As the Supreme Court hears arguments on the validity of gay marriage, there is another battle that could affect one storied organization: the Boy Scouts of America. The policy of the Boy Scouts is to deny membership to young men who openly state that they are homosexual. Recent arguments by gay rights groups have placed some pressure on the organization, but will the BSA change its policy?
I am no longer involved with the BSA because once a scout turns 18, he is required to leave as a scout, but can receive training as an Assistant Scoutmaster. However, an Eagle Scout ranking stays with the man for life. As an Eagle Scout myself, I am well aware of the BSA history and some policies; my father is also a merit badge counselor for the troop I was involved with and keeps me in touch. Allow me to explain a brief history of the BSA and why the policy is in place.
The exact date of the first Boy Scout troop is unknown, but the first scouting troops were formed in England under their leader Lord Robert Baden-Powell in 1908. As for America, the BSA was founded on Feb. 8, 1910 and held its first meeting at the White House where President Taft addressed the new organization. The Scout Law and Scout Oath were adopted, as well as the first merit badges. During World War I, scouts aided in gasmask production and handing out government pamphlets. In 1935, the organization had more than one million members and the Cub Scout program was gaining more membership. As the years progressed, more troops were chartered and younger men continued to enlist in the organization. They continued helping with the war effort for World War II by selling bonds and even being dispatchers. The most recent news before the homosexual issue was the organization turning 100 years old in 2010.
The BSA has been criticized for teaching Christian values, which could include the banning of openly gay members. A part of the Scout Oath says “Stay… morally straight,” which could be open to interpretation. This is a problem because today’s world is more diverse than it was 30 years ago, but people have to understand this undeniable act: it is deemed a private organization by the Supreme Court. That means the organization can include or exclude anyone. In essence, it is no different than a fraternity or sorority because not everyone can join, only people meeting certain criteria can join. As for the BSA, only straight boys can join and those boys must be dismissed as a scout on their 18th birthday. I know there are gay scouts in the organization because they are still “in the closet.” I have no problem with that.
There have been a few Eagle Scouts that have returned their medal in response to some gay scouts being denied a medal because they have admitted that they are gay. Also, others have returned their medals because of the policy in general.
People have to understand that the BSA has shown no signs of changing their policy nor will the group make exceptions. Here is a simple solution: if enough gay scouts wanted to, they could make their own organization with the same structure. It may not be that easy, but at least it is a reasonable one. I understand why people are upset and the world is different today, but the constant bombardment on the BSA is getting somewhat excessive.
When I was in the BSA as a Star Scout, I did not care if one of my friends was gay because I was raised to understand everyone’s point of view and show some respect. As an Eagle Scout who is one year removed from the BSA, my attitudes have not changed. As the Scout Law, which is just a longer version of the Golden Rule, says, “A Scout is: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent.”