A statue in front of the National Scouting Museum in Irving, Texas, on Monday.
“BATTLESTATIONS!” “The phones are ringing off the wall.” “Good turn for the day. (takes less than one minute).”
These are the battle cries made by advocates on both sides of the debate over allowing gays into the Boy Scouts. They are urging their supporters to call or email the private youth organization as it weighs lifting its longstanding, controversial ban, with a decision expected next week.
The new policy, now under discussion, would revise the national organization’s rules to allow local sponsoring organizations to decide for themselves whether to admit gay scouts and leaders. If approved, the change could be announced as early as next week, after the Boy Scouts of America's national board holds a regularly scheduled meeting.
On the Facebook page for George Takei, known for his role as Mr. Sulu in Star Trek, he urged those wanting to end the ban to hit their “BATTLESTATIONS!” and to “Takei Stand.” He gave supporters a step-by-step guide, telling them to call, say they were for the change, and then to like and share the message. As of Thursday afternoon, more than 56,000 people had liked his status and 41,000 had shared it, while another 6,000 left comments.
“Let's FLOOD their lines with thousands of calls. (Believe me, the other side's busy, too...),” he wrote.
And indeed, they were. The Family Research Council, which supports maintaining the ban, noted in an appeal to its supporters on its website: “The phones are ringing off the wall.”
“If you've tried to get through to the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), you know it's been tough. If you've wanted to express your concern about the BSA abandoning their longstanding policy of safeguarding Scouts by restricting openly homosexual Scout leaders from holding leadership positions, you may have been greeted by an endlessly ringing phone. This may be one instance in which the Boy Scouts were not prepared,” for what the council said was the response of thousands of Americans opposed to the change.
It then listed the numbers for each of the BSA’s board members and provided a sample phone script for supporters to read. On the council’s Facebook page, a similar post had received nearly 3,900 likes and more than 2,800 shares plus 800 comments.
When a reporter called the BSA Wednesday night, a woman who answered the phone asked, “Are you for or against the proposed policy change?” When the reporter identified her news organization, the woman said the Scouts had been taking calls since about 3 p.m. Monday and it had been very busy.
“When we receive calls we are indeed allowing people to provide feedback, but it’s not a poll (and we won’t be releasing data about the feedback),” BSA spokesman Deron Smith said in an email, responding to an inquiry about the calls and when they began.
On the organization's Facebook page, people were asked to provide feedback by email or to a phone number provided. Some who posted there asked about getting a running tally.
But by Thursday afternoon, opponents of the ban reported that the BSA was no longer taking the phone feedback (Smith did not respond to an inquiry on whether the BSA had stopped). So the secondary tactic was deployed.
“so inundated! recorded msg states system can no longer take calls! revolution by email it is,” wrote one poster, identified as Seattle Punk Rock Aerobics.
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If you are a current or former member of the Boy Scouts and would like to share your thoughts on how your troop, pack or council is handling the possibility of a change in the membership policy, you can email the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org. We may use some comments for a follow-up story, so please specify if your remarks can be used and provide your name, hometown, age and Boy Scout affiliation.