The Boy Scouts of America will get no reprieve from controversy after a contentious vote to accept openly gay boys as scouts.
Conservatives are already looking at alternative youth groups as they predict a mass exodus from the BSA. Gay-rights supporters vowed Friday to maintain pressure on the scouts to end the still-in-place ban on gay adults serving as leaders.
"They're not on our good list yet," said Paul Guequierre of the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay-rights group. He said the HRC, in its annual rankings of corporate policies on workplace fairness, would deduct points from companies that donate to the Boy Scouts until the ban on gay adults is lifted. In California, gay-rights leaders said they would continue urging passage of a bill that would make the BSA ineligible for nonprofit tax breaks.
The Boy Scouts' chief executive, Wayne Brock, pleaded for the scouting community to reunite after the divisive debate that led to Thursday's vote by the BSA's National Council. The proposal to lift the ban on openly gay youth - while keeping the ban on gay adults - was supported by about 60 percent of the council's 1,400 voting members.
However, Brock's plea failed to sway some religious leaders whose denominations sponsor many scout units and who consider same-sex relationships immoral. "Frankly, I can't imagine a Southern Baptist pastor who would continue to allow his church to sponsor a Boy Scout troop under these new rules," Richard Land, a senior Southern Baptist Conference official, told SBC's news agency, Baptist Press.
Land advised Southern Baptist churches to withdraw their support of scout troops and consider affiliating instead with the Royal Ambassadors, an SBC youth program for boys that combines religious ministry with scouting-style activities. Baptist churches sponsor scout units serving more than 100,000 of the BSA's 2.6 million youth members.
The Assemblies of God, which oversees units serving more than 2,000 scouts, said it could no longer support such units and suggested its own Royal Rangers youth group as a "positive alternative."
John Stemberger, a conservative activist and former scout, said he and his allies would convene a meeting next month in Louisville, Ky., to discuss creation of a "new character development organization for boys."
There is a template for a conservative alternative. American Heritage Girls was formed in 1995 as a Christian-oriented option to the Girl Scouts of the USA, and it now claims more than 20,000 members.