Tuesday, April 23, 2013

On the Boy Scout Proposal

I've had a few friends on Facebook link to articles about the Boy Scouts proposal to permit openly gay scouts but still ban openly gay leaders. And, so far, among my Catholic, conservative friends, they've simply linked the article and commented that they are done with scouting.

I think they are making a mistake and, since no one I've seen writing on this is representing my thoughts on it, I thought I'd write them myself.

The new Boy Scout policy, if adopted, would state that "no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone." If a person is attracted to  those of the same gender, it is referred to as having "same-sex attraction," or SSA. Being attracted to a person of the same gender is not the same as acting on that attraction and, at least sometimes if not most of the time, it is not something a person intentionally chooses. So having SSA, or more commonly referred to as "being gay" is not in itself a sin, nor anything anyone should be punished or exiled for. Muslim, Jewish and Christian beliefs do hold that acting on SSA inclinations in a sexual manner is sinful and immoral but they are just as sinful and immoral as acting on heterosexual inclinations in a sexual manner outside of marriage. Among all three of those religions, heterosexual marriage is the key qualifier for sexual behavior. As the policy states that as "Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether homosexual or heterosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting," there should be no sexual conduct by any member, heterosexual or homosexual.

Unless we are to walk around assuming that every teenage boy is sexually active, we cannot assume that boys with SSA are any more or less sexually active than boys without it. In which case we are either to assume the best of every boy, giving those attracted to boys the same benefit of the doubt as those attracted to girls, or be the bigots many believe us to be by excluding boys who happen to be attracted to other boys through no fault of their own.

I understand that about 61% of those who responded to the request for feedback on the subject prefer to uphold the current policy but the Boy Scouts has never been about doing what is popular but about doing what it right. I also don't know to what extent that 61% were aware of this middle option; I had not heard of it as a possibility before. It is simply not right to deny boys the joys, educational experiences and positive social reinforcement of Scouting simply because of something beyond their control.

Now I know some might say, "Let them join scouting but just not admit they are attracted to boys." Now, as "any sexual conduct" is forbidden in Scouting, it really shouldn't come up at all but if one boy casually asks another which girl he finds more attractive and the second boy happens to be attracted to boys, he shouldn't have to lie about it. Regardless of whether a person is ashamed of it or not, it is a part of who they are and they shouldn't have to hide it.

I've heard another objection that once the Scouts open the door to the "lifestyle", it is only a matter of time before the entire lifestyle is accepted. First, we cannot uphold any integrity banning individuals because of what they might become or might embrace when they are older. Second, I do think walking the fine line of accepting individual boys who happen to be gay while maintaining the belief homosexual acts are sinful can be walked. This is especially true as the policy states that no member may "use Scouting to promote or advance any social or political position or agenda."

Furthermore, as one who believes our SSA brothers and sisters are just as much children of God as we are, we should be hopeful that Scouting would provide a positive influence and role model for them as much as any others. If my daughter was attracted to other girls, I would much prefer she be among other Christian girls who would be a good influence and encourage her in virtue than feel exiled or shunned by them, especially for something she might not be able to control.

Another concern that has come up is the fact that the ban would be lifted on scouts but not on leaders. Is keeping the ban on leaders unfair to gay adults? Does lifting the ban on scouts have to lead to a lifting of the ban on adults? Keeping the ban on leaders might be unfair to the individual same-sex attracted adult, it is true. They might be the epitome of holiness and civic virtue but it must remain in place for Scouting to continue to exist and I will tell you why. There is a movement in America by some to legalize gay unions and gay "marriages." Once anyone is in any kind of marriage or union, it is reasonable to assume they are not celibate. However, it is very clear and obvious that there is a huge division in this country over whether or not gay unions or "marriages" are moral and, since several states have made gay unions or "marriages" legal, Scouting could not have a universal policy about gay leaders, those who would lead and be role models to boys, without taking a stand on that issue. In order to permit gay leaders, Scouting would have to essentially state that it believed homosexual acts moral and gay "marriages" acceptable aspirations for boys. Those who believe homosexual acts to be immoral simply could not entrust their children to a leader and role model who could legally be modeling what they believed to be immoral and the vast majority of Scouting troops are based in organizations with a religious affiliation. This does not apply to the scouts since they are not leading the troop nor can they "marry."

The Catholic Church believes in "love the sinner, hate the sin", understanding that we are all sinners. We cannot love those with SSA while banning them for having SSA but we also cannot hate the sin while letting those who love the sin role model for our children. Personally I find the new policy to try to walk the delicate line of loving boys who do happen to have SSA but respecting those who believe homosexual acts to be immoral, straining at once to exercise Christian charity to others while being true to what is believed.

(*Note: The policy change doesn't say "boys" but "youth". I am assuming somewhere there is a rule that to be a boy scout, one must be a boy. There are difficulties with regards to those who are transgender. I'm unclear if the policy applies to them or not, so I have not addressed that issue here.)


  1. Wow... bravo!!! I have no dog in the fight (ie... no children to really worry about boy scouts) but everything I've read from Catholic brothers and sisters about this has been concerning. Your approach is quite refreshing! We can turn our backs on people with SSA or we can love them where they are at and show them Christ through our lives.

  2. This is a well thought out post! While I do agree with you on one level, as a mom who has boys in scouts that may enter Boy Scouts in the near future, I have serious reservations about remaining in scouts if there is a policy change. Boy Scouts is mainly Scout run, at least in our area. While there is adult supervision, on some level, most activities are led by scouts. And I have concerns about an older scout, 17 years old, who is openly gay, leading my 11 or 12 year old son. The only reason I say that is that I was a school counselor and a witness to the damage that an openly gay, and militant teen can do to peers around them who may be insecure in who they are. Teens and pre teens have enough to worry about and question and this is not one question that needs to be added to teen struggles (unnecessarily). I cannot naively sit back and think that that will not happen in the scouts if there is a policy change. It will. While I think most of teens struggling with SSA would not even be an issue and would benefit from scouts and loving interactions with people who truly care about them, there are some that are very militant and will push an agenda. Again, I have witnessed this and the damage that it can do in the teen years. And that is excatly why I think we do need to be concerened about the scouts changing their policies.

  3. I should add that I would be fine with a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" approach . . I do not think that scouts is a place to discuss sexuality anyway, no matter whether you are heterosexual or homosexual. I would be just as upset if an older scout were sharing with my younger son about his sexual exploits with girls.

  4. Hi Katie. I did consider the practical aspect of applying what I said. I even asked my dad since he was a den leader or scout master for about a decade (90s). He said there never was a situation it would have been a concern when he was in scouting. I completely understand what you are saying you've seen and I know it is out there but, given what the policy states, any "militant teen" pushing an agenda should be removed from the troop. It sounds like your bigger concern is having troop leaders who do not enforce the Scout policy, and that would worry anyone for many reasons and for good reason. Is there a proper procedure for a parent addressing such a leader to the national headquarters?

    I could certainly understand being concerned how a troop might or might not enforce the policy, but I would think that would be true regardless of what the policy is.

    I think it is reasonable to say that the proposed policy would be close to a "don't ask, don't tell" policy as any sexual conduct or political agenda is expressly forbidden, no?

    As I was never in the Boy Scouts (duh :) ) and have 5 daughters and no sons, I don't know the ins and outs of how this would apply practically speaking. But it does seem to me that, as long as the policy is followed with regards to sexual conduct and political agendas, it really shouldn't even come up for heterosexuals or homosexuals.

  5. Nicely written but here are a couple of problems.

    First, what happens to these homosexual scouts who get their Eagle and then want to be adult leaders? The proposed policy dismisses the previously held (at the Supreme Court) belief that homosexual activity is morally wrong so there is no longer any rationale for banning openly non-chaste homosexual leaders. If this policy passes as written, next year the ban on homosexual leaders will be dropped as well.

    Second, Youth Protection policies require separate accommodation for girls / boys, adults / children and even older scouts and younger scouts. Why? To prevent sexual situations. How is this policy going to work with homosexual scouts? Tent them with the girls? Seriously, there isn't a practical way to follow the Youth Protection Guidelines for the reason they were written without requiring either three boys to a tent (one homosexual and two not) or requiring them all to tent alone.

    I mentioned before but I will say it again, the new policy removes the BSA moral judgment on homosexual activity from their policies leaving them open to caving completely within another year.

    1. Ian, I believe you are correct on all 3 of your points.

    2. Hi Ian. In answer to your question, openly homosexual scouts can't become leaders. That is the policy being proposed, isn't it? I don't see how the proposed policy dismisses the belief that homosexual activity is morally wrong. All I see it doing is giving boys with SSA the benefit of the doubt that they are chaste, just like it does for boys without SSA. It does not encourage nor condone sexual conduct of any kind - homosexual or heterosexual.
      With regards to your second point, the practical application is the part I would be unsure just how it would work and new rules might be required, such as not pairing older scouts with younger scouts or requiring a certain number to be in a group. New regulations might be required, but the response that "we don't have rules to accommodate for you" is not a sufficient or Christian reason to ban boys with SSA.

  6. Katherine,
    Katie and Ian make excellent points. Your children are young and you have no idea what it is like in high school these days. Homosexual teachers and students are militant. There is no respect for students who do not share their sexually active and sexually deviant views.

    1. Hi Ann. Yes, my children are young but I'm not so please don't presume to know what I do or don't know. SOME homosexuals are militant. Not all. And any scout who was militant about their sexuality, homosexual or heterosexual, should not be in scouting and should be removed from the troop asap. The policy is clear about sexual activity as well as promoting an agenda.

  7. I agree with you about it with young kids - cause my six year old ain't attracted to noone, y'all. But. I also see what Ann is saying about militant. I know when I was in high school, the guy friends I had who are SSA were rather flamboyant and angry at everyone. I can see how that would happen. It must be really hard to have your body and mind go against God's law. But everyone has their cross, yes? So anyhow. I guess what I'm saying is that it should not be discussed at all in boy scouts when it comes to the scouts. Also, I don't see what the problem is with leaders who are SSA, as long as they don't act on it. I personally don't think gay and pedophile are the same thing, though some people seem to go that way. What a mess of a comment. I liked your article :) Cheers, K.

    1. Hi Janet! I'm aware of the militant nature of the pro-gay movement. It is unfortunate in many ways and I'm afraid our country will be reaping the consequences of it for a long time. But, as you said, it shouldn't come up in scouting at all in terms of sexual conduct or any agenda or political position.

      The problem I see with leaders who are SSA is that it would be much harder to hold a universal policy ensuring any leader with SSA was not acting on it... a heterosexual leader can be single, dating or married whereas a homosexual leader would have to be single and celibate and remain so.

      Good to hear from you! Hope all is going well! :)