Gays and the Boy Scouts of America

Sorry, no pictures in this post.

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) last week announced they are reconsidering the ban on gay members, and may possibly discuss it during BSA’s biannual board meeting to be held in the beginning of February.

Memorandum from the BSA Website:

Boy Scouts of America
Monday, Jan. 28, 2013
Attributable to: Deron Smith, Director of Public Relations

For more than 100 years, Scouting’s focus has been on working together to deliver the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training. Scouting has always been in an ongoing dialogue with the Scouting family to determine what is in the best interest of the organization and the young people we serve.

Currently, the BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation. This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs. BSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families.

The policy change under discussion would allow the religious, civic, or educational organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting to determine how to address this issue. The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents. Under this proposed policy, the BSA would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs.

Why should I comment?

What does the Boy Scouts of America have to do with PopUpBackpacker? Two things; first scouting is often synonymous with the outdoors and backpacking. Secondly, I was a Cub Scout and so was Joe. Neither of us were interested in moving into Boy Scouts when we were kids. I think the BSA is a good organization overall. But it could be a great organization. Many people are not knowledgeable about scouting, but there is a public perception that an Eagle Scout is an outstanding kid — and I agree. But the BSA is out of step on the issue of homosexuality. To be honest, homosexuality shouldn’t be an issue. We shouldn’t single out anyone based on their sexual orientation. More important than this; remaining silent on an issue implies agreement. Since my kids read this site, I want them to know exactly what my view is. It is my parental responsibility.

Just for clarification and simplicity, I am going to use the term gay for both gay males and lesbian females. I know this probably isn’t technically correct, but this post is about principles, not semantics. Although Boy Scout membership is limited to boys, both men and women fulfill the leadership roles in the organization as adult members.

The BSA is a private organization. By definition, this means they can restrict their membership to certain groups of people. There is nothing illegal about it. But “legal” and “morally right” are not synonymous. I think the BSA’s stance on gays is a moral problem. So let’s start with the BSA mission statement:

Mission Statement

The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.

Scout Oath

On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.

Scout Law

A Scout is: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave,  Clean, Reverent.

Vision Statement

The Boy Scouts of America will prepare every eligible youth in America to become a responsible, participating citizen and leader who is guided by the Scout Oath and Law.


I found the above quotes via Google. Given their Mission and Vision, they do not allow membership to any boy or adult who is an atheist or agnostic because they would be unable to teach or support “To do my duty to God.” Most people shouldn’t have a problem with this. The BSA is non-denominational, does not subscribe to any religion, and does not engage in religious activities. They do require that all members profess a belief in God.

BSA is a private organization and their policies, including excluding homosexuals, have been held up by state and federal courts including the Supreme Court of the United States. As a private organization, they have the right to “freedom of association.”

Boy scouting is not about the outdoors, it is about their vision of building character.

BSA requires all members to agree to its Declaration of Religious Principles

The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God. In the first part of the Scout Oath or Promise the member declares, ‘‘On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law.’’ The recognition of God as the ruling and leading power in the universe and the grateful acknowledgment of His favors and blessings are necessary to the best type of citizenship and are wholesome precepts in the education of the growing members. No matter what the religious faith of the members may be, this fundamental need of good citizenship should be kept before them. The Boy Scouts of America, therefore, recognizes the religious element in the training of the member, but it is absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward that religious training. Its policy is that the home and the organization or group with which the member is connected shall give definite attention to religious life.

Boys cannot become good citizens if they are taught bigotry; teaching that homosexuality is immoral is bigotry.

BSA is not a religious organization and does not support any religion. However some churches sponsor Boy Scout troops. BSA does not accept atheists or agnostics. This is their rule. Given their Mission Statement, Scout Oath, Scout Law, and Declaration of Religious Principles this is an understandable position. Religious beliefs or the lack of beliefs are a decision made by individuals.

At one time some local BSA organizations discriminated based on race. Luckily those days are gone.

The Gay Issue

BSA’s stand on this is, “We believe that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the requirement in the Scout Oath that a Scout be morally straight and in the Scout Law that a Scout be clean in word and deed, and that homosexuals do not provide a desirable role model for Scouts.”

It is clear that the above statement says that homosexuality is immoral; that homosexuals have made a conscious decision regarding their sexual orientation.

The Truth

Sexual orientation is not a preference or choice. One’s orientation is determined by genes, not choice; just as people do not choose what color they are.


“BSA has had more than enough trouble in the past with child abuse from closet homosexuals.”

Pedophilia is a psychological problem and has nothing to do with sexual orientation. It is violence against children and the perpetrators run the gamut of sexual orientation. Some people confuse child molesting (pedophilia) with homosexuality. These are two separate issues. Pedophilia has nothing to do with sexual orientation.

“The LGBT community does not have the civil or moral right to force their alternative lifestyle on others.”

Sexual orientation isn’t a lifestyle. It isn’t a choice. It isn’t a preference. Just as none of us has any choice as to the color of our skin.

So if sexual orientation is predetermined, then it cannot be wrong or immoral. BSA’s own stance of denying entrance based on sexual orientation is, in fact, immoral and unethical — even if it is legal for private organizations to exclude gays.

Many people want to overlook this, because they feel the good Scouting does outweighs this particular issue. Developing character and good citizens is not compatible with teaching homosexuality is immoral.

It is Time for the Boy Scouts of America to Change

Earlier I stated that “Boy scouting is not about the outdoors, it is about their vision of building character.”

One cannot build character if they subscribe to bigotry. This is what the BSA’s stance on homosexuality is doing.

The BSA Memorandum does not go far enough. Even if the BSA removes the ban against gays at the national level, at the local level organizations would still be able to discriminate against gays. Denying membership to gays is no different that banning membership based on race or ethnicity.

I am a heterosexual male. I am not a pro gay rights advocate, per se. I am a civil rights advocate for all people. As Americans it is our duty to speak out any time individual rights are denied. Over the centuries many Americans have died defending our individual rights and freedom. Is it too much to ask Americans to stand up to the BSA and defend rights and freedom? No, it isn’t too much to ask.

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