(CNSNews.com) – Robert Gates, president of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), said the orgnization's "status quo" on membership, which prohibits openly homosexual adults, could not be sustained and strongly suggested that the BSA fall in line with the pro-gay "changes taking place" in America today, during a speech at the BSA National Annual Meeting on Thursday.
During his address, Gates referenced the Boy Scouts’ oath that mentions “duty to God and our country,” but he added that “our country is changing.” Gates did not mention that part of the oath where a Boy Scout pledges to keep himself “morally straight.”
“We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be,” Gates said. “The status quo in our movement’s membership standards cannot be sustained.”
Throughout his speech, Gates sought to balance his push for a policy change with a pledge to protect the religious beliefs of the thousands of churches that financially sustain the BSA.
“Our oath calls upon us to do our duty to God and our country,” Gates said during his address. “The country is changing and we are increasingly at odds with the legal landscape at both the state and federal levels.”
“The one thing we cannot do is put our heads in the sand and pretend this challenge will go away or abate. Quite the opposite is happening,” he added.
According to the BSA's website, more than 70 percent of all BSA charters are supported by faith-based organizations.
Gates also warned that by not amending the Boy Scouts’ policy to allow gay leaders into the organization, the BSA is inviting unwelcome court action that would force it to adopt a policy it doesn’t want.
“We cannot predict if or when this might happen to us, but I personally believe our legal defenses have weakened,” Gates said.
“If we wait for the courts to act, we could end up with a broad ruling that could forbid any kind of membership standard, including our foundational belief in our duty to God and our focus on serving the specific needs of boys,” he continued.
“Waiting for the courts to act is a gamble with huge stakes,” Gates added.
Regional BSA charters have already begun to defy the organization’s national policy against allowing homosexual troop leaders, Gates pointed out. Trying to reel these councils back in would require some charters to be expelled from the BSA entirely.
“We cannot ignore growing internal challenges to our current membership policy, from some councils – like the Greater New York Council, the Denver Area Council, and others – in open defiance of the policy, to more and more councils taking a position in their mission statements and public documents contrary to national policy.”
“While technically we have the authority to revoke their charters, such an action would deny the lifelong benefits of scouting to hundreds of thousands of boys and young men today and vastly more in the future. I will not take that path.”
Gates did not press the organization to adopt a formal policy change on Thursday, but he did urge fellow BSA members to “reflect and pray on a path forward.”
The BSA voted in 2013 to add a provision in its membership policy stating that a boy could not be denied membership based on his sexual orientation alone. The provision passed with a 61 percent majority.
The BSA’s current troop leader policy states: “While the BSA does not proactively inquire about the 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.”
According to the organization’s website, the official BSA Scout Oath states: “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country, and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”