He’s a fourth-generation Boy Scout leader, recipient of an award for distinguished leadership and a member of the Southern Region committee as well as an ad hoc member of the national committee.
But if the Boy Scouts of America’s national executive board follows through this week with a proposal to reverse a century-old policy and allow homosexuals in its ranks, Steve Elwart of Vicksburg, Miss., says he’s one of many Scout leaders throughout the leadership structure who will resign.
Elwart, a 30-year veteran of Scouting, explained to WND that with a model program already in place to protect Scouts from sexual abuse, his concern is not that pedophiles will infiltrate the organization if the policy is changed.
Calling that issue a “red herring,” his concern is more fundamental.
“Homosexuality is not a value I want to see imparted on my children,” he said. “And a lot of parents feel the same way, that homosexuality is not OK.”
Along with his regional committee position, Elwart said he will also resign as assistant scoutmaster of Troop 638 in Vicksburg, where he has served since 1987. He also is a former scoutmaster for the troop.
Elwart, a frequent contributor to WND, explained he will resign if the new policy is passed, because by remaining, he would be “giving tacit agreement to the policy.”
The executive board is meeting Monday through Wednesday in Irving, Texas, the headquarters of the national organization.
Noting the culturally conservative rank-and-file membership of the Scouts, Elwart believes the executive board is poised to change the policy because of the loss of major corporate donors, who were pressured by homosexual-rights groups.
In contrast, he cited Boy Scouts founder Sir Robert Baden Powell’s philosophy of not asking for money, explaining he had an idea, and “money followed the idea.”
The Boy Scouts of America, a member of the World Organization of the Scout Movement, was founded in 1910.
“I’m afraid that if the BSA goes down this road, they may preserve some big money, but they will lose not only small contributors but the efforts of thousands of volunteers that do not want to be part of this,” Elwart said.
“They’ll end up with a lot of money but no program.”
As WND reported, the BSA’s new policy proposal coincides with a sudden drop in major corporate funding that began last summer after a gay-rights blogger for the Huffington Post published a collaborative report that named the donors and chastised them for violating their own policy of not discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.
The Scouts count more than 2.7 million members and more than 1 million volunteers. The Scout troops, which are hosted by churches and other organizations, are organized into districts, based on geographic boundaries, which in turn are grouped into councils. The councils form 26 areas nationwide, which are further grouped into four regions. The BSA national council sets policy, offers national awards and organizes national jamborees.
Elwart said, based on his extensive communication in the past week with Scout leaders nationwide, the BSA national council’s proposal has created a firestorm
“Overwhelmingly, they do not like the change,” Elwart said of his colleagues. “A majority of them are considering retiring.”
He affirmed that his sample includes both volunteers and paid professionals from local unit leaders to leaders at the district, council and regional levels across the country.
‘Meeting the needs of families’
Last week, the national council in Irving announced it was considering allowing the local, chartered organizations that oversee Scouting to establish their own membership policy
Speaking for the National Council, Director of Public Relations Deron Smith explained that BSA members and parents “would be able to choose a local unit which best meets the needs of their families.”
But last July, an 11-member committee of professional scout executives and adult volunteers unanimously concluded after a two-year study that the policy of barring homosexuals should be maintained. The executive committee of the BSA national executive board then announced that while not all board members “may personally agree with this policy, and may choose a different direction for their own organizations, BSA leadership agrees this is the best policy for the organization and supports it for the BSA.”
Elwart thinks the proposed policy’s stipulation that each local unit can decide for themselves whether or not they want to receive homosexuals is not feasible.
“They’re trying to parse their words now,” he said.
The policy runs into trouble, Elwart argued, when local units come together for events such as summer camps and jamborees.
“For parents, even if their unit does not want homosexual Scouts in leadership or in the unit, they would have to isolate themselves from the rest of the Scouting program,” he said.
One practical issue, he said, would be the fact that Scout rules allow married leaders to share a tent on outings.
“Would we now let homosexual members share a tent?” he asked.
“I don’t want my grandkids exposed to that.”
Elwart and his wife are both recipients of the Silver Beaver award, the highest Scouting honor given by councils. In the Southern Region, Elwart once served as area training chairman, which encompasses youth protection.
He noted other organizations have tried to model the Scouts youth protection program, which teaches leaders the policies, guidelines and methods of protecting Scouts from sexual abuse.
Elwart pointed out the proposed policy also was voted down last June at the annual BSA national meeting, which included the members of the national and regional committees along with council and district leaders.
These are the rank-and-file leaders, he explained, in contrast to the national board that will decide the issue this week.
He describes the national board as “a completely different slice of Scouting, and from my personal experience, more politically correct.”
These are “good, well-meaning people,” Elwart said, “but they get so focused on the big picture items, like these major donors, that they forget the boy in the tent.”