Despite Controversy, Boy Scouts Say Business Continues as Usual

July 7, 2008 - 8:03 PM

( - Despite a barrage of criticism in recent months aimed at the Boy Scouts of America for its ban on homosexual leaders, the organization insists it is unfazed by the attacks and is managing business as usual.

Wednesday, eight scout delegates from all over the U.S. met with House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) to present their annual report to Congress.

While accepting the report and visiting with each delegate, Hastert praised the BSA for the work it performs.

"Taking responsibility for yourselves is the first step to taking care of others," Hastert, a former scout leader of 16 years, told the delegates. "While other kids are out there getting into drugs and dropping out of school, you all are becoming responsible members of society and helping the community."

However, since last summer when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Boy Scouts had a Constitutional right to exclude homosexual scout leaders, public opinion in some communities has turned against the organization. Corporations, charities and even some local governments have criticized the policy, threatening to either cut off financial support or block the Boy Scouts from using public buildings for their meetings.

Just last month, the New York City Council gave the city's 130,000-member scout chapter 120 days to change its policy on homosexuals or risk losing all free access to city-owned facilities.

Renee Fairrer, spokeswoman for the BSA, said while some segments of the public have criticized the organization, other groups have become more enthusiastic in their support of the scouts.

"Surprisingly, funding is up since the Supreme Court ruling, because communities have really stepped up to support the scouts," she said. "[Out of those troops which were dropped from their sponsors] 99 percent have found other troops nearby to become a part of. In other places, new troops have formed so that young men who want to be a part of scouting have it."

Fairrer said the controversy has been portrayed as revolving around the homosexual issue alone, but she said, the actual court case was not about discrimination. It was about the rights guaranteed to private organizations under the First Amendment. And Fairrer added that those who have accused the Boy Scouts of discriminating against homosexuals are missing the point of scouting.

"It is quite unfortunate when adults make these kids the aim of their frustrations," she said. "Young people who take part in scouting are here for fun and learning, and to have them be part of a political statement is a shame."

Despite the attention devoted to the Supreme Court ruling and the BSA policy on homosexuals, Fairrer said the organization has moved on with its mission.

"Challenges to our policies have been going on for some 20 years now, and will continue," Fairrer said. "After the Supreme Court ruling, we have been concentrating on doing what we do best, which is providing a service to the community."

In bracing for future fallout, Fairrer said the BSA is following its own advice.

"We have learned that 'Be prepared' is more than just a motto," she said.