Abandoning a century of precedent, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced on Monday that effective immediately the organization would drop the practice of using birth certificates to determine eligibility for the Boy Scout and Cub Scout programs.
In announcing the change Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh explained:
“As one of America’s largest youth-serving organizations, the Boy Scouts of America continues to work to bring the benefits of our programs to as many children, families and communities as possible.
While we offer a number of programs that serve all youth, Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting are specifically designed to meet the needs of boys. For more than 100 years, the Boy Scouts of America, along with schools, youth sports and other youth organizations, have ultimately deferred to the information on an individual’s birth certificate to determine eligibility for our single-gender programs. However, that approach is no longer sufficient as communities and state laws are interpreting gender identity differently, and these laws vary widely from state to state.”
“Starting today, we will accept and register youth in the Cub and Boy Scout programs based on the gender identity indicated on the application. Our organization’s local councils will help find units that can provide for the best interest of the child.”
Unfortunately, the BSA’s capitulation was as inevitable as it was predictable. A brief survey of recent history tells a remarkably sad story of equivocation, surrender, and moral cowardice.
For generations, the BSA boldly stood by their mission of inculcating character in America’s boys. Scouts were encouraged to uphold the Scouting Oath which included the promise to “keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” This was part of the proud tradition of Scouting. But in recent years BSA leaders have failed spectacularly in modeling the guiding convictions of a once great institution.
However, it wasn’t always like this. In fact, in the 1990’s, despite mounting pressure from homosexual activists, the BSA fought hard against being forced to include avowed gay scouts or scoutmasters in its ranks. After being sued for this policy, the BSA fought for their right of expressive association all the way to the Supreme Court. In Boy Scouts of America v. Dale (2000), the Court upheld the BSA’s First Amendment rights.
Writing for the majority, Chief Justice William Rehnquist said that the “presence [of an open homosexual] in the Boy Scouts would, at the very least, force the organization to send a message, both to the youth members and the world, that the Boy Scouts accepts homosexual conduct as a legitimate form of behavior.”
In short, the Court upheld the right of a private organization to exclude a person from membership through their First Amendment right to freedom of association despite antidiscrimination laws.
Despite this victory, pressure continued to mount for the Boy Scouts to reverse policy. Celebrities, media personalities, and political figures began openly calling for the organization to drop the ban. In February 2013, President Obama weighed in, commenting, “My attitude is that gays and lesbians should have access and opportunity the same way everybody else does in every institution and walk of life. The Scouts are a great institution that are promoting young people and exposing them to opportunities and leadership that will serve people for the rest of their lives. And I think nobody should be barred from that.”
On May 23, 2013, the Boy Scouts’ national governing body voted to lift the long-standing ban on openly gay youth in the program, effective January 1, 2014. However, they announced the ban on openly gay scoutmasters would remain in effect. This lasted until July 27, 2015, when the national governing body announced that gay leaders would be allowed to serve as Scout leaders.
Thus, yesterday’s decision to allow transgender boys—biological girls who identify as boys—to join the Boy Scouts concludes the organization’s complete surrender to the sexual revolution. In the span of only a few years, the BSA went from fighting for its convictions (all the way up to the Supreme Court of the United States!) to capitulating to homosexual activists and agreeing to redefine what it means to be a boy.
Lamenting this decision, John Stemberger, Founder and Chairman of Trail Life USA noted:
“This is a profoundly sad but inevitable decision on the part of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). The “key three” leadership of the BSA assured its membership less than four years ago when they voted to allow openly gay boys in the program that this would never happen. Now untold thousands of boys in Scouting will be directly exposed to the serious psychological confusion that is characterized by those claiming to be transgender…. knowing that boys and biological girls will be showering, dressing and camping in tents together creates a clear child protection issue which is being ignored. It’s simply stunning that a leading youth organization which parents entrust the protection of their children with has opted to again appease political activists rather than follow clear, common-sense best practices for child protection.”
Trail Life USA is the distinctly Christian scouting organization formed in 2013 in the aftermath of the BSA’s acceptance of openly gay scouts. The group now has 700 troops in 48 states across the country.
The Boy Scouts of America represent the latest casualty in the culture wars but they certainly won’t be the last. But this particular case of moral abdication is especially sad. For years the BSA represented the best of America—championing values, inspiring courage, and instilling leadership. Generations of boys grew into adulthood under the auspices of this organization. But beginning in 2013 this legacy was placed on the altar of political correctness and social acceptability. And now in 2017 any remaining shreds of moral respectability have been tossed into the blaze.
“Gender identity” has become a cherished value of the progressive left and claims of biological uniqueness are now viewed as outdated and discriminatory. Under the Obama administration, the federal government increasingly elevated gender identity to protected class status.
Perhaps these trends will be stunted or reversed under the new administration as President Trump’s judicial appointments are seated and begin deciding many of the currently pending and relevant cases.
But whatever the outcome for these cases, the BSA’s decision yesterday tarnishes its heritage and harms the young men it purports to serve.