A change may be coming to the Boy Scouts of America. Next Monday, the national group will vote on changing the rules on how leadership standards are set. It’s in response to the recent rulings granting gays more rights, including marriage. Robert Gates, head of the Boy Scouts of America spoke at a national conference last month saying “our country has changed and we are increasingly at odds with the legal landscape at both the state and federal levels.”
Gates proposed that the national group votes to grant charter organizations the right to set leadership standards. “What it’s going to do is allow the individual chartered organizations which are the ones who determine membership anyway – to decide who they want their leaders to be,” said Tom Cardiff of the Coastal Georgia Boy Scouts Council.
At the national level, Gates made it clear the move was to accommodate the concerns of church groups, which make up the majority of charter organizations nationwide. “Such an approach would allow all churches which sponsor some 70 percent of our scout units to establish leadership standards consistent with their faith,” said Gates. “We must at all costs protect the religious rights of our church partners to do this.”
Cardiff said in recent weeks he’s heard from “people on both sides, some upset we didn’t consider changing sooner and other who are upset we are considering any change at all.”
Cardiff is in charge of a council that includes 22 coastal area counties, and about 200 units (cub Scouts packs, Boy Scout troops and Venture crews). He says there are about 75 charter organizations (the majority of them are churches as well) with about 6,000 kinds and about 3000 leaders.
“I think one of the reasons this vote is coming up also is they’re getting tired of fighting the issue,” said Cardiff. “And it’s distracting from our main mission which is is to teach our young people to be good citizens and to obey the scout law.”
He says if the change takes place next week (and it seems likely) it will provide the charter groups with more authority at the local level. “So if a church or organization decides they want to allow gays that’s up to them to make that decision,” he says. “Or if you have a religious institution that says it does not want that to happen within its particular organization, then it doesn’t have to do it.”
Cardiff doesn’t foresee much change around here however. ” I don’t think they’ll be a lot of change here in coastal Georgia counties,” he says. “But I think we’re going to have some people who are going to be upset and frustrated with the change itself because of individual views on the subject.”
Cardiff says if the vote is yes on Monday, he expects the change to take place almost immediately. “after that, I think we want to get back out there and deliver a program that is going to help our young men be leaders,” he said.