09 May 2013

Middle Tennessee Boy Scouts Uphold Ban on Homosexuality

This evening I found out from the On My Honor blog the Middle Tennessee Boy Scout Council has upheld the dubious "don't ask don't tell" policy of Scouting. As an Eagle Scout, I can't go along with the Council's decision. Discrimination on any level should not be fostered by an organization whose members take the following 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.

I've heard the argument time and time again that homosexuality compromises the "morally straight" portion of this oath and therefore is incompatible with Scouting. Should we go as far to insure the moral straightness of our Scouts and Scout Masters as to poke around in their behind closed door affairs? Do we assume that if a Scout Master has been divorced, had premarital sex, or takes a drink when none of his Troop is around he is not "morally straight" and therefore not worthy of being involved with Scouts? Following that train, the BSA would turn into an adolescent boy's version of the Taliban. Maybe that's what Scouting wants. Certainly the Middle Tennessee Council isn't the most forward thinking group of individuals. Segregated Scout troops existed until 1974 within the Middle Tennessee Council because the council left that decision up to individual districts. Back then having African-Americans in Troops wasn't consistent with the values of Scouting either.

I would prefer Scouting to remember the "to help other people at all times" potion of the oath. No matter what one's race, color, creed, or sexual orientation Scouting helps boys become good men. The oath does not state "To help other people (except homosexuals or minorities) at all times". Shouldn't helping our brothers be a part of Scouting come before judging them? In the idealistic version of Boy Scouts I hold in my mind it should.

But... what happens when a homosexual Scout goes to camp with his straight counterparts? I would assume that the parents of homosexual Scouts teach what proper behavior is just like the parents of heterosexual Scouts do. Improper behavior is improper behavior no matter what one's sexual orientation. When at summer camp one year I remember a Girl Scout Troop was in a neighboring campsite. Under no uncertain terms we were told that trying to sneak over would result in a quick trip home. Why? Because trying to peek at the girl's shower stalls was inappropriate behavior that had a consequence. Just as it would be inappropriate for a homosexual Scout to make advances towards another boy. Neither behavior has a place in the context of Scouting and should be dealt with the wisdom of parents and Scout leaders. 

There's really two reasons this ban is being held onto by the BSA. First and foremost, there is the misguided belief that homosexuality and child molestation are linked. Given the black-eye the BSA took in October of 2012 about covering up cases of molestation, I have no doubt that the upper echelon of the BSA believes that keeping homosexuals out of Scouting will curb this problem. Secondly, I don't think most heterosexual Scout Masters really want to deal with homosexual Scouts because homosexuality isn't in their frame of reference. I don't understand why my Jewish friends keep Kosher, because I do love bacon, but I respect their right to do so and would make every effort to be sensitive to their dietary needs when planning camp-out meals. We consider that religion is a personal choice, even if we don't agree with someone's dogma, but differing sexual preference is somehow anathema.

If we think that by keeping homosexuals out of Scouting will somehow protect our children, you're right. It will protect them from understanding some folks are just wired that way. It will protect them from learning that you can accept someone who doesn't think the same way you do. Dealing with a diverse group of personalities and beliefs is one greatest early lessons of Scouting. Shouldn't we offer that lesson, and all the other wonderful lessons of Scouting, to any boy? Doesn't our world need a foundation for all boys to grow up into honorable men? As an Eagle Scout I think Scouting should give that chance to as many boys as possible... no matter what.