About 1,500 Boy Scouts in the Sam Houston Area Council have either quit or joined another scouting program since a policy allowing openly gay youths to participate in the program was announced in May, a council spokesperson said Friday.

In reaction to the policy, which took effect on Jan. 1, some Bryan-College Station parents transferred their children to Trail Life USA, a more conservative scouting program. The scouting alternative was formed shortly after the Boy Scouts of America made the resolution official through a vote.

Michael Parks was one of the 1,200 members who voted on the resolution in May at a national convention in Grapevine. Even though he's opposed, Parks said he isn't ready to give up on the program that turned him into an Eagle Scout.

"To simply turn my back on a program that I believe in because of that is not something I'm willing to do at this time," said Parks, who volunteers with his son's troop.

The resolution states "No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone." It passed with a 61 percent majority, or 757 votes.

Officials with the Boy Scouts and the Sam Houston Area Council, which is based in Houston, are hoping the policy's installment continues to be a spectacle-free event.

"We don't anticipate any issues with our new policy," Lynda Sanders, director of marketing and communication for the council, wrote in an email. "While there has been a relatively small number of churches, donors, and members who discontinued their involvement in scouting after the decision to change our policy, overall there has been very limited impact."

Sanders estimated the year-end membership fell 3 percent to about 48,000, down from about 49,500. The council covers scouts in the Brazos Valley and greater Houston area. Official membership numbers won't be available until Jan. 13, she said.

Parks said that he thinks the policy is a big event.

"I think statements matter," he said, adding that he feels powerless to affect change.

"Some would say the BSA caved to political correctness," he said.

Parks said his son's troop leaders have discussed the policy, but the scouts aren't saying much about it.

"I don't know that the boys care," he said.

On the Boy Scouts website, several powerpoints and informational pages offer details about the policy and the plans for implementation.

The policy doesn't affect any of the programs or learning exercises. It only addresses a scout's ability to be open about his sexual orientation. Openly gay volunteers and troop leaders are still not allowed to serve in the Boy Scouts. Even if they serve as openly gay throughout the program, when they are adults they will have to re-apply to become a volunteer under the current guidelines.

After the vote, a task force was formed to conduct interviews and assess the best way to implement the policy. The group issued a report in August that stated the policy is in line with the BSA's overall values, which include "Duty to God, Duty to Country, Duty to Others and Duty to Self."

"While people have different opinions about this policy, kids are better off when they are in Scouting," the report stated. There was no data to support the claim.

The rules also state that any openly gay scouts may not wear their uniforms at any event "to promote or advance any social or political position or agenda, including on the matter of sexual orientation."

The Boy Scouts have taken some political heat from the policy. But they'll soon have an expert at the helm who is used to drawing fire in the fight for gay rights.

Robert Gates, the former Texas A&M University president, is set to become the Boy Scouts' national president in May. Gates served as the defense secretary under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and helped to dismantle the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in 2010.

Gates is serving as the chancellor of the College of William & Mary. Attempts to reach him for comment were unsuccessful.

Parents who are concerned about privacy issues on campouts may make special arrangements for separate tents with troop leaders, according to the website.

As part of a push to increase privacy, the BSA is converting its bathrooms to have individual toilet and shower stalls. Troop leaders may also set up private showering times if a scout feels uncomfortable, the guidelines state.

Troop leaders are being encouraged to watch for behavior that goes against the principles of Scouting. Bullying and hazing are strictly prohibited, according to the Scouting.org site. Sexual contact of any kind between all scouts, male and female, is explicitly forbidden, the rules state.

The website also provides information about how to reprimand scouts who are violating the policy. Details about possible punishments were not available.

"Each incident would be reviewed individually with the chartering organization to address and resolve the issue," Sanders wrote. The council's spokesperson deferred all other questions about the policy to the "membership standards" section of the BSA website.

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(23) comments

Sabio

Gee, I'm shocked that the Boy Scouts would lose members after changing their policy to allow openly gay members. Who could have seen THAT coming?!?

The Boy Scouts are a private organization with every right to set policies they deem appropriate. Individuals, equally, have the right to participate or not based on those policies.

master of disaster

This is just a report of losses in one state. Nothing about nationwide gains or losses. Additionally, I'll bet the kids were just fine with the new ruling. It was just their close-minded parents yanking them out of the Scouts.

Shame that intolerance won't skip generations.

delia

As a former den leader, I can tell you that there have ALWAYS been gays in the Boy Scouts (both leaders and members). Only an idiot or closed-minded person would not realize this!

Oh Really

Exactly! There are gay people everywhere, if your kid isn't gay, he's not going to get "recruited". I just don't get that line of thinking, but it's obvious that the people who think that way, never had a gay friend, not that they knew of anyway.

TexasEagle2

And here I thought you could "catch" being gay through contact with gay people...[smile]

Oh Really

only 5 days in and after a holiday week and you think these #'s mean something?
Give it about 6 months, then we'll see.

TexasEagle2

All of this represents only a 3% loss...would be interesting to see long term trends in scout membership....the impact of the changed policies seem small. The scouts still have a series of policies that are aimed specifically at gays. Note the Girl Scouts get along just fine without the same prohibitions. Surprised that Robert Gates would lend his name to this group....love the psuedo-version of don't ask don't tell implemented for leaders. The new organization formed by parents has all the ear marks of a racist, homophobic, intolerant group of southern bigots....great going parents...wonder what future employers will think when they see this type of membership on your son's resume...can you say closet homophobic?

TrailLifeBCS

For those interested in joining the new Trail Life USA troop in College Station, go to: http://www.traillifebcs.com.

delia

What about young men who are not Christians? Are you telling me that this is what you want for your boys? To grow up without a worldview to allow for greater growth in the global society of the real world of work?

whattheheck

Trail life looks like a great alternative. I personally believe our society is falling into a black hole. We as a society seem to being getting away from our Christian values which our country and government were founded on.

TexasEagle2

If intolerance represents Christian values, so be it.

Sabio

I guess tolerance means endorsement to you then.

Sabio

I have to laugh at the use of the words "intolerant", and "bigoted", and "racist", and "homophobic" to describe those with whom some disagree, particularly the use of the word, "intolerant".

Rick Warren got it right. Tolerance isn't equal to acceptance, and acceptance isn't equal to endorsement.

What those who throw around the words, "intolerant", "bigoted", "racist", and "homophobic" in instances like this are REALLY wanting is endorsement. Good luck with that.

TexasEagle2

There is no way people should endorse a worldview that includes a Christian value of discrimination, hate, and intolerance.

master of disaster

No, what they want is acceptance. When was the last time someone was killed for being a heteronormative white Christian?

Is being tolerant of discrimination really a good Christian trait, Sabio? Gonna get into heaven that way? Please quote the chapter and verse of the New Testament that says that.

Sabio

What does race have to do with anything? Are you only concerned about the white gay people? By the way, don't think for a minute that Christians, of ALL races, aren't being killed for their beliefs.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/number-of-christians-killed-for-their-faith-doubled-in-2013/article16241322/

Your strawman Biblical argument won't get a response. We disagree about the objective of many of the gay activists. They don't want acceptance, they want endorsement. My right as an individual to freely associate with whom I wish is MY choice. If I don't want to associate with you - for any reason - that's my choice. You are wanting me to be FORCED to associate with you. You want to take away my freedom. You are forcing me to endorse whatever it is about you that makes me not want to associate with you. I can accept that someone is gay without endorsing it.

Similarly, if the Scouts want to change their policy to allow gay members, that is their right. It is also my right to no longer be associated with the Scouts. You call that "discrimination", I call that FREEDOM.

Worse, you demean that freedom of choice by using labels like "intolerant", and "bigoted", and "racist", and "homophobic" to try to force me to give up my freedom of association. That's the strategy you want to employ to get "acceptance"?

Good luck with that.

SDW

Why can't the gays and lesbians just start their own groups and leave things like they were? Instead they feel the need to push their beliefs and life choices on everyone else.

master of disaster

The next time someone is killed for being a heterosexual, you can talk. Until then, no more talking.

Sabio

Time for me to talk then.....

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/number-of-christians-killed-for-their-faith-doubled-in-2013/article16241322/

prairiegirl

Amen to that!

bone52

Gay Boy Scout. Really Really. If you leave you kid in boy Scouts you are legally brain dead. I would rather let him stay home and play X Box all day.

roy g

Don't fret now. One of these days modern science will invent a "gay vaccine" that parents can have administered to little Junior so he won't catch that nasty "gayness" bug you all seem to be so afraid of.

Gobstopper

How does a boy scout (ages 11-17) show that they are "openly gay"?

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