Plenty of Boy Scout Alternatives; But Few for LGBTs
With the Boy Scouts of America entangled in a furor over its ban on gays, lesser-known youth organizations across the ideological spectrum see an opportunity. They wonder if the turmoil might prompt some families to give them a closer look as options for their boys.
They range from Bible-based programs run by conservative religious organizations to coed, inclusive groups, including one founded on the basis of pagan beliefs. None of the groups has the size or iconic status of the BSA, though some have been around for many decades.
Leaders of several of the groups, in public statements and interviews with The Associated Press, made clear they are following the Boy Scouts’ predicament with interest and pondering possible ramifications for their own prospects - though not seeking to profit from "someone else’s misfortune," as one leader said.
The BSA, founded in 1910 and now serving about 2.66 million boys, is deliberating a possible shift in its long-standing policy of excluding gays as youth members or adult leaders.
In May, the BSA’s 1,400-member National Council is expected to consider a proposal to ease the ban by allowing sponsors of local Scout units to decide for themselves whether to admit gays. Gay-rights groups say the plan is inadequate, and that no units should be allowed to discriminate, while some conservative religious leaders and advocacy groups want the ban to stay in place nationwide.
As a result, there has been consternation on both the left and right of the scouting community, and warnings of possible defections depending on what decision is made in May.
For families that do seek an alternative to the Boy Scouts, here are some of the options:
The Southern Baptist Convention’s Royal Ambassadors
Founded in 1908, this is a program run by Southern Baptist churches for boys in first through sixth grade.
The SBC’s Women’s Missionary Union, which oversees the program, estimates that it has about 6,300 adult leaders and 31,000 youth members. Its curriculum shares many features with the Boy Scouts, including camping trips and model race-car competitions, but it also stresses a goal of providing boys with "godly characteristics" and a "biblical worldview."