A CNN host has challenged the head of a Christian right-wing group who, in defending the Boy Scouts of American’s ban on gay members, linked homosexuality to paedophilia, and said that being gay was a choice.

When asked about his opposition to lifting the Boy Scouts of America’s ban on gay volunteers, members and staff, the President of the Family Research Council, Tony Perkins, linked homosexuality with paedophilia, and claimed that it was a choice.

Soledad O’Brien asked whether Mr Perkins was worried that he would look back and think he was on “the wrong side of history” for opposing the ban on gay scouts.

She drew comparisons between the women’s rights movement and equality for LGBT people, and went on to ask Mr Perkins if there was “a possibility that [he was] wrong” because “historically there have been core values that in retrospect turned out to be flawed?”

Mr Perkins responds: “You’re comparing immutable characteristics with characteristics that are not immutable,” Perkins explained. “In part, their policy has been to protect boys, to create obviously not a perfect environment, but one that is in line with what the parents want, to ensure their children are safe when they go out in these scouting activities.”

Ms O’Brien asks “why it would make a difference to open up scouting to people who are gay” because the Boy Scouts had already released 14,500 pages of so-called “perversion files” showing years of sexual abuse on minors that had been covered up by the organisation.

“Why would I let a man who is attracted to other males go camping with my boys,” Mr Perkins asks.

“A paedophile has sex with children,” Ms O’Brien points out. “Are you saying that someone who’s gay is a paedophile?”

“No, I never said that,” the Family Research Council president insisted. “I’m saying that they’re trying to create an environment that is protective the children. This doesn’t make it more protective. There is a disproportionate number of male on boy paedophilia — when we get into paedophilia, it’s male on boy. There’s a higher incident rate of that. We never said all homosexuals are paedophiles or all paedophiles are homosexuals.”

“Why would they want to come in and change an organization that’s been around 100 years?” he adds.

“Because it’s discriminatory,” Ms O’Brien says. “Do you worry you’re on the wrong side of history on this? Do you think that you’re going to look up and say, ‘We were on the wrong side in this debate, that this was an organization that ultimately stood for discriminating against some people.’ Don’t you worry about that?”

Going on to suggest that allowing gay scout masters, or gay scouts, would make it less safe for members, Mr Perkins says: “The question for the scouts is, are we going to continue in our mission and are we going to provide the safest possible environment for these boys or are we going to cave in corporate dollars?… That’s the question before the board today.”

Last week, Mr Perkins blamed the repeal of don’t ask don’t tell for suicides in the US military.

The BSA today announced that it has delayed a vote on whether or not to lift a ban on gay scouts, volunteers and staff, until May “due to the complexity of the issue”.