Scouting & Homosexuality

Some Friends have expressed their concerns about Quaker involvement with Scouting because of Boy Scouts of America’s policy preventing openly gay or lesbian persons from being members. These Friends feel that Quakers should not be involved in Scouting at all.

Friends Committee on Scouting draws membership from all streams of Quakerism and no universal unity on the subject of homosexuality has been discerned across all Yearly Meetings around the globe.  Some Yearly and Monthly Meetings are opposed to homosexuality while others approve of same-gendered marriage and take such marriages under their care. Some Quakers who are actively involved in Scouting may agree with Boy Scouts of America’s policy while others are strongly opposed but feel led to remain in order to facilitate change through continued engagement.

Likewise, within the global Scouting Movement, there is no consensus yet on this issue. Some National Scout Organizations (“NSO”), such as Boy Scouts of America, are opposed to homosexuality, while other NSOs, such as Scouts Canada and The Scout Association (UK) welcome gay, lesbian, and transgendered youth and volunteers.

The following is provided to address these concerns  and explain Friends Committee on Scouting’s position.

Specifically, “Boy Scouts of America believes that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the obligations in the Scout Oath and Law to be morally straight and clean in thought, word, and deed. Scouting’s moral position with respect to homosexual conduct accords with the moral positions of many millions of Americans and with religious denominations to which a majority of Americans belong. Because of these views concerning the morality of homosexual conduct, Boy Scouts of America believes that a known or avowed homosexual is not an appropriate role model of the Scout Oath and Law for adolescent boys.”  

Respecting the diversity of opinions among Friends on the issue of homosexuality, FCS neither endorses nor opposes BSA’s position.  No unity on the subject has yet been discerned. Regardless, FCS believes that any withdrawal by FCS from involvement with BSA would only serve to hurt Young Friends.

However, it should be noted that Friends General Conference representatives to FCS are also guided by a FGC Minute on Scouting, which reads:

In the unprogrammed tradition of the Religious Society of Friends we have many examples of Friends individually and collectively laboring with issues, individuals, and organizations with whom we disagree. We are in disagreement with the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) policy to discriminate in its membership against men and women who are homosexuals. In our experience, many men and women who are homosexual have ministered in leadership roles in all aspects of Friends’ religious life, including the care and nurture of our children and youth.

Friends believe that God is present and at work in each of us and that through worship and prayer we can know God’s work for us. We have expressed this work in our testimonies of peace, equality, and integrity. We affirm that God calls us to love and respect each person regardless of race, of gender, or of sexual orientation or identity (gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered). There is no place in God’s creation for discrimination one against another.

Living in the occasion of God’s love, we are called to continued engagement with the BSA and their policy of membership discrimination within the structure of Friends Committee on Scouting and their representation to the BSA’s Religious Relations Committee.” (Central Committee Minutes, November 2000)

Members of Canadian Yearly Meeting and Britain Yearly Meeting are advised that Scouts Canada and The Scout Association (UK) have adopted policies that support the inclusion of gay and lesbian members.

Scouts Canada has adopted a Social Justice and Diversity Policy which reads:
“In keeping with our fundamental principles – Duty to God, Duty to Others, Duty to Self – Scouts Canada is committed to social justice including the promotion of gender and member diversity at all levels of the organization, both in its structures and programs and to the elimination of discrimination on the groups of race, gender, ethnicity, financial ability, sexual orientation, religion, disability or age.

The Scout Association (UK) has adopted the following policy:
“There is no basis on which any volunteer offering his or her services in any capacity can be refused an appointment in, or Membership of, the Movement on the grounds of heterosexual or homosexual orientation. Homosexuality has been perceived as incompatible with Scouting by some people (both within and outside The Scout Association) on the basis of a presumed link between homosexuality and paedophilia. This perception has been used to deny homosexual people the chance to work with young people as Scout Leaders. There is no link between homosexuality and paedophilia, and therefore there is no justification for restricting Membership on this basis.”

The organisation has prepared resource material to assist young gay and lesbian members of Scouting in  coming out and material to assist adults and leaders in supporting young gay and lesbian members of Scouting.

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