by Paul Bowers
When Boy Scouts of America leaders vote Thursday on a proposal that would allow openly gay boys in the organization, local leaders from the Lowcountry will likely vote no. Legare Clement, scout executive of the Coastal Carolina Council, says that when polled, the vast majority of local members, families, and leaders were opposed to the proposal, and the council's nine voting delegates have been "charged with voting to reflect the opinion of the Scouting family and the communities represented within the Coastal Carolina Council."
The Coastal Carolina Council serves Allendale, Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester, Georgetown, Hampton, and Jasper counties. Asked for a comment on the issue, Legare sent the following statement to the City Paper:
The Coastal Carolina Council conducted an extensive and comprehensive listening and opinion gathering exercise within our Scouting family and the communities we serve. The process included numerous public information and opinion gathering meetings, an online survey of Scouts, leaders, and parents, and a dedicated email address for anyone in our community to share their opinions with our voting delegates. We found that over 85% of those sharing their opinion were against any change to the current membership policy of the BSA.
According to Legare, the vote will be conducted by secret ballot and administered by an independent authority. Currently, the Boy Scouts of America's policy on gay Scouts reads as follows:
While the BSA does not proactively inquire about sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.
The proposal to allow gay Scouts has drawn fire from opponents on both sides of the issue, with some liberal members arguing that it should be expanded to allow gay adult leaders, not just gay Scouts. Meanwhile, the proposal to allow gay Scouts has gained a surprising ally in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which sponsors 25 percent of all local Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts groups in the country, according to the Christian Science Monitor. In late April, the Mormon church released a statement that it was "satisfied that BSA has made a thoughtful, good-faith effort to address issues that, as they have said, remain 'among the most complex and challenging issues facing the BSA and society today.'" The statement also lauds BSA for its "recognition that Scouting exists to serve and benefit youth rather than Scout leaders."
If the proposal to allow gay Scouts passes this week, any effort to include gay Scout leaders will still be an uphill battle. According to a study conducted by BSA, an estimated 100,000 to 350,000 members would defect from the organization if gay adults were allowed.