A faith-based group opposed to the Boy Scouts recent decision to allow gay youth to join has formed their own program for kids and teens in response — but they will also let gay youth and adults participate, leaders said Tuesday.
While the program, which doesn’t yet have a name, will allow gays, it won’t let them “flaunt” it, said John Stemberger, founder of OnMyHonor.net, a coalition opposed to the BSA’s vote in late May to change the controversial membership policy.
“We don’t think sex and politics should be in a program for kids. Those are issues for parents,”said Stemberger, of Orlando, Fla., who left the Boy Scouts along with his two sons over the decision in May.
“If a young man has a same-sex attraction he would not be turned away in the program, but he’s not going to be allowed to kind of openly flaunt it and carry a rainbow flag,” he added, apparently referring to the participation of some BSA members in LGBT pride parades in recent weeks.
“There is not going to be any kind of a witch hunt in our organization for people and what their sexual orientation’s are. We’re going to focus on sexual purity not sexual orientation.”
Stemberger, Boy Scout leaders from across the country and groups, like Faith Based Boys (created in the wake of the BSA decision) met on June 29 in Louisville, Ky., to craft the new organization. He said more than 30,000 Boy Scout leaders and parents in that program had been in touch with the faith-based alternative.
“The new program will be an exciting and motivating outdoor-based program, focused on leadership and character development for boys, and founded on principles and values that reflect a Christian world view,” said Rob Green, a former Boy Scout leader who is now interim executive director of the new organization. “We will be distinctly different from the Boy Scouts although there will be some similarities, for example, rank advancements that have been earned within the BSA will be transferable.”
However, the organization’s membership policy would focus on sexual purity rather than orientation.
“The policy will read in part, ‘the proper context for sexual relations is only between a man and a woman in the covenant of marriage,’” said Green, of Spartanburg, S.C.
The Boy Scouts membership policy, which had previously excluded openly gay youth (it still bans adults), dogged the organization in recent years. Families left Scouting after leaders and Scouts were ejected for being gay.
After the vote by the BSA’s national council in May, some church sponsors (more than 70 percent of BSA sponsors are churches) and families left the organization. But some who were opposed to the change opted to stay while yet others said they would re-join after once leaving over the issue.
The new faith-based grouping will hold its first national convention in Nashville from Sept 6-7. Families and BSA units that want to join can register in November, and the organization should be up and running on Jan. 1, 2014 – the same day when the new BSA membership policy takes effect.
Boys may come from every religious background, but adult leaders in the program will adhere to a standard statement of Christian faith and values, Green said.
“We don’t think sex and politics should be in a program for kids. Those are issues for parents,” said Stemberger, of Orlando, Fla.
Are you leaving or re-joining Scouting over the new membership policy? If you'd ilke to share how your pack, troop or council is handling the decision to allow gay youth, you can email reporter Miranda Leitsinger at firstname.lastname@example.org