The Boy Scouts’ vote to allow openly gay boys prompted some supporters and critics of the new policy to swing into action Friday.
A network of Scouting families who wanted the ban to remain said it will host a meeting next month to start the process of creating “a new character development organization for boys.” At the same time, gay equality advocates vowed to help the Scouts grow their membership and assist troops in crafting guidelines for handling Scouts who come out as gay.
But in the Washington region and nationally, there were more questions than answers the day after the Scouts’ National Council passed a resolution ending the 100-year-old group’s rule that openly gay Scouts were not “morally straight” and fit to join. The ban on openly gay adult volunteers remains in place.
Troops who supported lifting the ban said they were still awaiting details about how the new policy will work in practice. And it was unclear whether some troops whose leaders had said before the vote that they would likely leave Scouting would actually do so.
The Rev. John De Celles at St. Raymond of Penafort Catholic Church in Springfield had told congregants in a recent newsletter that the Scouts’ policy change “would be a statement that ‘gay is okay’ ” and that the parish by September would work to create a new group “that will defend Christian values.”
De Celles did not return phone messages Friday, nor did staff at the Immanuel Bible Church — also in Springfield — where a parent active in Scouting said the program would probably shut down at the end of 2013, before the new policy kicks in Jan. 1.
Bishop Paul Loverde of the Arlington Catholic Diocese, which covers 68 parishes across Northern Virginia, issued a statement Friday saying the vote “forces us to prayerfully reconsider” staying in Scouting. Loverde said he would consult with other Catholic bodies.
“Overarching all of this will be our firm commitment to preserving the integrity of the Church’s teaching on the authentic meaning of human sexuality,” he wrote.
“As an organization founded on character and leadership, it is highly disappointing to see the Boy Scouts of America succumb to external pressures and political causes at the cost of its moral integrity.”
Aaron Chusid, spokesman for the 1,700-unit National Capital Area Council of Scouts, said Friday that he hadn’t heard from anyone who has decided to leave.
“There have been a lot of very valid questions raised in this discussion about how our guidelines will apply in specific situations. We don’t have those answers yet,” Chusid said. “I’m sure many units will have meetings to decide what this means for them . . . but until we get more guidance from [headquarters], there may not be a lot to discuss.”
The council, which runs north from Fredericksburg to Frederick, a few days ago issued results from a survey done earlier this year asking members how they would feel about a more liberal policy on sexuality.
A change or no change, the statement said, would mean membership losses — but more losses if the ban on gay men and boys was eased. Forty-three percent of members said they would keep participating regardless.
Several conservative religious denominations, including the Assemblies of God and the Southern Baptist Convention, have already formed their own Scouts-like organizations. The most visible movement against lifting the ban was a national group called On My Honor, whose leadership said it would hold a meeting next month in Louisville “with other likeminded organizations, parents and [Boy Scouts of America] members” to create an alternate group.
Gay rights advocates said they would now turn to helping the Scouts.
“Pro-equality groups are planning to encourage youth, including gay youth, to join and participate in the Boy Scouts. As they demonstrate their dedication to the program, hopefully it can change the culture of the organization from the inside,” said Ross Murray, a spokesman for GLAAD. “I will say, however, the ban on gay adult leaders is still a major barrier for many families and organizations.”
A member of Scouts for Equality, another group that had worked to lift the ban, said it was working to find chartering organizations for troops that might be turned away by sponsors, particularly traditional faith groups.