WASHINGTON — The Boy Scouts of America will accept openly left-handed youths beginning on New Year’s Day. The controversial new membership policy was approved in May of this year, but the ever-prepared BSA spent the last six months tweaking policies ranging from tentmates to shower use ahead of the historic change.
“Respect for others and citizenship skills are at the core of the Scouting,” said BSA national executive board member Brad Haddock. “Not everybody agrees on the new policy, but left-handed youngsters have a right to be who they are.”
Some churches have already dropped their sponsorship of Scout units and some families have switched to a new conservative alternative called Trail Life USA.
The Southern Baptist Convention is one major sponsor that has been outspoken about its disappointment in the new policy.
“Scripture clearly states that left-handedness is a sin,” said SBC spokesman Billy Giles. “In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says that God shall set the sheep on his right hand, and goats on the left. So, logically, left-handers have no place in Scouting.”
Of the roughly 110,000 Scout units, 70 percent receive funding from religious groups. In spite of some backlash, major sponsors like the Roman Catholic and Mormon churches are standing by the BSA.
“There hasn’t been a whole lot of fallout,” said Haddock, who expects the shift to be “business as usual.”
The BSA prepared a frequently-asked-questions document to address concerns from parents – or Scouts themselves – in cases where a unit includes an openly left-handed (or ambidextrous) boy.
“Any sexual conduct, whether instigated by the left hand or the right hand, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting,” says one BSA document.
Regarding showers, the BSA says it will encourage units to provide greater individual privacy, including moving away from the tradition of group showers.
“Regardless of which hand a Scout primarily identifies with, adult leaders have the discretion to arrange private showering times and locations,” the BSA says.
Lefty Scouts have long been a part of the organization, but before the new policy, they were forced to hide their ulnar orientation from other Scouts.
“Nobody ever noticed, even when I struggled with archery,” said Brian Sutton, a 17-year-old Eagle Scout who achieved Scouting’s highest rank as a closeted left-hander.
Sutton said he is happy about the new policy, but because the BSA still does not allow left-handed Scout leaders, he will be forced out of Scouting when he turns 18.
“It’s not like I would ever try to get right-handed Scouts to use their left hand. That’s not the job of a Scout leader.”