On Boy Scouts And Equality

I was a Boy Scout, once upon a long time ago. I did Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. Made it to Second Class… failed the swim test twice. Not because I can’t swim, but the first time was in a lake where I couldn’t touch the ground and that always freaks me out and the second time I ate too much for breakfast. …feel I have to defend myself there. Anyway, when I switched high schools, I basically just stopped doing Boy Scouts, though I probably could have made it to Eagle without much of a problem. I had most of the requirements done.

Anyway, Boy Scouts was intended to help young boys become men with a certain set of skills and traits. A Boy Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.

Nice traits to have, right? Not bad things, I think, and entirely independent of any religion or dogma. Unfortunately, despite those traits being independent of dogma, most of the Boy Scouts have aligned themselves with a conservative Christian viewpoint. What this has come to mean is, openly homosexual males are not allowed to be involved in the organization at all.

Well, the times, they are a’changin’, maybe.

Recently, with gay rights taking some big steps in both reality, such as the new states that have legalized gay marriage and the ending of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and symbolism, via President Barack Obama’s reference to gay rights in his inaugural address, things seem to have a bit of a forward momentum. Recently, that forward momentum hit the Boy Scouts of America and they’ve started considering dropping their ban on homosexuals.

But it’s not all good news for equality, of course. See, a large portion of Boy Scout Troops are sponsored by churches. Christian churches. Many of which have particular views about homosexuals and homosexuality. Views that are frankly often contrary both to Christianity and reality, but that’s a topic to rehash another time. Anyway, many of those churches are threatening to pull their sponsorship and funding if the Boy Scouts change their stance on homosexuals.

I just don’t get it. If you can show me once, just once, where Christ turned away a sinner and said, “No, I can’t be seen around you, I disapprove of the things you do,” I’ll eat my hat. Did he rebuke some sinners, like the Pharisees? Sure. But he also ate with sinners, mingled with them, talked to them, treated them as equals. Not as a separate species to be treated with disdain and derision.

If Christ walked among us today, it’s the conservative Christians that would have him crucified this go round. The Pharisees are back, and they just don’t like gay people.

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6 thoughts on “On Boy Scouts And Equality

  1. mharper says:

    Q: If there are so many opposed to the BSA’s policies, then why don’t those who have the skills and training start their own scouting program that is more inclusive? I haven’t heard such an idea floated about (or maybe I’ve missed it). The organization will ultimately choose to change or not change; in the meantime, a new organization could put down roots and reach out to those who want the experience without the hate (sorry, that sounded exceptionally cheesy).

    If there are 12 year old boys today who want to be scouts, but are pushed away and made uncomfortable, what is ultimately better for them: giving the BSA heat in hopes that it’ll change, and maybe it will change before the boy is too old to participate, or starting a new organization that does all the things the BSA does (they can’t possibly have a copyright on merit badges) and gives those boys an opportunity to participate without having to feel ashamed? And I bet there are plenty of parents who would pull their straight sons out of the BSA and put them in a different program if such a thing were offered.

    • linaloki says:

      The BSA have been around for decades, accumulating a massive amount of tradition and success. It would take any rivaling group at least as long, and a bunch of financial aid, to be able to offer anything remotely close to what the BSA offers. Not to mention, there’s no guarantee of enough people locally coming to your organization to make it worthwhile. It’s a noble idea, but one that would almost certainly never be cohesive enough to take off.

  2. mharper says:

    Leaving aside the trappings of badges and uniforms, I’m not sure what the BSA offers that couldn’t be accomplished in more economical ways–what’s so hard about planning a weekend camping trip to a local state park? You say that the BSA has accumulated years and years of tradition, but tradition doesn’t teach you how to help little old ladies, tie knots, or build campfires. Useful skills are useful skills, and they can be taught by anyone with the know-how. The traditions of the BSA amount to ritualized pledges and salutes–the organization, while it may tout its traditions of teaching good virtues to young people, does not have a monopoly on instilling those character traits you listed.

    I was under the impression that scout masters were volunteers, as were most people involved with scouting groups. Meetings could be held at the scout masters’ houses, and groups could take advantage of community events to learn or put their skills to use. I was also under the impression that individual members provided their own gear, and troops worked together to raise funds for what they needed (washing cars, etc). (See: the trait of thriftiness.)

    This would also be the time to fulfill social media’s potential, by using FB and Twitter to announce meetings and events and organize members.

    Just about every organization comes into the world kicking and screaming–those organizations that succeed have dedicated individuals who are committed to keeping the organization running. Apparently, the BSA has a lot of people who are committed and who take no monetary compensation for their exertions. How many individuals have volunteered their time and effort to fight back against bigotry, without expectation of reward? Yes, the BSA has corporate sponsors (what they do, I don’t know–subsidize marshmallows for cookouts?), but there are lots of corporations that would jump at the chance to help out a fledgling scouting group that accepted LGBTQ youth with open arms.

    • linaloki says:

      BSA has many several well-established camp grounds, such as Philmont in the mountains of Cimarron, New Mexico, and offers local, district, national and international jamborees where troops gather together and do all sorts of things. And I mention tradition not to say tradition is good, but rather to point out that people are often creatures of habit. Parents will say, “I was in Boy Scouts, you should be too.” It’s got the established name, and that’s tough to fight against.

      An analogy comes to mind with something called Odyssey of the Mind. This was the powerhouse competition in schools for years, mixing creativity and intelligence-based challenges. Destination Imagination existed, I do believe, around the same time but could never compete against OM’s massive, established organization. If I remember correctly, DI went nowhere until OM suffered a crippling lawsuit. DI is still struggling to get on OM’s former level.

      All I’m saying is, it would be intensely difficult to come up with an organization to rival the BSA. And if the BSA votes to change their ban, then it’ll be even tougher.

      • linaloki says:

        …they’re doing better than I thought. I should know this since my dad and older sister are involved… that’s pretty much on par with what OM had. And OM is actually still around in about equal force to DI… I can’t find information about where OM slipped, at least not on wikipedia straight away.

        Oh well. DI showed up at my school when I was in 6th grade, I shouldn’t be so surprised. Still, you may see my point… it took years to get fully organized, and I think, though I’m not sure, they largely borrowed from OM via a mass exodus. If there was something like that in Boy Scouts, that might work, but grassroots attempts would struggle a lot.

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