained.
Quinlan – who attributes his past homosexual behavior in part to the experience of being sexually molested when he was young – also raised concerns of increased sexual abuse with a change to allow openly gay scout leaders.
He speculated that the Boy Scouts’ decision to reconsider its policy is due to financial and political pressure.
“It seems that one or more of your major corporate donors is pressuring you, and others are bullying you, to change the Boy Scout policy to admit homosexuals,” he said, adding that “(m)oney with dangerous conditions attached is not a donation - it's a bribe.”
In recent months, several significant donors – including Intel, UPS and Merck - have stopped giving funds to the Boy Scouts of America due to the ban on homosexual members. The organization had previously defended its policy, explaining that it aligns with the group’s values, respects parental rights and avoids distractions.
The Diocese of Arlington, Va., which has 68 parishes and sponsors about 50 Boy Scout troops, will be watching the situation closely, alongside other parishes and dioceses around the nation.
“The clarity and courage of the Boy Scouts of America over the years in the face of considerable cultural, political and legal pressure has been a blessing,” said Michael Donohue, director of communications for the Diocese of Arlington.
Donohue told CNA that the diocese “is pleased to sponsor Boy Scout troops in its parishes, as are many Catholic dioceses across the nation.”
He explained that diocesan officials are awaiting the final results of the upcoming Boy Scouts meeting.
“Obviously, any substantive changes in the mission or policies of the Boy Scouts of America would require the diocese’s careful consideration,” he said.