Delegates from the Boy Scouts of America’s National Council voted yesterday to allow gay scouts to “serve openly.” The change, a move toward inclusiveness encouraged by the organization’s leadership despite fierce opposition by conservatives, won’t affect the ban on gay scout leaders–the adults who guide the boys. Present and past members of the National Executive Board (which governs the organization) include former presidential nominee Mitt Romney and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints President Thomas S. Monson. Romney supported the change and the LDS issued a statement that sexual orientation is not a factor for admission to the scouts. (The LDS requires only that there is no pre-marital sex of any kind.) These were critical endorsements: although BSA is an independent organization, 70% of all Scouting units are chartered to faith-based organizations. More than 37,000 units are associated with the Latter-Day Saints Church. In second place is the United Methodist Church (10,000), followed by the Catholic Church (8,000).
The Boy Scouts have shown a willingness to embrace diversity in the past. In 1982, the National Islamic Committee on Scouting (NICS) was formed by a group of concerned Muslims. Today, there are approximately 78 Scout units (or about 2,000 Islamic Boy Scouts) associated with Mosques or Islamic centers in America. In order for a Scout to achieve Bear rank and receive his “In the Name of Allah Emblem” he must successfully complete activities related to the Holy Books, Great Prophets, Muslim heroes, and American Muslim heritage. In 1988, in Stamford, CT, the Islamic Committee on Girl Scouting was formed and is now a part of The Girl Scouts of the United States of America. They too can earn the “In the Name of Allah” award.