For more than a century, Boy Scouts have made campfires and explored the great outdoors. The values outlined in the Boy Scout Oath and Law have reflected the organization’s intent to shape young men into upstanding citizens, but the current ban on gay scout members directly contradicts its long-held values.
In a 2004 statement, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) said, “Boy Scouts of America believes that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the obligations in the Scout Oath and Scout Law to be morally straight and clean in thought, word, and deed.”
In reality, sexual conduct, both homosexual and heterosexual, can be immoral, and sexual conduct of any form has no place in scouting.
Sexual conduct is a private matter, separate from sexual identity. Certainly individuals should be given their marching orders if such conduct interferes with the organization’s purpose and mission, but discrimination or exclusion based on one’s identity and with no evidence of misconduct is immoral.
The BSA’s pledge to instill values to be “morally straight and clean in thought, word, and deed” relates to conduct, not identity. This is a principle that should be equally applied to all conduct, sexual and ethical.
But being morally straight doesn’t mean being sexually straight. Members who lie, steal, bully and demonstrate sexually explicit or promiscuous behavior of any kind, are all in violation of the code of conduct established by the BSA.
I don’t see the BSA formally banning people who engage in premarital sex, steal office supplies from work, don’t attend church regularly, or fight and gossip with their neighbors. Why not?
While each of these transgressions are generally considered at odds with the “morally right” and the “trustworthy,” “friendly,” “courteous,” “obedient,” and “reverent” aspects of the Boy Scout Law, a ban on people who engage in this conduct would likely annihilate scouting completely. Frankly, this type of selective tolerance is not “morally right.”
Boy scouts also pledge to be “physically strong.” So does that then mean that overweight scouts and leaders should be banned?
The BSA’s motivations for this selective ban on gays stem from a fear of losing sponsors, which are typically church organizations. Many church organizations have threatened to pull support from scouting organizations if the ban on gays is removed.
Even those who find homosexual conduct to be an abomination must concede that all people are capable, regardless of our sexual orientation, of embracing or rejecting our duty to God and the country.
While the Catholic Church does not condone homosexual conduct, it recognizes and promotes tolerance for the existence of homosexuals, which is all that the gay community has asked the BSA community to sanction. As a result, gay involvement in scouting is in line with even conservative religious views.
For people who are concerned about pedophilia and contaminating young minds, “gay” is not contagious nor is it synonymous with “pedophile.” Ironically, other unethical behavior is learned and yet these violators are not universally banned.
Both homosexual and heterosexual misconduct has been found in the coaches, teachers, religious leaders and trusted caretakers of children. Establishing awareness programs and a system of safety checks and supervision is needed to reduce the likelihood of any sexual misconduct in scout troops and other settings.
So does gay involvement in scouting really go against the institution’s core values? Hardly. This ban founded in ignorance does just that.
Instead of discrimination, intolerance and ignorance, the BSA should teach the value of diversity and acceptance of others. To honor their oath and law, they should be “brave,” stand for what is “morally right,” and unite young boys around a campfire of respect instead of fueling the fires of hatred.