Seven questions about Boy Scout gay policy coverage

Headlines over the Boy Scouts of America's decision to allow openly gay members are still flying fast and furious.

There's been so much recent coverage, actually, that it's impossible to critique all of it in a single post. So I thought I'd ask seven questions related to the decision and news coverage of it.

1. Does the new Boy Scout policy conflict with Catholic teaching?

No, according to a Religion News Service report:

(RNS) The U.S. Catholic Church’s top liaison to the Boy Scouts of America is telling Catholic Scout leaders and troop sponsors that the BSA’s new policy welcoming gay Scouts “is not in conflict with Catholic teaching” and they should continue to support scouting programs.

2. Why did religious groups that opposed allowing gay Boy Scouts suddenly change positions?

The "On Faith" section of the Washington Post tackles this question:

What gives?

Experts say the Scout vote embodies the struggle going on today in traditional religion over homosexuality. There is a strong desire and effort to be more welcoming — and even affirming — of some equal rights, but not to back off completely. But that’s proving tricky to do.

Who are the "experts" who say that? This piece offers interesting analysis but provides inadequate attribution, it seems to me.

3. Will Southern Baptist churches leave the Boy Scouts over the new policy?

A mass exodus appears likely, according to CNN:

The Southern Baptist Convention, the country’s largest Protestant denomination, will soon urge its 45,000 congregations and 16 million members to cut ties with the Scouts, according to church leaders.

The denomination will vote on nonbinding but influential resolutions during a convention June 11-12 in Houston.

“There’s a 100% chance that there will be a resolution about disaffiliation at the convention,” said Richard Land, the longtime head of the Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, “and a 100% chance that 99% of people will vote for it.”

“Southern Baptists are going to be leaving the Boy Scouts en masse,” Land continued.

4. Exactly how new are the Royal Ambassadors, an alternative scout group highlighted by the New York Times?

The Times (just two weeks behind RNS) suggests:

For more than a century, the Boy Scouts of America has had something of a monopoly on neckerchiefs, knot-tying, merit badges and all manner of backcountry skills for boys, treating snakebite and frostbite alike.

No more. The protracted debate over whether to allow gay scouts and scout leaders has angered many church leaders and parents across the political and religious spectrums. The result is a surge of enrollments in alternative outdoor and character-building programs that cater to pagans and Pentecostals and everyone in between.

The Royal Ambassadors, as the Old Gray Lady portrays it, are one of those presumably new groups.

How new?

CNN, unlike the Times, notes that the explicitly Christian group was formed in 1908.

5. Just how excited is the Washington Post over the Boy Scouts' new policy?

Maybe it's just me, but an in-depth Post story on the issue seems to drip with enthusiasm for the policy change, starting with the headline:

Long road to Boy Scouts' shift on gay policy 

The story summary up high:

Scout leaders, gay activists, religious conservatives and historians of Scouting point to five key factors to explain the shift: a dramatic turnabout in public opinion about the morality of gay relationships and same-sex marriage, a groundswell from corporate leaders insisting on equal access for gays, shifting attitudes inside the two largest religious denominations within Scouting, a steady decline in troop membership and a sense that Scouting’s image had morphed in the public mind from Mom and apple pie to an exclusionary group with a narrowing appeal.

6. What is the real-life impact of the Boy Scouts' new policy on families who view homosexuality as a sin?

While much of the coverage has focused — appropriately — on whether specific denominations and congregations will stop sponsoring troops, NBC News takes a different approach and interviews individual families struggling with the decision.

The result is a story that goes beyond the cardboard-cutout caricatures of some reports:

The father of a Cub Scout sat his son on his lap late last week and told him news that tore up both their hearts: The family was leaving the Boy Scouts.

Aaron Butler, the leader of his 8-year-old son Evan’s Cub Scout Wolf den in Roseau, Minn., said he didn't explain to his eldest son exactly why they were walking away from an organization they loved so much, but he told NBC News that it was because of last week's controversial decision by the Boy Scouts of America to allow gay youth to participate.

“It was a big disappointment ... he cried for about 10 minutes because I told him that the Boy Scouts were not honoring their own law," Butler said, referring to the BSA oath that he interpreted as barring gay people. "They say it -- 'On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep [myself] physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight,'” he said.

7. How many incarnations can a single Bob Smietana story make?

In my last post on Boy Scout coverage, I noted the differing versions of Godbeat pro Smietana's story that ran in USA Today and The Tennessean.

Well, it turns out that Smietana's story found one more life — on the RNS wire.

Just in case you're curious, the latest headline:

Churches move to cut ties to Scouts after gay policy change

Maybe the above questions (and the links provided) will spark some conversation on journalism and media issues by GetReligion readers.

By all means, comment away.

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