By Sarah Glenn
IDAHO FALLS â€“â€“ The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is moving to allow individual scout troops to chose their own leaders regardless of their sexual orientation.
While most expect the amendment to easily pass, the change wonâ€™t be official until the National Executive Board meets to ratify the resolution on July 27.
Since the BSAâ€™s announcement last week, local leaders have been listening to questions from concerned parents who want to know, what does this change mean for Idaho boy scouts?
â€śIn practice, I donâ€™t think much will change in Eastern Idaho,â€ť said Clarke Farrer, Scout Executive for the Grand Teton Council.
While the policy change opens the door to LGBT leaders, Farrer says each individual troop will still have complete control over who they appoint to these volunteer positions.
â€śScouting units are chartered by various organizations,â€ť Farrer said. â€śRegarding who they select as scout leaders, they make that decision. Thatâ€™s not changing. What is changing is that if an organization or church or civic group or whatever wants to have a leader who is homosexual, the national Boy Scout policy would now allow them to do that.â€ť
Zach Wahls, the executive director of Scouts for Equality, rejoiced at the news.
â€śFor decades, the Boy Scouts of Americaâ€™s ban on gay adults has stood as a towering example of explicit, institutional homophobia in one of Americaâ€™s most important and recognizable civic organizations,â€ť Wahls said in a written statement. â€śWhile this policy change is not perfect â€” BSAâ€™s religious chartering partners will be allowed to continue to discriminate against gay adultsâ€”it is difficult to overstate the importance of todayâ€™s announcement.â€ť
More than 90 percent of the boy scout troops in the Grand Teton Council are chartered by religious organizations. A majority of those are chartered by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which opposes homosexual behavior.
The LDS church made clear in a press statement that they would not appoint active and practicing homosexuals as boy scout leaders.
â€śAs a chartering organization, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has always had the right to select Scout leaders who adhere to moral and religious principles that are consistent with our doctrines and beliefs,â€ť the statement says. â€śAny resolution adopted by the Boy Scouts of America regarding leadership in Scouting must continue to affirm that right.â€ť
While the statistical likelihood of a homosexual scout leader in Eastern Idaho is low, many local parents are still concerned.
â€śThere are a lot of parents and leaders who are concerned about the safety of kids who donâ€™t understand that there is a major difference between a homosexual individual and a pedophile,â€ť Farrer said. â€śJust because someone is a homosexual, that does not mean that they will harm your kid.â€ť
Anyone with objections to homosexuality who is concerned about either the moral or physical safety of their child has little to worry about, Farrer said. The scout executive highlighted provisions in the BSA amendment that would prohibit LGBT leaders from advocating for homosexual behavior in scout meetings. The Boy Scouts of America also has a long-standing set of Youth Protection Guidelines that are designed to safeguard youth, regardless of the leaderâ€™s sexual orientation.
â€śFor example, no one can have one-on-one contact unless it is with their own child,â€ť Farrer said. â€śWe also require two-deep leadership at all meetings. If one of the two leaders does not show up to a troop meeting then one of the parents will have to stay.â€ť
The entire set of Youth Protection Guidelines are available at http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/HealthandSafety/GSS/gss01.aspx.
Regarding facilities, Farrer says that nationally the BSA is no longer building open-floor plan showers and the Grand Teton Council is following suit. Walls and shower curtains are now a part of every scout camp bathroom floor plan. However, Farrer made clear that the change (which began many years ago) was not in response to homosexual integration into scouting, but rather changing social norms.
The Grand Teton Council delivers the programs of the Boy Scouts of America to the youth of southeastern Idaho, western Wyoming and southwestern Montana. In partnership with chartering organizations, the council oversees more than 22,000 scouts. The council has more than 10,000 regular leaders, all unpaid volunteers.