WATCH and READ: BSA President Dr. Robert M. Gates Addresses Boy Scouts of America National Annual Meeting
The Chickasaw Council, Boy Scouts of America
Open Letter to the Chickasaw Council
the Adult Leadership Standards
Many of you know by now that the
National Council has recently amended the standards related to adult
leadership. As a result of those
changes, some units may now accept homosexual men and women as adult
leaders. We know that change is often
difficult and uncomfortable. We’re
writing this open letter to you our Charter Organization Partners, adult leaders,
employees, parents, scouts and interested persons to put this decision in
context, to address some misconceptions that may exist and to encourage you to
give this decision appropriate consideration without overreaction.
Our membership standards have over
the years included a ban on scouts or adults who are homosexual. Without realizing it, we effectively had a “don’t
ask don’t tell” policy. That policy was
challenged through a series of court actions that culminated in a case before
the United States Supreme Court. That
case, Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, 530 U.S. 640 (2000), by a 5-4
narrow decision affirmed the Boy Scouts of America’s right to set its own
membership standards including a ban on Scouts or adults who were openly homosexual. The year that decision was handed down from
the Supreme Court, no state recognized gay marriage.
Challenges to our membership
standards continued for the next decade.
By 2010, five (5) states had legalized gay marriage. With this change in the landscape of America,
more and more corporations began to reject organizations seen as being
discriminatory towards homosexuals.
Those corporations began to indicate that they would withhold support if
the Boy Scouts did not change its membership standards. The dollars represented by these corporations
were in the millions of dollars. While
money is not and should not be the reason that we act in any direction, its
importance to what we do cannot be ignored either.
With the change in society came
internal pressures to change our policies.
Councils from the Northeast, the West, the Pacific Northwest and the
Southwest began to urge the National Council to change its policies. Thus, there was pressure to change from
outside of Scouting and from within the Scouting movement.
By 2013, seventeen (17) states had
legalized gay marriage. Pressures to
change our policy both from within and from external sources were
mounting. The National Council faced the
loss of millions in financial support and membership in parts of the
country. The National Council recognized
that our movement was not yet ready for a wholesale change in our membership
standards. After months of discussion
with the heads of a wide variety of religious denominations, it was determined
that the membership standards related to youth would be amended to permit
homosexual youth but not homosexual adults.
That policy went into effect, January 1, 2014.
In the eighteen (18) months since
that policy became effective here in the Chickasaw Council, we have not seen
any significant change in the reported composition of our youth
membership. There simply were few if any
youth who decided to come out.
In the twenty-four months from May,
2013 when the youth membership standards were changed until today, an
additional eighteen (18) states legalized gay marriage. That brought the total number of states
legalizing gay marriage to thirty-five (35) states. On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme
Court decided Obergefell v. Hodges
legalizing gay marriage. The language of
that opinion had far reaching effects including on the rationale expressed in
the Dale decision.
In late 2014 and 2015, several
councils openly defied the national standards related to adults by approving
applications for openly homosexual adults.
At least one of those councils passed a “non-discrimination” resolution
which would have banned chartered organizations in that council from denying an
adult application on the basis of homosexuality – even if that charter
organization’s religious beliefs would not support an openly homosexual adult
While there were rapidly developing
changes in the national landscape related to this issue, we recognize that a
significant number of our members and our chartered organization partners had
not changed their position. Their views
were firmly rooted in their religious beliefs and those beliefs do not shift
with public opinion.
By 2015, the Boy Scouts faced
numerous lawsuits seeking to completely invalidate our membership standards. The first of those lawsuits will reach a
critical decision point this October.
Faced with these lawsuits, the Obergefell decision and a rapidly
changing national consciousness about this issue, the National Council was
forced to make difficult decisions.
have continued to fight these lawsuits.
The National Council retained some of the best lawyers in America and
were told that we would likely lose those cases. If we lost even one of those cases, a judge
would get to rule on our membership standards.
It was feared that a complete ban on our membership standard could
result in chartered organizations having to accept adult leaders who were
contrary to their firmly held religious beliefs.
With that context in mind, and
trying to act to protect the religious rights of our chartered organization
partners while also being more inclusive, the National Council acted as
those chartered organizations which are religious in nature and which hold
firmly held religious beliefs which would be inconsistent with a homosexual
serving as an adult leader, you may still refuse to accept an adult
leader who is homosexual;
National Council will defend and indemnify any religious chartered organization
which as a result of its religious beliefs denied membership to adults on the
basis of homosexuality;
National Council will act to bar any council from enforcing a rule which would
force religious chartered organizations to accept any leader who is
inconsistent with their religious beliefs;
those chartered organizations which are not religious in nature or whose
religious beliefs would be consistent with a homosexual serving as an adult
leader, they may now accept such leaders and may not reject them on the basis
of their homosexuality;
and Council level positions may not be denied on the basis of homosexuality;
with Scouts cannot be denied on the basis of homosexuality.
was a move to protect the religious liberty and First Amendment rights of our
chartered organization partners while also opening up membership in those
organizations which are not religious in nature or whose religious beliefs
would be consistent with such membership.
The promise to defend and indemnify any charted organization partner is
a powerful commitment to stand beside and behind our religious chartered
As with the membership standards
change related to youth in 2013, we do not anticipate that there will be any
significant change in our adult leadership here in the Chickasaw Council.
Over the past few weeks, we have
heard a number of questions related to this issue and wanted to answer
them. Those questions and our answers
are as follows:
Does my church have to accept a homosexual adult as a
scout leader? No, as was the case prior to this most recent
change – provided that your church’s firmly held religious beliefs are
inconsistent with homosexuality. If your
church would accept a homosexual in other leadership positions within the
church, then the answer is yes because your church’s teachings would not be
inconsistent with such an adult serving in a leadership role.
What happens if my church denies an application on the
basis of homosexuality? First, it is important to note that the
chartered organization representative has to approve any new adult
application. We’ve had that rule for
many years. That was true before this
change and it is still true. We’ve had
that rule because the Scout Unit is actually owned by the chartered
organization. As an extension of the
chartered organization, the Scout leaders/adults should reflect the moral
values and culture of the chartered organization. If your chartered organization is a religious
one and its beliefs would be inconsistent with a homosexual serving as an adult
leader, the chartered organization may deny that application. If the applicant threatened or took legal
action, the National Council has made the commitment to provide that chartered
organization with a defense (i.e. to pay for the lawyers) and to indemnify the
chartered organization for any actions that the court may take. The National Council is making the commitment
to put significant dollars and resources behind and with our chartered
organizations. We will stand with you to
protect your First Amendment right to the free exercise of your religious
Doesn’t this change make it more difficult for our
chartered organizations? No. As
stated above, chartered organizations always had to approve adult
applications. They still do. For those chartered organizations which
taught as a matter of their religious beliefs that it was wrong to deny
membership to homosexuals, the prior policy put them in conflict with their
religious beliefs. The new policy allows
those denominations to live according to their beliefs while also permitting
those whose beliefs would not allow such membership to deny that membership.
Will our unit be exposed to homosexual leaders at
camporees or other district or council events?
Possibly. However, given what happened after the 2013
standards change, it is unlikely that we would see any significant change. Moreover, there are likely already homosexual
leaders at units that you don’t know are homosexual. As long as all of our adults focus on the
scouting program and the values we all agree should be demonstrated (i.e. the
Scout Oath and the Scout Law), there will be no negative implications. Homosexuality is part of life. We see it on television, in radio and the
movies. Exposure to persons who are
different than we are is a reality in life and an opportunity to have a discussion
on a family by family basis as to the values of that family.
How can we say that we insist on youth protection if
we are going to allow homosexual men to be around boys? There is no credible research to show that
homosexual men are more likely to act inappropriately towards boys than
heterosexual men. Whether you are
homosexual or heterosexual, we will insist that you follow youth protection
guidelines (e.g. two deep leadership).
Does this membership standards change mean that scouts
is endorsing or accepting homosexuality? With this
membership change, Scouts are neither accepting nor rejecting
homosexuality. Rather, we are leaving
that decision to each person and to each church on the basis of their own
religious beliefs. Scouting still
maintains that sexual behavior is inappropriate around or towards the children
in our program. In scouting, the only
appropriate time to discuss sexuality of any kind is: (1) in youth protection
training, (2) with your family as part of Family Life Merit Badge; and (3) with
a counsel as part of a religious awards program. Otherwise, it is inappropriate to discuss
Doesn’t this change mean that our uniform will be a
symbol of accepting homosexuality? No.
Scouting neither accepts nor rejects homosexuality. The uniform does not stand for either. Rather, the uniform stands for the Scout Law
and the Scout Oath. What it means to be
reverent and what it means to do our duty to God will necessarily mean
different things to different people.
Some will candidly not be satisfied that the current change goes far
enough to accept homosexuals. For them,
the uniform will most certainly not be a symbol of inclusion. Others will take the polar opposite
position. Both are wrong. We need to remember what the uniform stands
for and that is the freedom for a broad range of people to practice their
faiths according to the dictates of their beliefs – even if their beliefs are
very different. Our American flag is
much the same. We are all still proud of
our flag. Our flag stands for religious
freedom and religious tolerance. We
don’t eschew our flag simply because others belief differently than we do. We should look at our uniform in the same
If our church recharters our unit aren’t they
endorsing a pro-homosexual position? No.
With this membership change, Scouts are neither accepting nor rejecting
homosexuality. Rather, we are leaving
that decision to each person and to each church on the basis of their own
religious beliefs. If a church believes
that homosexuality is inconsistent with their teachings, we will stand with and
support that church. If a church teaches
that homosexuality is consistent with their beliefs, we will also support that
church. Neither could say that we are
adopting their position as much as supporting their right to make that decision
as part of their First Amendment exercise of religion.
How can Scouting maintain that it is a Christian
organization and take this stance? Scouting is a reverent organization which is
accommodating of a wide variety of faiths and beliefs. In the Oath and the Law, we promise to do our
duty to God and to be reverent. We don’t
however, define who or what God is or what it means to be reverent. Therefore, we are not a Christian
organization. Yes, many of our chartered
organizations are churches of one Christian denomination or another. The units at those churches therefore
reflect Christian values as understood by that chartered organization. We also have chartered organization partners
at Jewish Temples, the Memphis Mosque and non-religious institutions like the
Optimist Club. Those chartered
organizations and their units are equally important to us. Even among the Christian churches, there is
no universal agreement on what it means to be Christian, to do one’s duty to
God or to be reverent. We are not in the
business of telling people how they should worship or what they should
believe. We leave that to your own
conscious, faith, belief and prayer life.
Scouting is big enough to accommodate a wide variety of beliefs. We always have and we always will. With this change in membership standards, we
are reinforcing our support of your freedom to worship as you see fit.
Why couldn’t Scouts have fought these changes back in
2013? We could have but there is no guarantee that
had we done so back in 2013 that we would be at any different position
today. The pressure on Scouts to change
was both external and internal.
Why should we believe this change is the last
change? Won’t the activists simply
continue to push until there is a requirement to accept all adult leaders who
are homosexual? The simple answer is the First
Amendment. Back in 2013, when the first
change occurred in relation to children in scouting, there was a promise that
the issue would be off the table for some period of time. Here we are two years later. So, it is certainly understandable why some
may question whether this is the last change.
All we can tell you is that the last twenty-four months have seen
dramatic change on this issue in America.
The biggest reason to believe that this is the last change and that we
will stand firm on this position is the First Amendment. The Dale
decision from 2000, the decision affirming our right to set our membership
standards was based on our rights to association. Prior to making that 2013 decision, Scouts
consulted extensively with the national heads of our religious partners. The same is true this time. The basis of this new standard is the First
Amendment right to the free exercise of religion. The lawyers involved with this change believe
that interest will trump any further legal efforts to make further
changes. Protection of religious beliefs
and the free exercise of religion is such a fundamental bedrock principle that
this position should stand for a long time.
Some may question why this wasn’t what we did in the first place.
what do we do from here? We continue
to deliver the scouting program. We
recruit more boys and more adults to get involved. We are needed now more than ever. There are thousands of young people in our
Council who would be positively affected by being involved with scouting. That was true before this membership
standards change and it is still true.
Those involved with Scouting are several times more likely to attend
church as an adult. If we want to make a
positive difference in our communities, we continue on with the program.
We’re asking you to pray about
this. We’re asking you to have a
measured response. We know that for many
this change will elicit strong feelings.
Please consider before you act.
If you leave, there will simply be fewer adults and chartering
organizations to make a difference in the lives of the kids we already have and
those we will recruit. Try to remember
what you have always loved about Scouting and the difference it has made in
As you hear other leaders talk about
this issue, be respectful of differing views but don’t let misinformation,
rumor or emotion rule conversations. Be
encouraging. Be positive. Our best days are yet to come.
Please by all means talk about this
issue with your chartered organization.
If you determine there are issues with your unit being able to
re-charter, let us know that. If your
unit is in Mississippi, pass that information along to Casey Manning,
email@example.com. If your unit
is in Tennessee or Arkansas, pass any issues with your chartered organization
along to Kelbert Fagan, firstname.lastname@example.org. We will collect this information and work
with you to hopefully repair any issues with your chartered organization. We stand ready to talk with your church
leadership, if that would be helpful.
If after reasonable effort to repair
any relationships, it appears that a chartered organization will not renew, we
will work with those scouts and the leaders to help them find an appropriate
home or a new chartered organization.
The Scout Law teaches us to be
friendly, courteous, kind and helpful.
We can be reverent and be all these things at the same time. We should be respectful of others and
welcoming of anyone whose primary interest is advancing the aims, methods and
goals of scouting. We stand ready to
answer any questions that you have and look forward to great days ahead.
Campbell Danny Van
Horn Richard L. Fisher
President Council Commissioner Scout Executive
A Report from the 2015 National Annual
Key Take Aways For Every Unit Leader and Adult Volunteer
By Danny Van Horn, Council Commissioner
recently had the privilege of attending the 2015 National Annual Meeting
(“NAM”) of the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America which took place
May 20-22 in Atlanta. The NAM is part
annual business meeting, part continuing training and part tent revival. I for one left that meeting completely
energized and reassured that we have the best program for youth development the
world has ever seen. There could be a
dozen or more things that I could write about from this meeting not the least
of which was the roll out of the new membership campaign “Build an Adventure”
or the roll out of the new Cub Scout program.
Putting those two very important developments aside, there were three
things from this meeting that I think every unit leader will or should want to
Scout Book, www.scoutbook.com, is coming. Your unit will want this tool. Scout Book was originally developed by a
third party software developer who happens to be a scout parent. It’s a tool designed to help scouts, their
parents, unit leaders and ultimately all district and council level support
personnel promote, track and communicate about advancement. It just so happens that the National Support
Center had been in development of their own tool to do just the same thing. When they looked at Scout Book, they realized
the privately developed tool was much better, scrapped their own efforts and
bough Scout Book from the developer.
Over the course of the next year, Scout Book will be fully integrated
with a variety of advancement and membership databases. It works with Troop Master and other similar
software. It has tools that will make
text and e-mail communication much easier within units and eventually on a
district and higher level. This is a
tool that is optional but it is expected that most units will want to subscribe
to Scout Book. There is no cost right
now for Scout Book. There will be and we
don’t yet know what that price will be but the promise is that the cost will be
minimal. A number of units are already
on Scout Book and the response has been overwhelming positive. Your unit should go to www.scoutbook.com and
check out this promising new application that should make tracking and
promoting advancement much easier.
Digital Media. The consistent message at NAM across a
variety of sessions stressed the need to build a new culture within scouting
that promotes social media and digital media sharing including channels such as
Instagram. Many units still have
official or unwritten rules the prohibit today’s scouts from bringing
electronic devices with them on scout trips.
The research shows that today’s generation and their 20 and 30 something
parents resoundingly reject such an approach.
This generation experiences everything through social media and through
picture sharing. The old belief that they
need to unplug and experience nature sounds great but for a fast growing
segment of our market, they will never experience nature unless you let them
experience in the same manner they experience everything else – through their
smartphone cameras. Of course, the use of such devices should be monitored and
should be consistent with the Scout Law and the Scout Oath. If we want to recruit the next generation and
perpetuate scouting, we’ve got to change and accept and understand that smart
phones and picture sharing are an essential part of scouting today. We need to move from a culture that bans
electronic devices to one that promotes them and their positive use to
reinforce the timeless values of scouting.
We need to encourage our scouts to take pictures of fun scouting events
and share them. Such a peer sharing,
grass roots campaign is simply essential to any successful membership campaign
today. By the way, the research also
shows that the 20 something and 30 something moms will first check out scouting
on social media. If we have no presence,
as is often the case today, then their likelihood to enroll their sons in
scouting significantly lessens. The need
to promote social media, digital picture sharing and an online presence is as
critical to recruiting the next generation of scouts as it to recruiting their
So what should your unit do?
- Have a discussion on
your own social media policies and whether you ban or encourage the use of
- Understand the risks and rewards of whatever your position is;
- If you follow the national recommendation and not only permit but encourage
the use of smart phones and social media, conduct training of the scouts and
their parents as to the appropriate use of those devices;
- Identify a scout within your unit (if age
appropriate) to serve as the social media chair (this could be your webmaster)
and task them with collecting and posting photographs from your unit events;
- Encourage parents to get involved by sharing their photos from events; and
- Create appropriate unit level hash tags, Instagram pages and Facebook pages to
help promote scouting and your unit;
- Go to www.scoutingwire.org and check out the many resources there to
help your unit craft its social media presence; and
- Actively monitor the
accounts and channels your scouts are using to promote your unit.
Standards Debate. By now many of you
will have heard something about Dr. Gates address at the 2015 NAM. Our Council leadership will have more to say
about this shortly. In the meantime, I’d
really encourage you to go watch the entire speech for yourself. You can find it at: http://scoutingnewsroom.org/blog/watch-and-read-bsa-president-dr-robert-m-gates-addresses-boy-scouts-of-america-national-annual-meeting/ I’d also encourage you to exercise leadership
and live the Scout Law. A scout is among
other things cheerful. Undoubtedly there
will be some who immediately proclaim the end is near. It’s just not. We can and should have a discussion about
this issue. We can and should be
respectful to others who may not agree with us.
We can and should be positive about the future of scouting. Nothing as good as scouting exists and
prospers as long as we have without God’s hand at the wheel. No matter what happens, we’ll get through
this and we’ll prosper. Let’s focus on
the people who really matter – the kids we serve. Let’s focus on building better units, better
districts and a better council. There
are so many opportunities to make a difference in the lives of the kids we
serve and in our communities. Let’s keep
our focus where it should be and serve more deeply. Everything else will ultimately take care of
itself. Scouting will be here for years
to come and many of us will be right there all along the way. Be positive.
Be educated and stop those who you hear spreading doom and gloom. There’s just too much to be positive about.
is great to be a Scouter and a privilege to serve the kids and adult volunteers
of our council.
A Message from the
2015 President-Elect and Commissioner-Elect
Re-Introducing a Very
Important Scouter: the Commissioner
As Scouters, we are all here to
make a difference in the lives of the kids we serve. We all have a pretty good idea what roles a
Scoutmaster and a Cubmaster play in our movement. Allow us to re-introduce to you a very
important Scouter who makes a difference in the lives of Scouts in multiple
units: the Commissioner.
The role of a Commissioner dates
back to the founding of our movement.
Lord Baden Powell understood that in order for Scouting to grow and yet
remain consistent, a corps of committed Scouters had to be charged with going
out and supporting units. They were
there to serve as a resource to help the unit leaders deliver a quality program
to the kids they served. They were also
there to make sure that the program was consistent from one unit to
another. W.F. deBois MacLaren (who
donated Gilwell Park to Lord Baden Powell) and Rudyard Kipling were some
notable early Commissioners.
When Scouting came to America,
the Commissioner position came with it and played much the same role as it had
in England. Daniel Carter Beard (one of
the men who founded Scouting in America) served as one of its very first
Commissioners and was the first National Commissioner. In that role as a National Commissioner,
Beard designed our uniform and helped shape the program we know today.
Over the years, there have been
changes to the Commissioner Corps but their purpose has remained the same:
service to units to help units serve kids even better. A Commissioner is a committed Scouter who
agrees to work with and coach several units (usually three or less) to help
them grow, develop and get even better.
They do that with a monthly visit to the unit or meaningful contact with
the unit leadership between in person visits.
Commissioners make a difference in the lives of our kids every day.
As a Council, we need your help
in two very important ways. First, if
you think you might be interested in serving as a commissioner (or want more
information about it) please contact your District Commissioner or our Council
Commissioner, Danny Van Horn email@example.com. If you are not interested in serving in this
important role but you know of another adult (in your unit or otherwise) who
you think would be great in this role, please let us know who they are. The role of a Commissioner is essential to
insuring a quality program, retention and recruitment. With your help, we will select, recruit and
train women and men who are committed to service.
Second, whether you have a
Commissioner assigned to your unit or get one assigned sometime soon, please
welcome and work with them. The Unit
Commissioner is there to act as a resource and a coach for your unit. Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Peyton Manning and
Aaron Rodgers all have coaches. Michael
Jordan and Magic Johnson both worked with shot coaches. The best golfers in the world work with swing
coaches. Many executives in Fortune 500
companies work with professional coaches.
No matter how good we are, we can all be better. No matter how well we are serving our kids,
we can do better. Please accept the
Commissioner assigned to your unit and allow them to help you. They aren’t there to act as a “spy” or to
come in and mandate how you run your unit (unless there are violations of
national policy). They are there to
help, to serve as a resource and to make suggestions. If you aren’t willing to be coached, it will
be difficult to help you grow and get even better.
Thank you for all you do for our
kids. Please help us recruit more
Commissioners and allow the Commissioner staff to work with your unit to help
you get even better than you already are.
Yours in Scouting,
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is one of the nation's largest and most prominent values-based youth development organizations. The BSA provides a program for young people that builds character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develops personal fitness.
The Chickasaw Council serves youth in the Mid-South, covering 17 counties, including, Shelby County in Tennesseee, Crittenden County in Arkansas and these Mississippi counties; Bolivar, Carroll, Coahoma, DeSoto, Grenada, Humphries, LeFlore, Montgomery, Panola, Quitman, Sunflower, Tallahatchie, Tate, Tunica, and Washington.
For over 100 years, the BSA has helped build the future leaders of this country by combining educational activities and lifelong values with fun. The Boy Scouts of America believes — and, through a century of experience, knows — that helping youth is a key to building a more conscientious, responsible, and productive society.
As we celebrate over 100 years of Scouting, we're gearing up for the next 100 years with strategic plans in motion to improve upon all that we do here locally. Please review our 2013 Annual Report as well as our 2013-2015 Scouting's Journey to Excellence.
To be involved and/or support Scouting in the Mid-South, contact The Chickasaw Council.
The Chickasaw Council Board and Officers
The Executive Board is the governing body of the Chickasaw Council. Below is a list of the 2015 Elected Officers.
- Council President - L. Hunt Campbell
- Council Commissioner - Danny Van Horn
- Treasurer - Raymond Berglund
- Assistant Treasurers - Tom Sullivan
- Vice President of Endowment - Brent Westbrook
- Vice President of Administration - TBD
- Friends of Scouting Chairman - David Pickler
- Vice President of District Operations - Duane Klink
- Vice President of Program - Dr. Randy Nelson
- Vice President of Finance - Russell Williamson
- Vice President of Capital Fund Development - Mike P. Sturdivant Jr, Johnny Pitts
- Vice President of Properties - Josh Bell
- Vice President of Public Relations - TBD
- Vice President of Emerging Markets - Rob Liddon
- Vice President of Membership - John Kimbrough
- Vice President of Technology - TBD
- National Council of Representatives - Hunt Campbell, Duane Klink, Phil Gilmer, Jason P. Hood, and Jimmy Lackie