The ‘controversy’ over the Boy Scouts of America

inclusive scouting

Okay. I have actually been biting at the bit to write about this subject, but something happened on a personal note with an old and very dear friend over a comment he made about the decision facing the Boy Scout of America (BSOA) and he happens to be a devout Christian and and Eagle Scout, the leader of his son’s Scout group, and an amazing father whose heart is 100% in the right place… that being said, he is also a man with gay family members and friends and I can only imagine how conflicted he must be sometimes. So while this post isn’t directed at him, in fact, I have waited to write about this for several reasons; 1. I wanted to wait and see what the BSOA would decide 2. I wanted to educate myself a little further before I just went on an emotional rant because I was pissed off.  and 3. I wanted to wait until I could be logical and not emotional about the subject. I also didn’t want to write something that would hurt my friend – I already did that privately and I feel like a shithead for responding in the moment and actually tried to guilt him into a response. Obviously, there are a million ways I could have approached the issue without being a jerk about it – so this is my attempt to do that.

I  think that the BSOA have done amazing things to help guide young boys into becoming responsible young men. I also firmly believe that the BSOA is not, and has never been a “Christian” organization. It has however been taken over by fundamentalists who believe that in order to save mankind is to instill the fear of God in children and force children to discriminate and hate those who are different. In my humble opinion, the old reasons for joining the boy scouts were to instill humanistic values, and personal responsibility while at the same time making learning these ideals fun and interesting for boys of all ages and from all walks of life.

The BSOA has never fully been an all inclusive club. For a long time black kids couldn’t join either. I do think though like so many organizations, they are a direct reflection of the majority of people who support that organization, and with the end of community centers, and schools declining to lend space to outside organizations (not affiliated with the school) churches picked up the slack to loan meeting rooms and event venues for the Scouts – and as such has wrestled control of what they should do and how they should do it.

We are seeing it already – several churches have now declined to allow scout troops to meet at their churches because they decided to not discriminate against the children. It is a small step in the right direction, but the out lash from  their main lifeline of support in today’s world is crumbling and will hurt a good organization that helps millions of young boys and men because they choose to allow gay kids to participate. The change in policy would actually bolster support for the organization from secular organizations, however the churches have such control over the organization now that they are the main influences in policy.

A lot of people in the gay community are crying, “Too little too late!” and a “Partial ban is still discrimination!” While these accusations are somewhat true, I think as people in the LGBT community continue to make their voices heard, keep fighting for equality, and don’t stoop to the fear and hate mongering that so many people perpetrate against us – because it makes us no better than them and detracts from our own fight for inclusive Scouting. What should happen now is that gay businesses, inclusive churches, and anyone who has a large enough house to hold meetings should offer their space to these troops who have been kicked out of their churches for changing their policy. If you want change, you have to be able to help them make it.

Now I have always thought of the Boy Scouts as a quasi military organization. In fact, that is kind of what started the BSOA. You can read more about he organizations history; History of the BSOA it is a Wikipedia article – so you know take it with a grain of salt, but it does offer some insight into the history and goals of the organization from it’s inception to present day.

Now just like any other huge organization – especially ones that are supported and often subsidized from Federal government, they are under pressure to conform the the laws and guidelines other federal sanctioned organizations must follow. Social change is part of that. The BSOA went through the pains of segregation of black kids, eventually conforming to the social norm of inclusion. To decline to do that would have been the downfall of the organization. If you are teaching young men to be responsible for the world around them, it only stands to reason that those lessons should change according to changing social norms.

I think on some level the leadership in the Boy Scouts understand this, but with declining support from secular organizations, the churches stepped in to keep them around because in all honesty, the BSOA uphold the moral values that many churches hold dear. However, with this step to accommodate them, they have also indoctrinated them into believing the Bible over the Constitution and service to one nation. It doesn’t help that when a troop goes against the teaching of the church that sanctions them, they lose their meeting space, face bad press in small towns, and therefore lose support. So it has become a means of survival for the organisation to align with churches more so than the YMCA, or other community centers that just don’t have the financial resources to support their charters.

Basically saying that the BSOA are a Christian organization, is akin to saying that the United States is a Christian Nation. It is simply not true. For years Mormon churches had Boy Scouts charters, but they were considered by fundamental Baptists (HUGE supporters of the Boy Scouts financially as well as affording free places to meet) as a cult. No one cared about that though… There are Synagogues that charter Scout groups too, as well as inclusive Christian churches that support lifting the ban not just on gay kids but gay parents and gay scout leaders.

Now I am not a huge expert on the Boy Scouts, but I grew up around them. My Mom was a scout leader and she was also a girl scout leader – that didn’t last long because I hated it and wanted to be in the Boy Scouts because they got to do fun stuff and in the Girl Scouts we had to make cookies and paint ceramic tiles while I wanted to go camping and learn to start a campfire – I just joined the Army to get that fix. 🙂

Personally, while not a perfect solution, just like the military, inclusion will happen in stages. This latest policy change in my opinion is a decent start. At least now they won’t punish children (at least not directly) and they will have to start teaching tolerance to make it work (just like they did in the days of segregation). It is only a matter of time before they allow gay troop leaders and gay parent involvement – it isn’t like they haven’t already been around – they have just had to hide – much I like I had too when I was in the military. It is an inevitable change because our country is changing. The BSOA are going to have to change with it, just like they have always done. It won’t happen overnight, but I for one am always grateful for the small victories that lead to huge change.

I too pray for their leaders to make the right decisions. I just wonder whose prayers God will hear, mine and the many people like me who support the Boy Scouts but don’t support discrimination, or the “faithful” whose prayers for guidance are based in hate and misunderstanding. Time will tell I guess.

I would love to be more educated on the issue. I really want to hear from those of you involved in Scouting and hear your opinions on the changes your organization is facing and how your group is dealing with those changes. Are you involved with a scouting group? Who sanctions your charter? What do you think the new policy says about the organization? Do you support it? Are you opposed? Why or why not? 

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