Local troops could decide for themselves whether to change their membership policy or continue to exclude gays
As early as next week, the Boy Scouts of America's may announce it will allow gay Scouts and troop leaders, a spokesman for the group has told USA TODAY.
If this policy shift is approved by the national board meeting at their scheduled meeting next week, it will be a sharp reversal of the Scouts' decade's old national policy banning homosexuals.
"The policy change under discussion would allow the religious, civic or educational organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting to determine how to address this issue," BSA spokesman Deron Smith said in a statement to USA TODAY.
Only seven months ago, the Boy Scouts affirmed its ban on gays after a nearly two-year examination of the issue by a committee of volunteers convened by national leaders of the Boy Scouts of America, known as the BSA. However, local chapters and some members of the national board -- corporate CEO Randall Stephenson of AT&T and James Turley of Ernst & Young -- called for a reconsideration.
The proposed new policy would leave decisions on membership and leadership up to the BSA' s 290 local governing councils and 116,000 sponsoring religious and civic groups.
"Scouting has always been in an ongoing dialogue with the Scouting family to determine what is in the best interest of the organization and the young people we serve," Smith told USA TODAY.
"The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members or parents. Under this proposed policy, the BSA would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization's mission, principles or religious beliefs," he said.
The potential policy shift raises a question about another group shut out of scouting -- atheists.
David Silverman, president of American Atheists, said Monday, "If they are considering lifting the ban on gays, that's a good thing, that's progress. Now, if they lift that bigotry from their requirements, I would hope they remove the rest of the bigotry and admit atheists as well.
"The prohibition against atheists, like the prohibition against gays, tells boys that atheists are immoral." Silverman said."If local groups want to behave in an ethical way, I'm confident they will make Boy Scouts about scouting, not about bigotry."