Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Right-Wing Activists Announce Formation Of Anti-Gay Alternative To The Boy Scouts Of America; “We’re Going To Focus On Sexual Purity, Not Sexual Orientation”

In Kentucky, a conservative activist is following through with his promise to create an alternative youth organization to the Boy Scouts of America, following the Scouts' decision to allow for openly gay members. The yet-to-be-named organization was formed from a private meeting held last month in Louisville. Its leaders announced its forming on Tuesday. John Stemberger, a leading opponent to the Scouts' decision on gay members, would not disclose who precisely took part in the Louisville meeting, saying it was "confidential." The meeting included about 50 national religious organizations, Scout leaders and "national organizations who are interested in children in families,” Stemberger said. Louisville was selected as the site for the meeting in part because of its central location, adding, “Louisville is a great area that reflects the kind of values that we’re interested in.” Stemberger said his group has heard from 30,000 people interested in a Boy Scouts alternative following the decision to admit gay Scouts. The Boy Scouts of America have yet to comment on the new group. The new organization will be fashioned after the American Heritage Girls, a Girl Scouts-like organization that, according to its website, seen as a "Christ-centered alternative to Girl Scouts." The organization has adopted the American Heritage Girls' Statement of Faith as its own for now, said Rob Green, the interim executive director of the new group. That statement reads, in part: “An AHG member is called to live a life of holiness, being pure of heart, mind, word and deed, reserving sexual activity for the sanctity of marriage; marriage being a lifelong commitment before God between a man and a woman.” In a conference call with reporters, Stemberger said: “The issue with Scouting is just that, when you’re going to allow a young man to be in the program to be openly flaunting sexuality, that’s just inappropriate. And parents do not think that that’s a clean and safe environment for their kids. There’s not going to be any kind of a witch hunt in our organization for people and what their sexual orientations are. We’re going to focus on sexual purity, not sexual orientation.” Stemberger is an attorney and an executive for the Florida Family Policy Council, which is affiliated with Kentucky's Family Foundation and other similar right-wing conservative groups often opposed to gay rights. He is also an Eagle Scout. Outside of Florida, he's known as the founder of OnMyHonor.net—a website opposed to the Scouts allowing openly gay members, which is recently decided to do. His group has a history of fighting LGBT discrimination laws, but Stemberger said: "“If a young man has a same-sex attraction, he would not be turned away in the program, but he’s not going to be allowed to kind of openly flaunt it, carrying around a rainbow flag as we’re seeing now in the BSA. That’s just going to be inappropriate" Stemberger added later: “I think there’s a real difference between someone who has a same-sex attraction and someone who identifies with the gay political movement. That’s a very different thing. We wouldn’t tolerate any kind of open sex or politics in the program.” Green, for his part, is a former Scouts executive at the council—regional, basically—level. He recently resigned for a senior Scouts post in South Carolina. The new organization plans to have its first national convention in Nashville in September, where they'll release more information. Fund-raising for the group will include seeking grants and having fundraisers, plus fees from the group's new members. Others involved in organizing the new group are not being released yet, and will likely not be until the September convention, said a spokesperson for Stemberger. Where the organization will be based has also not been released. The launch date is January 1, 2014, the organizers said. The Boy Scouts of America's decision stirred some organizations that held charters for troops to move away from the organization. Southeast Christian Church was the most prominent to do so in Louisville. In a statement to WFPL, executive pastor Tim Hester said: Southeast Christian Church is learning about this developing new program just as everyone else through today’s press release. While no decision has yet been made, we will consider this organization with the same prayerful discernment we consider any other potential partnering organization, which is whether or not they align with our Biblically-based values and mission to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. Chris Hartman, executive director for the Kentucky Fairness Campaign, said he's concerned the new group will cause difficulties for families torn between which organization to participate in and contribute to high suicide rates among gay youth. "I think sending this message, again, that these boys should suppress their sexual orientation or gender identity will throw them further into the closet, psychologically damage them and is going to have disastrous effects for youth," Hartman said, adding, "This is further evidence that the Right is losing ground and is trying these last ditch efforts to hold onto what they feel is the moral high ground, when in reality we know that it's suppression and discrimination. So it's disheartening to see these attempts to further thwart the Boy Scouts of America's progress sort of in the right direction."

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