Why Johnny can’t Scout: If he’s gay, he’s out at 18. But if he’s atheist, he’s out immediately.

Picture little Johnny as a Cub Scout. He is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and … Continued

Picture little Johnny as a Cub Scout. He is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. He tries to always be prepared. He does a good turn daily.

Now see Johnny as a Boy Scout who is so talented that he earns his Eagle Scout Award by age 14. He is a model Scout. Then, about the time he turns 15, Johnny realizes he’s not like the other boys. What that means is, he doesn’t like girls. He likes boys. Johnny doesn’t want to like boys. He’d rather be like the other guys and like girls. But he’s just not attracted to them. But Johnny is smart. He doesn’t act on his urges or tell anyone about his feelings because he cares too much about the Scouts.

What does he do? He pretends not to be gay. He lives a lie.  He has had to — until now — because gays were not allowed as Scouts.

Happily, the Boy Scouts of America has reached a compromise. Beginning at the end of this year, a boy can be openly gay and be a member. Many church-supported troops are protesting and might pull out of the Scouts because of this change in policy. More than half of all Boy Scout troops are supported by churches.

But the Boy Scouts of America saw the writing on the wall. They were losing members at an alarming rate.  Even the Mormon Church supported what is now referred to as the compromise: the ruling that Boy Scouts can be openly gay, but their leaders may not.

Now let’s picture Johnny grown up. He is 18 and can no longer be a Boy Scout, but would be an ideal Scout leader. He loves the Scouts. He has mastered the Boy Scout Handbook and has moved up the ranks, earning more than 20 merit badges along the way. The boys and parents love him, admire him and look up to him. However, Johnny has a problem.

He’s still gay. If he admits it, he will have to quit and will never be able to have anything to do with Scouting again, no matter how good he is. Overnight, Johnny will go from being a model Scout to a pariah. Or he will have to lie. He will have to live a lie. What should Johnny do?

Let’s make it more complicated. Little Johnny,  when he was younger, recited the Boy Scout Oath. “On my honor,” he would say, three fingers raised, “I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.” (Clearly, morally straight is in the eye of the beholder.)

Now let’s say, around age 15, when he realized he was gay, Johnny started having doubts about God. He couldn’t understand how there could be a God who would allow so much suffering in the world. He also didn’t quite understand who or what God was. He tried to pray, but he felt that nobody was listening. He really wanted to believe in God, but it didn’t make sense to him. He learned the word atheist and began to realize that he might be one. He also learned that the Boy Scouts banned atheists. It was against the Scout Law (a Scout is reverent).

Johnny has a problem. If he says he is an atheist, he will have to quit and never be able to have anything to do with Scouting again. So, he pretends to believe in God. When he says the oath, he mumbles the part about duty to God and just says country. He lives a lie.

The good news is that after Johnny turns 18, he will be able to come out of the closet as a gay man and an atheist and finally live a life of truth. The bad news is that the Boy Scouts have turned Johnny into a liar, denied him his life ambition, kept him from fulfilling his potential, taught him that he is not a valued member of society and, worst of all, deprived the Boy Scouts of one of the best leaders the organization could have.

Talk about “honor.”

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Sally Quinn Sally Quinn is the founding editor of OnFaith.
  • Hildy J

    This is not unexpected. Polls show that Atheists are below gays (or Muslims) when it comes to respect by Christians (not that gays or Muslims rank very highly either).

    There’s not much to be done. In school the dumb guys hate the math star who’s figured it out. In religion, the dumb guys hate the Atheist who’s figured it out.

    There’s a reason Jesus kept calling his followers sheep.

  • myroro

    I can assure you Johnny realized he wasn’t like the other boys long before he was 15. As for being an expert at lying and hiding, check. All of us gays become experts at lying and hiding. We’re forced to. That is really what the bigots want anyway: for us to just lie and hide, because even they realize we were born this way and can’t change who we are.

  • Vanka

    The fallacy in the Scouting worldview is the idea that only believers can be “good Scouts”, and only heterosexuals can be “good leaders”…

    AS IF only believing (Mormon, apparently) heterosexuals can ever “do my duty to… my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”

    And only believing heterosexuals can ever be Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.

    Or Prepared

    or Do a Good Turn Daily!

    or Be clean in my outdoor manners, Be careful with fire, Be considerate in the outdoors, and

    Be conservation minded.

    Why are religious/believers so arrogant as to think they have the patent, copyright, and monopoly on goodness?

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