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Plenty of Boy Scout Alternatives; But Few for LGBTs

by David Crary
Tuesday Feb 19, 2013
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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:

Faith-Based Programs

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."

Of the major religious denominations which sponsor large numbers of Boy Scout units, the Southern Baptists have been among the most outspoken in urging the BSA to keep the ban on gays. The SBC’s official news agency, Baptist Press, recently reported that the Royal Ambassador program might spread to more Southern Baptist churches if the BSA’s ban is lifted.

The article quoted Don Hinkle, editor of the Missouri Baptist Convention’s newspaper, as reminiscing fondly about his boyhood experience with the Royal Ambassadors.

"Perhaps in these sad, self-destructing days for the Boy Scouts of America, God will use RAs in a new and powerful way to bring honor and glory to Him," Hinkle told Baptist Press.

In addition to the Royal Ambassadors, the SBC also oversees the Challengers, a program for boys aged 12-17.

The Assemblies of God’s Royal Rangers Royal Rangers
Founded in 1962 by one of the largest Pentecostal denominations, the Royal Rangers have about 81,000 youth members in about 4,000 units, according to church headquarters.

"We provide Christ-like character formation and servant leadership development for boys and young men in a highly relational and fun environment," says the Rangers’ mission statement.

Every four years, the organization brings together several thousand boys and adult leaders for a "Camporama" at the Rangers’ campground in Eagle Rock, Mo. Last summer’s event featured a high-ropes course, two zip lines, a water slide, and a lumberjack show.

Like the Southern Baptists, the Assemblies of God considers homosexuality immoral and has urged the Boy Scouts not to lift the ban on gays. A statement to that effect, from the denomination’s leader, has been posted on the Rangers’ website.

"We are saddened and disappointed to hear that Boy Scouts of America, an organization long devoted to biblical values, is now considering loosening the principles in which it was founded," says the Rev. George O. Wood. "We pray the BSA will give careful consideration to this matter and hold firm to the beliefs that have made it a strong and influential organization for more than 100 years."


Next: More Religious Programs


Comments

  • Anonymous, 2013-02-19 09:12:21

    BSA is like slavery in America. That was popular too in its day. Now it’s as outmoded as BSA’s hypocritical stance that publicly bans gays, but privately protects pediphiles. You’d think the Catholics ran BSA. BSA if going to survive is going to need to update their primitive viewpoint.


  • Anonymous, 2013-02-19 09:36:04

    I would love to great more about your mention of BSA privately protecting pedophiles. i personally don’t believe that’s true.


  • Anonymous, 2013-02-19 19:43:56

    Really? You don’t think they’ve shuffled away indiscreet scoutmasters when they’re caught with their pants down? You don’t think BSA covers that up?


  • larry bunner, 2013-02-19 22:16:51

    Boy Scout ’perversion list’ reveals extent of alleged abuse | NJ.com just gollge it and read it is well documented


  • larry bunner, 2013-02-19 22:18:44

    sorry i missed the spelling i have a physical disability sometimes i jerk or tremor


  • Dillon Amstrong, 2013-02-20 00:15:14

    Bsa isnt all bad my troop accepted me after they did throw out anyone who was suppected of. I was so much into it my troop needed me because I was a good asset. But i belive its been a consent trobule with my council therefore As Im a scoutleader at age 18. I was always againsit the hate never took part in it, i would always correct scouts if they used any slurs towards me and if they didnt listen well it was delt with. But the whole Morally Straight thing I myself never said it.


  • larry bunner, 2013-02-20 04:48:49

    i don’t think that any thing is all bad or all good. I just think to deny the one side good or bad doesn’t get any thing accomplished. And you said something I totally agree with you are usually treated the way you treat others and you dealt with it... I do not believe anything is all or nothing when making any judgement ....I tell people if you find a twenty dollar bill in your wallet that isn’t real, you wouldn’t throw out all you money, you would search through it to find the good. I believe in this if it is an organization or people, etc. don’t judge on color, sexual orintation, age , nothing. You have to let the other person show you who or what they are and then decide if they belong in your lifee or you theirs. again hope i didn’tt makke to many mistakes thanks for the input


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