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BLOG: Gay Ban is Hurting the Boy Scouts

A former Eagle Scout weighs in on a controversial policy.

Patch blogs are opinion pieces by local authors.

I’m going to address the issue of gays in the Boy Scouts. I realize this is a sensitive topic, in part because the subject of homosexuality brings up all sorts of viewpoints and emotions.

I don’t come to this subject as an outsider looking in, because I was a Cub Scout, Boy Scout, and Explorer Scout in my youth and my father was a scoutmaster. I attained the rank of Eagle Scout and worked on the staff of a Boy Scout camp one summer. I had the good fortune of attending a Boy Scout jamboree in Valley Forge one hot summer. I loved wearing the uniform, earning merit badges and wearing other patches, learning how to make fires with flint and steel, and learning how to march in a military fashion.

During the time I was in the Scouts I never heard that the scout organization had a policy of not allowing gay scouts or scout leaders. Fact is, for many of those years, I didn’t even know what “homosexual” or “gay” was.

But in recent years, the Scouts have been under fire for their stated policy of excluding gay Scout leaders and Boy Scouts. This year, a local-area Eagle Scout who had worked at a Scout camp for eight years, Timothy Griffin, was told he couldn’t work there any longer after he acknowledged his gay sexual orientation. Forget that the organization was pleased with his work and demeanor year after year.

I went about looking for Scout oaths that might address the subject of homosexuality. In the last line of the Scout oath, scouts promise “To keep … physically strong, mentally wake and morally straight.” Are gays, because of their inborn sexual orientation, immoral?

Using the “physically strong” admonition, might not a boy with debilitating cerebral palsy be excluded from the Scouts as well?

Legally, the Boy Scouts as a private organization can exclude anyone they want, but some Scout troops have rightly been prevented from using city facilities because of their exclusion of gays (technically, by denying equal opportunity).

How did this Boy Scout policy get started? Other organizations for youth, such as the Girl Scouts, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the 4-H, and sports organizations (for soccer and so on), have no policies excluding gays and they’re doing just fine. Even the military has changed its rules to allow declared gays in its ranks. Some professional football players and police officers are gays.  

One would think that the gay ban was primarily to prevent gay pedophiles from obtaining leadership positions and using that closeness to molest Boy Scouts. But in practice, it would seem that the ban often constituted window dressing, because when the national Boy Scout organization was recently ordered to make public its molestation records, it was revealed that the cases of wayward Scout leaders over past decades were often kept out of the press and the leaders were sometimes shielded from prosecution. It would seem that the Scout organization was more concerned with protecting its good name (just as the Catholic hierarchy shielded wayward priests and Penn State shielded Jerry Sandusky) – and protecting some leaders’ reputations –  than being concerned with the mental damage inflicted upon young Scouts.

Since laws were passed several decades ago requiring adults to report molestations to the police, the Boy Scouts organization has become more forthcoming. However, and this is hard to believe, the Boy Scouts didn’t require background checks on Scout leaders and volunteers until 2008. Before then, there was just a national blacklist of individuals who weren’t allowed to become leaders again.

It seems to me that individuals who openly declare themselves as gay and apply for scout leadership positions are very unlikely to be pedophiles. It’s those who are outwardly heterosexual or keep their sexual orientation hidden that more often end up as molesters.

Scouts themselves will come on to other Scouts. I know. It happened to me. During our trip to the boy scout jamboree an older Scout – a big, overweight guy – made unwanted sexual advances toward me while we stayed overnight in a hotel. I was pretty clueless about all forms of sex at that point and felt powerless to evade him. On the other hand, I don’t think he thought of himself as unusual. I think he thought he was experimenting in this newfound arena of sex. As for me, I was so embarrassed I didn’t report him to the scout leaders, and I never told my parents. This was during the late 1950s.

As it is, at least in my experience, when Scouts are in summer camp or on other trips, there can be a lot of hanky-panky going on. Boys at that age are just beginning to explore their sexuality and learn where they are on the spectrum of heterosexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality. As with the older Scout who came on to me, most younger boys aren’t about to announce that, “Scoutmaster, I am definitely gay. I’m only attracted to other boys.”

As a person who thinks the Scouts are a valuable organization, teaching boys valuable skills and promoting friendships, I want to see the program continue. But if the Scouts persist in denying membership to gays, they will paint themselves into a corner and make themselves obsolete in a new world of diversity and acceptance. I’m sure there are Scouting leaders all over the U.S. who are against the anti-gay policy privately, but value the overall Scouting experience.

I can picture the possibility of a Scouting splinter group breaking off to form its own new Scouting organization – one that wouldn’t categorize gay adults and youth as dangerous and as rejects. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

suzanne cook February 06, 2013 at 06:10 PM
I have a grandson in BoyScouts, I nor my daughter worried about a gay leader...our concerns are having our children safe in school, walking accross a street and getting hit by someone texting or drunk, or walking and hit by a driveby shooting, or being kidnapped and murdered...The worse yet is our children in our churches...this goes on and always has...the jest of my story is we are concerned about something we don't need to worry about...and before I forget, what you accuse gays of doing, hetro-sexuals do it too! Does that make us gay?
Roberto February 07, 2013 at 08:50 PM
No Suzanne, that makes you naive.
Arthur Christopher Schaper February 07, 2013 at 10:28 PM
The cause and consequences of homosexuality is a much needed element in this debate. There is no credible evidence which suggests that people are born gay. It is a choice of behavior, and thus it is both cruel and disturbing to teach people that they are "born that way." Homosexual conduct damages the body, mind, and spirit of a person. Doctors, epidemiologists, and even psychological reports and historical commentaries can attest to the deviance, dysfunction, and danger inherent in the "gay lifestyle". If a man or a woman chooses such a manner of behavior, that is his or her choice. The federal government should not be involved in managing the private choices of individual persons. One element of a free society must permit tolerance of conduct -- but not acceptance. To force private institutions, like the Boy Scouts or any spiritual community, to "accept" homosexuality as a right -- that is wrong. I hope that the leaders of the Boy Scouts make the decision to resist lifting their ban on "homosexual conduct" in their organization. (for the record, homosexuality is not an identity -- radio commentator Tammy Bruce, an open lesbian by choice who voted for Reagan both times, attests to this truth.
patchreader February 08, 2013 at 04:25 AM
Arthur you clearly have not read a scholarly publication related to homosexuality and biology in some time. There is clear evidence in human genetics and biology, and homosexuality is often seen in the animal world as well. It is not a choice, and it is not damaging to individuals. What IS damaging are the feelings of guilt, shame, and self loathing that many homosexuals feel because of overwhelming societal pressure to be heterosexual. Your labeling of homosexuals as being deviants, dysfunctional, or dangerous are examples of what causes the self loathing homosexuals often feel.
desertpatriot February 08, 2013 at 05:35 AM
"There is clear evidence in human genetics and biology" show us an isolated homosexual gene, get the approval from the scientific community and then maybe i'll be a believer. until then please keep your wacko theories to yourself. thank you

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