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.)