When the Boy Scouts of America ended its ban on openly gay adult leaders earlier this week, troops and packs across Northeast Georgia, many of which are chartered by churches, were left wondering how they might be impacted.
But the change in policy essentially carves out an exemption for religious groups who sponsor and support scouts.
“If an organization that has a Boy Scout troop does not want any change, then they are exempt from that,” said Trip Selman, scout executive and CEO of the Northeast Georgia Council, an umbrella organization for 26 Georgia counties that supports 650 Boy Scout units and nearly 32,000 youth and adult leaders. “There is absolute total exemption for religious charter partners.”
About nine in 10 Boy Scout units within the NGC’s purview are affiliated with churches, Selman said, meaning the vast majority will not be subject to the policy shift.
“Absolutely nothing is going to change,” Selman said, adding that the NGC will conduct outreach and education to make its partners aware that they can continue selecting leaders based on their religious beliefs.
But there are concerns among scout leaders about what the national organization’s new policy will mean for the future of enrollment in Boy Scouts.
Member rolls fell to about 2.4 million nationwide last year, several percentage points from its high, after a 2013 decision to allow openly gay youths to participate in troops.
Ken Cochran, a scout leader in Flowery Branch with ties to the Hall County Republican Party, said his troop relies on donations from the community to support its activities.
“I am very disheartened,” he said of this week’s change in policy. “I’m hoping it’s not going to affect donations.”
It’s certainly a concern for the NGC, as well. About 30 percent of its annual $5 million budget is donor-supported.
“We are heavily reliant on donors,” Selman said, adding that donations his group receives do not go to the national organization.