Is you is, or is you ain’t?
That’s where the Boy Scouts of America is. It sits awkwardly astride an issue that divides its liberal professional staff from its conservative chartering organizations, and which further divides those chartering organizations into progressive and conservative factions.
The issue is homosexuality.
For some 20 years, the Boy Scouts have been under attack by homosexual activists. The pretense has been public acceptance of gay scouts and leaders, the real issue has been evil versus good. Boy Scouts is a values and morality based organization focused on teaching those values and morals to a rising generation of boys. Consequently, it is a target for the amoral and immoral, and destroying or defaming the organization is their objective.
That attack has taken various shapes.
Now, in the name of equality, it wants the acceptance and normalization of homosexuals as scouts and leaders. The Boy Scouts’ professional staff tried to cram down a policy change allowing that last year, but the chartering organizations – which actually sponsor the myriad Boy Scout troops all across the country – pushed back.
This year, the professional staff has offered a compromise – allow gay Scouts, but not gay Scout leaders.
The proposal will be considered at a big Boy Scouts of America meeting in May, and has already been endorsed by the Mormon church, the biggest sponsor of American Scout troops.
The proposal, however, has problems. Whether you support or oppose changing the current ban on gays, the one-foot-in, one-foot-out approach is awkward.
It seems to say that juvenile homosexuality is fine, but adult homosexuality isn’t. From either side of the issue, that’s hard to really grasp.
As a practical matter, it makes the 18th birthday a Berlin Wall of Scout participation. A Scout would be welcome and encouraged until a magical date passed on the calendar, and then he would be barred at the door.
It is not uncommon for a young man who really likes scouting to advance to the highest rank – Eagle Scout – and stay active until he turns 18. Many of those young men will then become assistant scoutmasters. That’s a seamless move from the highest Scout rank to the lowest leader rank. Boys are encouraged to make that move, to continue their scouting lives.
Apparently, gay Scouts won’t be allowed to.
It would seem awkward for two boys who progressed through Scouting together to be parted on their 18th birthdays because one of them was homosexual. It’s really hard to understand how a young man is acceptable one day, but not the next.
Homosexuality either belongs in scouting or it doesn’t, the wisdom of a division based on age and role isn’t obvious.
The proposed policy seems to be an expediency or intermediate step. The organization wants to appease critics on one side while not overly offending stakeholders on the other side. The solution seems likely to satisfy neither side and annoy both. The half step toward embracing homosexuality is being wrapped up in a supposed desire to offer Scout programs to all boys. Anyone who opposes changing the current policy is positioned as being hurtful of boys, as wanting to deny children services.
The issue is not really the orientation of an individual, it is the promotion of an activity. The concern is that as the Boy Scouts of America embraces homosexuality it will – in the name of tolerance and acceptance – become a proponent of homosexuality.
That’s the concern with gay leaders; not that they will be child molesters, but that they will be role models – role models of a homosexual lifestyle. It’s not that parents are worried that the gay scout leader will sexually abuse their sons – Scout programs work hard to keep that from happening – it’s that they don’t want him bringing his gay husband around and normalizing a lifestyle that many of them consider immoral and sinful.
That’s the bottom line.
And the proposed policy does not address that completely. It keeps out the gay leader role model, but by welcoming openly gay Scouts, it still allows examples many families consider inappropriate. Peer pressure and example are powerful in the lives of young people, and an openly, assertively gay Scout can be just as problematic as an openly, assertively gay Scout leader.
So what do you do?
Leave it the way it is now.
But acknowledge the way it is now.
As a practical matter, there is not a ban on homosexual Scouts or leaders today in the Boy Scouts of America.
Rather, there is a policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
And that’s not a bad policy.
At no point in the registration process for either Scouts or leaders is there any sort of inquiry about sexual orientation. They don’t ask. It doesn’t come up.
And it won’t come up for either a Scout or a leader unless the Scout or leader engages in inappropriate activity or conversation.
And that’s not a bad policy.
Promoting or normalizing homosexuality is not the role of the Boy Scouts, and is offensive to a significant percentage of Scout parents and chartering organizations.
And yet there are now gay Scouts and leaders in the Boy Scouts, as there have always been.
How have they done it?
By keeping their private life private, at least as far as scouting is concerned.
The proposed policy is flawed.
The current policy is best.
But it should be understood and defined. Don’t ask, don’t tell. Scout or leader, young or old. No one cares if somebody is gay, just don’t make it a part of your Scout life.
That’s what the organization should do.