So the Boy Scouts have made another move to dance with the Sexual Revolution, opening the doors to transgender boys.
As you would expect, there are all kinds of religion angles to this important culture-wars story. As you would expect, the New York Times led with words of praise from "critics of the organization who for years have called for more inclusive membership rules." The story also understands that, while some people celebrated the decision, others were grieving.
The twist in this particular Times report -- "Conservatives Alienated by Boy Scouts’ Shift on Transgender Policy" -- was that the story focused almost exclusively on the voices of the losers, thus missing a key element of where this story may be headed in the future.
Yes, you read that right -- the Times pretty much ignored the views -- religious and cultural -- of key leaders on the victorious Religious Left. Maybe that angle will get ink in future coverage? Here is a crucial piece of background material, which follows extensive comments from the Rev. Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention:
Whether the new rules would lead to an influx of transgender scouts seemed uncertain. Besides one highly publicized case of a transgender boy being excluded from a New Jersey Scouting unit, there had been limited attention on the issue before this week. Boy Scouts officials declined to be interviewed, and would not comment on how many youths the decision might affect.
In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Boy Scouts said it was “no longer sufficient” to rely on a birth certificate to determine gender. “The B.S.A. is committed to identifying program options that will help us truly serve the whole family,” said the spokeswoman, Effie Delimarkos, adding that those efforts would remain “true to our core values, outlined in the Scout Oath and Law.”
For many years, the Boy Scouts have found themselves facing conflicting forces on issues of sexuality and inclusion. The Scouts contended with a pattern of declining membership, canceled corporate donations and public criticism over the group’s restrictions on gay youths before easing those rules in 2013. And the move this week to allow transgender youths was hailed by some as a positive, overdue step toward equality.
So the Southern Baptists -- a major player in terms of churches hosting Scouting programs -- are disappointed and this latest BSA policy shift may push more religious conservatives toward the exit door (to alternative programs such as Trail Life USA).
But who are the other major players, on the religion side of this debate? In other words, what religious leaders (a) were on the winning side of this debate or (b) sent signals that they would reluctantly work with this new regime?
If you know anything about Scouting, you know that -- in addition to the Baptists -- the key players are Catholics, Mormons, United Methodists and, to a lesser degree, Episcopalians. So if the goal is to figure out what happens next with this story, readers really needed to hear from leaders in those flocks, especially from progressives who actively supported the changes.
In other words, we need to hear from the winners who now get to put these policies into action. You can see hints of these realities in this material at the end of the story:
Despite disenchantment from many on the right, the Boy Scouts have reported less pronounced membership declines in recent years. The Roman Catholic and Mormon churches, which collectively sponsor a large percentage of Scout units, have not left in overwhelming numbers, as some feared, and campouts, service projects and pinewood derbies have continued.
Whether allowing transgender boys to join will lead to significant departures remains unclear. Representatives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod did not respond to requests for comment about the policy. The Mormon Church said in a statement that its leaders were studying the announcement.
But in some places, reaction was pointed and critical. A statement from the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis referred to transgender boys as “girls struggling with gender dysphoria,” said Boy Scout policies were “becoming increasingly incompatible with our Catholic values” and expressed hope that the Scouts would “recognize their error.”
Once again, the focus of the story remained locked in on the views of people on the losing side. Obviously, that is a key part of this story -- this is half of the debate.
But where is the Religious Left?
In the past decade of two, liberal Protestant leaders have been calling for the changes that are now going into effect. Are they celebrating? There are also Catholic activists who would welcome these changes. Where are their voices in this report? Perhaps they could be reached through Scouts For Equality?
Yes, it may seem strange for GetReligion to criticize a Times report for its lack of input from the religious and cultural left. But in this case, readers really needed to hear from leaders on both sides of these Scouting debates -- especially in the large traditions that control activities for so many Scouts.
What are United Methodists saying in, oh, downstate Illinois, as opposed to Chicago? How about suburban Houston, as opposed to downtown? How about LGBTQ Mormons in the Affirmation organization? Are Catholics at DignityUSA celebrating this win?
We are, after all, talking about the future of Scouting. It's crucial to hear from people on both sides of the debate in these crucial religious flocks. Call 'em up.