Before I begin, I feel like I need to list some credentials.
I am an Eagle Scout, and yes, “am” is the correct tense for that verb. I was in Troop 308, Longhorn Council (formerly Heart of Texas Council), and I was inducted into the Huaco Lodge of the Order of the Arrow as a Brotherhood member. My father was also an Eagle Scout and both my grandfathers were in scouting. My paternal grandfather was a Scoutmaster and received the Silver Beaver award.
Scouting was one of the best and most useful experiences I have had. The skills I gained, the leadership roles I was given and the fun I had are things that have shaped my adult life.
Which is not to say that I think that the Boy Scouts of America is a perfect organization.
For me, Scouts was all about getting you out of your comfort zone, encouraging you to try — encouraging you to fail even. It gave you the ability to push through your own self-doubt and find that inner well of strength.
Since I left Scouting, there have been a few organizational changes that I haven’t approved of — mostly relating to the merit badge system. Some of the new and planned merit badges have become a source of personal frustration.
In the end, however, my personal gripes with the merit badge system pale in comparison to an issue which has the potential to utterly destroy the institution of Scouting — homosexuality.
This is an issue that strikes people so hard that it has prompted some of my fellow Eagle Scouts to return their badges and renounce their rank.
I know how hard this decision must have been. I can remember the hard work, the pride, the sense of accomplishment. Setting that aside all that must have been difficult, and I both pity and admire those whose conviction was so strong they felt they had to.
I hope that their gesture helped make the BSA think about rescinding their ban, but in the end it was money that made them act.
First it was announced that some backers were going to withdraw funding because of the BSA’s policy of not allowing homosexuals or their children to participate.
Then the Scouts announced that it was considering a decision to let troops or councils decide for themselves whether or not to let homosexuals participate.
In response, other groups threatened to withdraw their funding completely,
That is honestly one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard.
Defunding an organization that is as influential on as many people’s lives as the Scouts for not having discriminatory policies does nobody any good.
It says, essentially, “We want the main purpose of this organization to be discrimination against homosexuals.”
That is not now, nor has it ever been the purpose of the Scouts.
In fact, the Scouts can be incredibly tolerant.
The devotional book they give out at Philmont Scout Ranch is divided into three equal sections — Christianity, Islam and Judaism. At Philmont, I attended a Jewish service at an outdoor chapel while some of my friends went to the Islamic, Catholic and Protestant services and some other people I knew didn’t go at all.
So where did this policy come from?
Well as best as I can tell, its most recent resurgence began sometime in the last 15 years after a string of incidents of molestation by scoutmasters came to light.
The reaction from the Boy Scouts was to try and make Scouting safer for the scouts — a completely reasonable step — and they decided to do that by banning gay scoutmasters. That’s about where reality and rationality divorced.
The reasoning behind this seems to be based on the assumption that someone attracted to men would be more likely to be attracted to boys.
Once again, that is incredibly ridiculous.
Pedophilia and homosexuality are two different and completely unrelated behaviors. Adult, gay men are attracted to other adult men. Pedophiles are not attracted to any sort of adults.
Another argument used against homosexuals in Scouts is that it’s against the basic tenants of morality laid down in Scouting. That comes from a few lines in the Scout Oath — “do my duty to God and my country,” and “keep myself… morally straight.”
Notice that the phrase is morally straight, not sexually straight.
Also, I fail to see how homosexuality fails to uphold the promise to “Do my best to do my duty to God.” The operative word there is “best.” Even if you choose to believe that homosexuality is somehow set apart above all the other sins the Bible rattles off (greed, murder, adultery, etc.) then you cannot make a judgement on how good is any individual’s “best.”
Obviously, when a Scout or Scouter’s sins cross the line into legality or create a dangerous situation, a line must be drawn. Homosexuality does neither of those things.
A more foundational tenant of Scouting, in my opinion, is the Scout Law. The Law lays out all the things that Scouts are, or should strive to be. In fact, it goes a long way to define what is meant by “morally straight.”
A Scout is: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent.
Notice the words judgemental, discriminatory, hateful and heterosexual are conspicuously absent.
But that’s not really the point either.
Scouting is an international movement, and even in the states it’s incredibly diverse. There are factions that think that homosexuality has no place in Scouting.
That’s fine. No, really, it is. One of the things that Scouting gives us is an appreciation for the American system of free speech and diversity.
People have the right to think whatever they want, and they deserve the opportunity to be in Scouts like everyone else.
That’s why the plan proposed by the BSA is the best way to handle the issue. Let the troops decide for themselves. It’s democratic, it pacifies everyone and it gives people options. If a troop doesn’t want homosexuals they don’t have to have any, and if people don’t want to be in a troop that allows homosexuals, they don’t have to stay.
Granted, it’s a compromise, but that’s the way America was designed to work.
The point is that Scouting is an institution that everyone can benefit from and it does too much good for the people it helps mold to let it fade into history.
Rob Bradfield is a senior journalism major from Waco. He is the assistant city editor at the Baylor Lariat.