As many of you know, the Boy Scouts of America has been addressing the matter of allowing openly gay scouts and leaders into their ranks. Under current regulations, it is not permitted, and a scout or leader will be removed from the program for being openly gay. This has been a controversial topic for many reasons - so controversial, in fact, that the BSA postponed its decision until May.
Some of you may support the current regulations. I, however, strongly oppose them. But before you bash the BSA for being bigoted, allow me to open your eyes a little to their dilemma. The BSA usually works through "chartered" organizations. That is, a troop is chartered to an organization, such as a church or school. The troop meets there, it gets money from there, and can even get its scoutmaster from it. Of course, just because a troop meets and is chartered by, say, a mormon or baptist church does not mean that the scouts or leaders have to be mormon or baptist or even religious. But if the BSA decides to allow openly gay scouts and leaders into their ranks, many of these groups will turn the BSA away, and those troops will be left without a charter. With nowhere to meet, what will happen to them? With no money, how will they survive? So the issue of whether or not the BSA allows gays to join them is not so cut-and-dry as many people believe.
Well, today I received an email from the BSA asking for my opinion through a lengthy survey because I am an Assistant Scoutmaster and Eagle Scout. I most certainly let them know my mind, and I wish to share it with you.
Of course, like an idiot, I copied the thing I wrote and forgot to paste it before copying something else. So I will have to paraphrase what I sent.
What are you most concerned about if the BSA does not adopt the policy of allowing openly gay members?
First of all, it is every American's right to be gay or straight, and in most cases discriminating against someone based on their sexual orientation is against the law. Secondly, a scout is brave. It is one of the twelve tenants of the Scout Law. What kind of message does it send to scouts and the nation if the BSA itself cannot stand up against bigotry and do what is right, regardless of the threats it faces? How can the BSA reprimand a scout who bravely declares he is gay without becoming hypocritical? Those who oppose gay rights are ruled by fear and ignorance. They believe that being gay necessitates that you are also a pervert and a pedophile, but that is not the case. These ideals stand in direct opposition to what Scouting stands for. Finally, history has shown that the oppressed are usually right. Today's youth overwhelmingly support gay rights. Does the BSA wish to stand in the way of progress and promote bigoted ideals, or does it want to lead the next generation of leaders through its own example? If the BSA refuses to allow equal rights within its ranks, it will either revisit this decision in coming years or be doomed to extinction.
What are you most concerned about if the BSA does adopt the policy of allowing openly gay members?
I am in full support of allowing openly gay scouts and leaders into the organization. It is a good and right thing to do. However, I am concerned on two fronts. The first is that charters will threaten to separate themselves from the BSA and the BSA will cave in. The second is that at some point, one openly gay leader or scout WILL harass a scout and the media will blow it out of proportion. It will ignore the many straight leaders or already harass boys, and the BSA will rethink its policy based on this fear-mongering.
Do I know what is best for Scouting in general? No, of course not. I do not know what kind of threats the BSA has received or will receive because of this potential policy. If most of the charters leave the scouts hanging with nowhere to go, it would essentially end the scouting movement in America and prove that the USA has a *very* long way to go. On the other hand, if it doesn't adopt this policy, more and more young adults will steer clear of the organization (because they support gay rights), and when they have kids they will keep them out of scouting. Without any scouts or leaders, the BSA will fail. However, I believe that the BSA needs to take a chance and show its youth that we do not negotiate with bullies, even if those bullies have positions of authority over us.