One Eagle Scout's Thoughts on Homosexuality and the Boy Scouts of America

I am an Eagle Scout from Troop 101 in Marysville, Ohio.  We don't say "former" Eagle Scout, as the belief is that once you've attained the rank, it's a benefit to you long after you've left your Scouting years behind.  I also served as the past District Chairman of the now-defunct Northstar District, of Union County, which has merged with others in our area.  Scouting and Church has always been closely linked for me, as the Troop I participated in was chartered by my home church, Marysville First United Methodist, where it has been for almost as long as Scouting has existed in America.  I continue to support the unit financially and other ways.

One of the hardest parts about homosexuality in current times is that it has become so polarizing for people on all sides of the issue.  The issue is so tightly tied to self-identity that we often lose the perspective to consider it outside of our own feelings and experience.  That's too bad.  When something becomes so controversial that we can't consider it without resorting to extremes, we lay waste to the common middle ground where we live our lives in community.

I think enlisting homosexual boys and adult leaders in the Boy Scouts of America is a bad idea for all involved.  Before you quit reading, or applaud, as the case may be, this opinion isn't my values-based judgement.  So, as clearly as I can, here are two important reasons I believe the BSA should leave their current policy as is:

1.  The Boy Scouts focus on overnight camping experiences.  I would not consider enrolling my kids, boy or girl, in a co-ed camping program.  I believe that it is healthy for kids to have opportunities to enjoy their youth, without any thought of sexuality.  I simply don't see much difference between co-ed and gay-inclusive camping.  Either one drastically alters the environment and changes the entire dynamic.  You can disagree with me on this point if you like, but if you do, then I think you've forgotten what it is like to be a teenage boy.  For me, there just isn't much wiggle-room or argument to be had on this issue.  It is what is.

2.  The Boy Scouts of America should align itself with its charter organization partners, and historical values, not adapt policy to suit fundraising goals.  The core of the Boy Scouts has always been its commitment to its own honor code.  While many groups will trumpet the inclusion of homosexual youth in the Scouts, they should be aware that the Scouts aren't professing some grand values changes, but rather announcing their capitulation to donors.  The Boy Scouts of America has not announced a new belief system, but has said, in essence, we need the corporate dollars that come with doing something we don't support, so we'll consider doing it, and take the dollars, but not change what we believe.  Can there be a worse lessen for our youth?  What's the point of enrolling a boy in Scouts if "selling out" is a core value.  To be clear, no one wins if the Boy Scouts' honor is gutted and it is left as a hollowed out shell of its former self.  I wonder what the point is in destroying something that has value, under the pretense of inclusiveness.  

It's worth noting, to those not familiar with the program, that most scout troops are chartered by churches.  In fact the United Methodist Church at one time strongly encouraged all congregations to host Scouting.  Many of those units are 80+ years old, and exist today.  Catholics and Mormons are also usually hosts to Scout units in their congregations.  All three of these institutions have policies that would be at direct odds to what the BSA is proposing.  It's not a small leap in logic to expect that the BSA changing its policy will cause many of the charter organizations to reconsider whether hosting is still in their best interest.

So what will it mean for me, as an Eagle Scout?  I don't foresee myself joining those who would throw off all associations with the Boy Scouts of America, even going so far as to burn cards and certificates of rank.  I'll likely remain supportive of my local pack and troop.  I will, however, encourage my local church, the charter organization for the units I support, to be vigilant in overseeing healthy youth programming through the Scouts, as they do now.  If that means that their 80+ year sponsorship comes to an end in the future, I would support the decision.  As for my own son, I've never intended to push him towards or away from Scouting.  When he's old enough, his mom and I will consider the appropriateness of Boy Scouts for him just like we would any other activity.  It's hard to say what that will look like in ten years, but the changes currently being considered would make the decision non-negotiable for us (see point #1 above.)

An institution that promotes traditional manhood has value in the U.S. today.  We should always be Proud to espouse manhood as a worthy attribute.  I am proud to have been a Boy Scout, I am proud to be the man that it helped shape me as, and I believe there should always be a sense of pride for boys and men who seek to become the best man they can.

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