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[rec.scouting.issues] Commonly asked questions (FAQ 2)
Section - Who sets policy in the BSA?

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Top Document: [rec.scouting.issues] Commonly asked questions (FAQ 2)
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See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
Date: 16 August 1998

Q.   Who sets policy in the BSA?

A.   The BSA owns two organizations: Learning for Life/Exploring and =
traditional Scouting programs.   Learning for Life/Exploring holds
all of the vocational training programs within the BSA effective
August 1, 1998 (e.g., Law Explorer Posts) as well as its program
for school aged youth.   The following is a description of the BSA
traditional Scouting organization.

Taken heavily from a letter by settummanque, or blackeagle
There are three groups that actually *make* BSA policy at the national
level. These groups are the various national-level committees, the
Executive Board, and in the case of Exploring and the Order of the
the Council of Chiefs and the National Exploring Cabinet, which I'll
together as "youth boards".

There's another group, the National Council, that "radifies" the actions
the Board.

The BSA has 31 standing and 14 ad-hoc National Committees. Each of those
committees are chaired by and staffed by volunteers from all over the
nation.   Many of these volunteers serve as Council and/or
unit-level volunteers in addition to their national service.

Committee members serve typically for a one-year period and are selected
national professional staff advisors and/or volunteer committee chairs.
This includes those serving on one of the ad-hoc or task force
formed to address specific issues within the BSA.

Each Committee also has one to two National staff advisors, whose jobs
twofold: one, to serve as the professional day-to-day manager of that
committee and the other, to monitor and "corral-in" those committees
somehow stray from what "will fly in Peoria", program speaking. Each
National staff advisor has been carefully selected by senior national
members, attend regular "sharing and discovery" meetings during the
and therefore know more about what's going on within the various
outside his or her as well as his own.....

Depending on the personality of the National staffer, the committee runs
really smoothly, or roughly, or not at all. This creates problems
some committees will have loads of programming and support
and policies, and others are not productive at all.

National staffers are "graded" on their ability to "keep the group
and focused" as well as "practical outcomes which will enhance the
of the BSA".

Some policies are immediately put into practice throughout the BSA from
Committee (and it is the professional that "lobbies" on behalf of the
committee to get it approved by the Program, Administration, Finance,
Support or Membership/Relationships Group Director whom has the final
responsibility for sending those changes and improvements to "the
Those are the ones that come directly to your Council from the Director
the various programs or from the appropriate Group Director.

Other policies require changes to the BSA's Rules and Regulations or to
Charter and Bylaws, which is the reason why they have to go before the
National Executive Board. The NEB is composed of between 48 and 52 adult
members and three to five youth members. This board meets every other
to discuss and finalize recommendations made by the various Group
their volunteer Committees, or by individual Board members or the Chief
Scout Executive. There are seven professionals whom are members of this
board: the Chief Scout Executive, the four Regional Directors (whom also
serve as Associate Chief Scout Executives), the National Director of
Operations and the National Director of Support Services. These
professionals do NOT have a vote but they are, as you can guess, very
influential in the decision-making ability of this body. The rest of the
Board is composed of volunteers whom are key business, industry, civic
religious leaders from all parts of the nation and all walks of life. To
keep a youth slant on the actions, the National Chief of the Order of
Arrow, the National Explorer President, and up to three other youth
(selected by their peers or through a national competition of some sort)
voting members of the NEB.

The Chief Scout Executive serves as the "secretary" to the Board and his
her performance is tied to overall program success. The National
Board "hires" and "fires" the CSE and all other national-level senior

Youth boards also make a significant impact on the adoption of national
policies and procedures. The Assembly of Chiefs, the section and
chiefs along with the National Chief and National Vice-Chief of the
Order of
the Arrow (assisted by two professionals and six adult volunteers) make
policy and recommendations for the Order of the Arrow, Scouting's
honor camping society.

Finally, the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America serves as the
final "stamp of approval" on all significant changes to the program of
BSA. The National Council is composed of at least three representatives
each of the BSA's local Councils: The Council President, Council
Commissioner, and one other elected representative.
The Council Executive is not a member.
Two or more (depending on size of the local Council)
volunteers are elected yearly to serve as National Council
a job that nowadays carries more weight than it used to.
The National Council meets as a whole body once a year.

As you can probably figure out by all of this, whatever the National
Board approves, more than likely will be approved by the National
after it has already been implemented in their local Councils. This is
the reason why when new programs are announced, SOME local Councils
delay implementing it until a national vote is taken on the program
other issue.

Those are the bodies that make up the decision-making ability of the
While we're talking about professional management of various committees
boards, we're also talking about volunteers --you and me-- making up
boards and committees, with a larger say than the professionals and
reflecting our Council's make-ups and population.


   Where can I find information on how the BSA is organized?
Date: 28 May 1997

Q. Where can I find information on how the BSA is organized, who
makes the decisions, that sort of thing?

A. There are two entities to the BSA:   The BSA traditional Scouting
organization and the wholly owned subsidiary: Learning for
The BSA has a number of publications that contain its organization.
     All are available to the general public from your nearby Scout =
     or by mail see: Where can I get official BSA literature & =
       the rec.scouting.usa FAQ)
     Check:   The Cub Scout Leader Book and The Troop Committee =

     An on-line official description is available for the traditional
       Scouting organization at:
     An on-line official description of the Learning for =
Life/Exploring is
     More on-line information may be found at:

   I thought the BSA was a camping club, what are the Aims and
Mission of
the BSA?
Date: 11 Jan 1998

Q.   I thought the BSA was a camping club, what are the Aims and
Mission of the BSA?

A. There are two entities to the BSA:   The BSA traditional Scouting
organization and the wholly owned subsidiary: Learning for

There are three aims to Boy Scouts of America (BSA) Scouting:

               Aim I -- To build moral strength and character
               Aim II -- To foster citizenship
               Aim III -- To develop fitness

These three aims are the bedrock of the American Scouting movement. They
represent the long term outcomes we want for every boy.

It is the mission of the Boy Scouts of America to serve others by
helping to instill values in young people and in other ways prepare
them to make ethical choices over their lifetime in achieving their
full potential.   (BSA Mission Statement)

It is the mission of Learning for Life/Exploring to serve others by
instill core values in young people and in other ways prepare them to
ethical choices throughout their lives so they can achieve their full

"Values are those things that really matter to each of us ... the ideas
and beliefs we hold as special. Caring for others, for example, is a
value; so is the freedom to express our opinions."
("Ethics in Action", BSA 1990)

"Ethics deals with what we believe to be good or bad and with the moral
obligations that these beliefs imply. Ethics involves the rules for
deciding right and wrong and the code of conduct that is based on our
decisions. While there are some things that not everybody sees
eye-to-eye with in this area, there are a whole lot more that we do
agree about. For example, to steal is wrong, for most of us. So too is
physical assault. Most of us don't think it is right to cheat in
school; many of us think it is injustice to punish someone who didn't
do anything wrong. As an idea, ethics is simple, but the consequences
are profound!"
("Developing Ethical Leaders Through Action", 1990)

The BSA strives to help enrich the lives of young people and make a
difference in the kind of people they become. Since 1910, it has
been the mission of the BSA to serve others by helping to install values
in young people, to prepare them to make ethical choices over their
lifetime and achieve their full potential.

Some more references:
Maintaining BSA Standards
"The Scout Oath and Law are not up for negotiation.
Our values are not for sale."
Text of this article from Scouting magazine, September 1992.
can be found at:

The Meaning of the Boy Scout Oath
Excerpted: page 550-551, "The Boy Scout Handbook",
can be found at:

Some resources for instilling values in young people
can be found at:

   Is the BSA a public or private institution?
Date: 4 July 2000

A. There are two entities to the BSA:   The BSA traditional Scouting
organization and the wholly owned subsidiary: Learning for

   A BSA Scouting unit (Pack, Troop, Post, etc.) is wholly
   owned and operated by its chartering
   organization.   It is an extension of the chartering
   organization's youth program, and must comply with
   any policies or laws the chartering organization must
   comply with.

   BSA Councils are autonomous,
   private, non-profit organizations incorporated within the
   State they are headquartered.   National BSA and
   GSUSA are private corporations established
   under Federal law (see US Code 36 Section 1101).

   The United States Supreme Court ruled in June 2000 that
   "The Boy Scouts is a private, not-for-profit organization engaged
   in instilling its system of values in young people."

   For more information, see the question on how the
   BSA is organized and the question 'Is the BSA, or their
   affiliates a place of public accommodation or a business

   What is the BSA position on homosexuality?
Date: 8 Feb 2002

Q.   What is the BSA position on homosexuality?

A.   It should be kept in mind that even though different people
will relate the meaning of the BSA policy in different ways, it is
important to stress that in Scouting, small groups of parents and
community organizations across the country (chartering organizations),
with a diversity of ideologies, will continue to choose leaders and in
other ways deliver the Scouting program. As a community organization,
we trust their judgment and hold all volunteers accountable to the
highest standards of behavior.   For the the relationship
of community organizations and the BSA see:

   "We are an organization that is simply about helping young people =
   into caring, concerned, and responsible citizens. The issue
   of gay rights is larger than Scouting and is being debated =
   our society with no immediate end in sight. We must keep our focus
   on today's young people and not let socio-political debate
   distract the community from serving children through Scouting."
         - From a Statment by Indianhead Council, MN

Current BSA Position Statements are here

Fiction vs. Fact - A quick reference developed to assist in
dispelling commonly found inaccuracies regarding Scouting and the U.S.
Court decision.

Press Releases
February 2002
         BSA Board Affirms Traditional Leadership Standards

June 28, 2000
         Boy Scouts of America Sustained by United States Supreme =

In Support of Values
         This message is provided to share some viewpoints about =
         coverage and to communicate the standards and values of the =

A collection of resources from the BSA that communicate the values of
Scouting - including letters, articles,
speeches, quick references, and a bimonthly newsletter.

   Has the BSA ever asked their membership if they want the
Leadership policies?

See the
BSA publication: 'In Support of Values Research Edition' No.
It is online at:

   What is the position of the people who say that it is
   OK to have gay members in the Boy Scouts of America?

A:   The following was compiled by a number of people who have
taken the position that it is OK to have gay members in the
Boy Scouts of America in this group.   It is not ment
to represent everyone who does not agree with the BSA policy.

Question:   Doesn't the Bible prohibit homosexuality?

No.   Read literally, the Bible says nothing
about homosexual orientation, only about
sex acts between men.   And even there, it only
prohibits certain kinds of sex acts, and only
to Jews.

The relevant passage is Leviticus 18:22 --
"Ve'et zachar lo tishkav mishkevey ishah to'evah hi."
             male don't lay like-you-lay woman "to'evah" that)

The word "to'evah" is the same word as in Deut 22:5,
which prohibits women from wearing pants:
" *toavat* Adonay Eloheycha..."
(it's an abomination to the Lord your God)

The rabbis interpret this as a prohibition
of male-to-male anal intercourse,
which they considered to be the only form of
"laying a woman" that could be done to a man.

Now there are other rabbinical strictures that
evolved later, but the Biblical passage refers only
to males, only to Jews, and only to anal sex.

How do we know this is just to the Jews?
Because Leviticus 18, like many other chapters,
begins with boilerplate language that says just that:
"Vayedaber Adonay el-Moshe lemor
Daber el-beney Yisra'el ve'amarta alehem ..."
(God spoke to Moses, telling him to
Speak to the *Israelites*, and say to *them*:)

But aren't these universal sexual morality for everyone?
Three verses earlier is a sexual rule for heterosexuals
that very few non-Jews obey:
"Ve'el-ishah benidat tum'atah lo tikrav legalot ervatah"
"And do not approach a woman who is taboo from
her period; this is a sexual offense".
(The taboo is described in Leviticus 15:25ff and covers the
time of her menstruation and seven clean days thereafter.)

It's hard to see the logic that says that Leviticus 18:22
should apply to everyone, but Leviticus 18:19 shouldn't!

Now of course, particular religious denominations have both
added restrictions and leniencies to these rules.
For instance, most Orthodox rabbis rule that the
prohibition of homosexual sex extends to B'nei Noach (everybody).
But aside from the fact that there's no reason
for the BSA to favor Biblical religions over others,
there's certainly no reason to favor the extra
restrictions of some denominations or to mock
or disparage the leniencies of others!

Question:   Wasn't it unnecessary for the Scouts to
have a policy against homosexuality in the past, since
it was against the law, and there was a presumption
that scouts and leaders should be law-abiding?

Answer:   No.   Once again, the ambiguous use of the
term "homosexuality" to refer both to orientation
and to particular sexual acts creates this confusion.
The law did not forbid homosexuality, but,
like the Bible, only particular sex acts.   And
most such laws forbade oral and anal sex between
opposite-sex partners as well as same-sex partners.

Question:   But doesn't allowing homosexuals to lead scout
troops set a bad example?   Why wouldn't they teach by
their mere presence that homosexual sex is condoned?

Answer:   There are two answers.   First of all,
Boy Scouts hire leaders who do all kinds of things,
and provided they don't do them in front of scouts,
it's not treated as any kind of endorsement.   This
would include gamblers, drinkers, smokers, divorced
people, and so forth.   They are allowed to have
their private vices, and even to avow them (e.g.
let it be known publically outside of scouting that
they are smokers) so long as they don't model them
for the boys (e.g. smoking at an event).
The fact that this argument is used only for homosexuals
smacks of a double standard.

Secondly, let us return to the distinction between
orientation and sexual behavior.   Even if the
troop acknowledges that the sexual behavior is
wrong (which we have seen in another discussion
is not universally held, only in some religions),
we are forbidden to presume that a person of
homosexual orientation is actually engaging in
improper sexual activity.   A fortiori, we are forbidden
to presume that he is recommending it to the boys.
This is both wrong and hypocritical.   After all,
most unmarried heterosexual men engage in improper
sexual activity, and most boys in scouting know or
suspect this.   Does this mean that we should have a rule
banning unmarried men from serving as scout leaders because
their presence teaches that premarital sex is proper?
Once again, we have a double standard, and also a violation
of the basic principle of not stereotyping one's fellow.
In fact, this principle *is* not only an American
principle, but it is also in the Scout Law and in the Bible.

Where in the Scout Law?
From A Scout is Friendly, Lowell writes:
"... No matter how strange, or how barbarous,
or how absurd the conduct of another person may appear,
it is the duty of every broad-minded man to put himself in that
other's place sufficiently to understand with his own
imagination what the other's actions mean from that other's
point of view. This breadth of mind is necessary if we
want to form true judgements and to be just in interpreting
the acts of other people, and it is part of the
intelligence of which we have just been speaking as necessary
'to help other people at all times.'"

Where in the Bible?
Right in the center
of Torah.   The Book of Leviticus, chapter 19
verse 15 ends with "b'tsedek tishpot amitecha",
which means "in righteousness judge your people".
This verse is interpreted by the rabbis to mean
that you should give people the benefit of the
doubt.   It is the foundation of the modern presumption
of innocence.   Here is a summary
of the teachings of the Chofetz Chaim (famous
commentator on the laws of improper speech, among
other things) on that principle:

"If one sees a person what said or did something,
whether something Bein Adam L'Makom (between man and G-d)
or Bein Adam L'chaveiro (between man and
fellow man), and it's possible to judge the speech
or action favorably and give the
benefit of the doubt, if the person is a 'yirei Elokim'
(sincerely G-d fearing
individual), we are obligated to judge him favorably
even if the action in question is
more logically interpreted negatively.

"If the person is a 'beinoni' (average person) in that
he is generally careful to avoid
sin yet on occasion falters, and the doubt could be
equally interpreted favorably or
unfavorably, one is obligated to follow the favorable judgement.
This fulfills what our Sages say, that one who
jugdes his fellow favorably will receive favorable
judgement from G-d; he also upholds the commandment
(Lev. 19:15), 'Judge your fellow people righteously.'
Even if the speech or action seems more likely to have
a negative judgement as its interpretation, it is proper
that the matter should be considered a doubt,
and not as a definitive, negative evaluation."

This principle applies a fortiori to the case where
one doesn't see a person say or do anything, but
merely learns that he is in some category of people.

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