For gay Boy Scouts, the fight goes on

FRED PROUSER REUTERS The Cushman Watt Scout Center, headquarters of the Boy Scouts of America for the Los Angeles Area … Continued

FRED PROUSER

REUTERS

The Cushman Watt Scout Center, headquarters of the Boy Scouts of America for the Los Angeles Area Council, is shown in Los Angeles, California in this October 18, 2012 file photograph

Earlier this week, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced that its national board would be considering a policy to end the organization’s high-profile ban on gay members and leaders. While the move would only shift the ability to discriminate from the national level to the local level, it’s an important step in the right direction, and the BSA should be commended for an improvement—however marginal—in its policy. Speaking as a person of faith, this policy change is long overdue, but is still not enough.

The World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM)—Scouting extends far beyond the Boy Scouts of America—has always put central focus on serving God, country, and community. As you might imagine, WOSM does not only serve those members of the Judeo-Christian faith. Indeed, with 31 million members, WOSM serves Scouts who identify as Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Roman Catholic, Jains, Orthodox Christians, Conservative Jews and everything in between.

In fact, the founder of the WOSM and inspiration to the BSA—Lord Robert Baden-Powell—specified that scouting was to exist independent of any single religion or faith and that a Scout’s duty was to no god or gods but his own.

When I was completing my Eagle Scout “Board of Review,” the final step before achieving Scouting’s highest rank, I was asked by one of my Troop’s leaders what it meant to me to “do my duty to God,” a promise I made every time I recited the Scout Oath. My answer was simple. We’re all God’s children—there’s no better way to respect God than to respect our fellow human beings by following the Scout Law: to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.

I see no conflict, in any of these tenets, with homosexuality. Some on the far right have tried to say that homosexuality is not “morally straight,” seemingly unaware that the phrase “morally straight” predates today’s colloquialism for “heterosexual” by fifty years. Others point to the Bible, calling homosexuality “unclean,” but forgetting that people have said the same thing about such heinous acts as eating pork and shrimp, using clothing woven from multiple fibers or—God forbid—menstruating.

While I have no doubt that some truly believe these claims that does not mean that any one particular belief system should get to impose its view on others.  

Tying the public definition of what is moral sexual behavior to any single set of religious beliefs is antithetical to everything for which Scouting stands. The Scout Law and Oath were deliberately written to be accessible to people of all faiths, denominations, creeds, colors, genders, sexual orientations, education levels, nationalities, socioeconomic strata and, frankly, written to be accessible whether or not you’re a person of faith.

As an aside, though the BSA was founded as a religious organization and remains active as such, dropping the theistic requirement—while maintaining the spiritual affiliation, similar to how the Girl Scouts have handled this predicament—would be the right thing to do. Scouting’s morals and principles are accessible and valuable to all, not just to those of us who believe.

And not only would it be the right decision for its own sake, it’s also a pragmatic move. The non-affiliated are the fastest growing religious “affiliation” in the country; we now live in a world that understands your moral worth is not necessarily anchored by religious belief. I know plenty of atheist Eagle Scouts who embody the highest virtues of our community.

The lasting disappointment here is in just how long it took the Boy Scouts to begin its reversal. And to be clear, there is still a long ways to go. Local charter organizations (i.e. sponsors, like churches, civic groups and schools) will be able to set membership policy, which is to say that they can decide whether or not to allow gay members and leaders. I expect an overwhelming majority of units to move in favor of inclusiveness.

More importantly, the Boy Scouts’ proposed change will spark conversations about the role of religion and sexual morality in churches, schools and public spaces. This dialogue, if we’re willing to truly listen instead of just waiting our turn to speak, will be good for all of us.

Punting the decision-making power on homosexuality from the national level down to the chartering is a move that will undeniably lead to less discrimination in the Boy Scouts. But until the national organization is willing to issue a blanket non-discrimination policy on the basis of sexual orientation, the work goes on. The cause of equality endures.

Zach Wahls is an Eagle Scout and the Executive Director of Scouts for Equality.

About

  • FrenchChef

    Thank you for your contribution, Mr. Wahls, we are so very proud of you!

  • dcharles1

    I would think that the same arguments that support inclusion of homosexual males as adult Boy Scout leaders would apply for transvestites, and transgender individuals pre-or post op.

  • FrenchChef

    So you say you’re afraid of those other Americans as much as you fear gay American men, dcharles1? Why bother to repeat that? You’ve documented your own fear and hatred of LGBT Americans all over this website.

  • Gabarus`

    Sounds good to me. What’s wrong with having transvestite or transgender scouts or scout leaders? Last I checked, such details had no effect on fire starting or knot tying skills.

  • jay2drummer

    Yes, the argument can be made for those same groups. And what exactly about them makes them unfit to be Scout leaders or Boy Scouts?

  • alltheroadrunnin

    The article is the longest definition of moral relativism I have read.

  • itsthedax

    It’s simple. The scouts are operating under a federal charter, with federal sponsorship. You don’t get to do that, and exclude any american citizens.

    Cheer up christians, the same constitution that protects the rights of homosexuals also guarantees your rights.

  • larryclyons

    It really depends on what the guy is into. Knot tying skills may be very useful.

Read More Articles

Valle Header Art
My Life Depended on the Very Act of Writing

How I was saved by writing about God and cancer.

shutterstock_188545496
Sociologist: Religion Can Predict Sexual Behavior

“Religion and sex are tracking each other like never before,” says sociologist Mark Regnerus.

5783999789_9d06e5d7df_b
The Internet Is Not Killing Religion. So What Is?

Why is religion in decline in the modern world? And what can save it?

river dusk
Cleaner, Lighter, Closer

What’s a fella got to do to be baptized?

shutterstock_188022491
Magical Thinking and the Canonization of Two Popes

Why Pope Francis is canonizing two popes for all of the world wide web to see.

987_00
An Ayatollah’s Gift to Baha’is, Iran’s Largest Religious Minority

An ayatollah offers a beautiful symbolic gesture against a backdrop of violent persecution.

Screenshot 2014-04-23 11.40.54
Atheists Bad, Christians Good: A Review of “God’s Not Dead”

A smug Christian movie about smug atheists leads to an inevitable happy ending.

shutterstock_134310734
Ten Ways to Make Your Church Autism-Friendly

The author of the Church of England’s autism guidelines shares advice any church can follow.

Pile_of_trash_2
Pope Francis: Stop the Culture of Waste

What is the human cost of our tendency to throw away?

chapel door
“Sometimes You Find Something Quiet and Holy”: A New York Story

In a hidden, underground sanctuary, we were all together for a few minutes in this sweet and holy mystery.

shutterstock_178468880
Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

sunset-hair
From Passover to Easter: Why I’m Grateful to be Jewish, Christian, and Alive

Passover with friends. Easter with family. It’s almost enough to make you believe in God.

colbert
Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

emptytomb
God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

shutterstock_186795503
The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

egg.jpg
Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.