In my latest novel, A Scout is Brave, the lead protagonist, a young gay teen named Joshua, finds himself at a Boy Scout summer camp where he has his first kiss. What should have been a wonderful experience turns into a nightmare as he has to deal with the darker side of Scouting, specifically the virulently anti-gay attitudes of many of its members. The Boy Scouts of America has gotten a lot of negative press lately due to corporations increasingly withholding financial contributions to the organization out of concern for BSA’s bigoted policies. This forced the BSA to change its stance in 2012, causing many conservative Christians to flee the organization, terrified of the mobs of gay children that were evidently waiting to enlist. What most people don’t know, however, is that the BSA’s change in attitude was only a half-way measure. They opened up Scouting to gay kids, but retained their ban on gay adults, thus serving to reinforce the most abominable of stereotypes.
With that in mind, here are Five Reasons the BSA needs to end its reprehensible ban on gay leaders.
- Bigotry is inconsistent with the Scout Law. Millions of Scouts across the country recite the Scout Law on a regular basis. A Scout is “friendly, courteous, and kind,” it says in part. The hypocrisy in reciting such an oath while excluding and dismissing an entire class of people is astonishing. You can be anti-gay, OR you can follow the Scout Law. The two are incompatible.
- Scouts are supposed to be leaders. The BSA prides itself on the fact that it trains the next generation of leaders and frequently cites an innumerable list of politicians, businessmen, and celebrities, who earned the achievement of Eagle Scout, BSA’s highest honor. But what does it say when the leaders of the BSA are afraid to lead on one of the most important moral issues of the day? Isn’t demonstrating courage and leadership exactly what leaders are supposed to do? If you only do the right thing after everyone already agrees with it, you are in fact leading from behind. That’s also called following. It’s what the BSA once did with the issue of segregation. It allowed for segregated troops so as not to offend white sensibilities. It’s a dark chapter in their history, one that they don’t talk about. Someday, decades from now, if the BSA still exists, they likely won’t talk about their anti-gay history either.
- The BSA is sending mixed messages. What is the BSA telling a scout when it says he can enjoy all the benefits of scouting until he turns 18, and then he must be tossed out like a social pariah? It sends the same message that the old policy sent to gay youth—that gay people are incapable of living up to the Scout Oath and Law, which ironically, is what the BSA is failing to do in perpetuating such a bigoted policy.
- It violates the BSA’s own religious convictions. One justification often given for the exclusion of gay people from the BSA is the clause of the Scout Oath whereby a Scout promises to be “morally straight.” Of course, the BSA doesn’t define the phrase, so pretty much anyone can be a Scout no matter how lowly their character – as evident by BSA’s bigotry on this very issue. In fact, the only way they define the phrase is when they want to exclude gays. The BSA claims to be religiously inclusive, but they insist on a view towards gays that belongs solely to religious conservatives. The BSA allows Buddhists, Muslims, Catholics, Mormons, Unitarians, and Pagans – polytheists and monotheists alike. There is no common set of beliefs uniting them. Yet, they are asked to bow to religious conservatives because a handful of them can’t stomach that a loving creator loves gay people. Bigotry is inconsistent with being morally straight. Being gay is not.
- The BSA is bleeding a slow death as it continues to appeal to our darker nature. Over the past 20 years, BSA membership has declined from 4 million to 2 million. As the BSA continues to insist that gay leaders are inherently immoral, 39 states now recognize gay marriage. The BSA will increasingly be seen as the moral abomination that it claims gay people are. It is a dinosaur on this issue and will go the way of all extinct species unless it evolves.