For Scouting, issue is conduct vs. Oath
Last Wednesday, a friend gave me a call, telling me I needed to read an article written in the Nov. 7 edition of The Citizen. The article was entitled, “Can’t support Boy Scouts’ gay ban.”
I sat down with the paper, and read how the author laments many of the “reprehensible and inexcusable” examples of discrimination against gays in the past few years. The author noted the recent actions removing Jen Tyrrell of Ohio as a den mother, on the basis that she is a lesbian, as well as denying Ryan Andresen of California his Eagle award, based on his sexual orientation.
Disappointed, he remembers how he was taught by the Scouts not to judge people on things beyond their control.
“Homosexuality falls into that category. It is neither immoral nor sexually deviant, and those who are gay should have the same right to be as true to themselves and others as heterosexuals are.”
Finally, the author makes it clear that neither he nor his son will participate in the Boy Scouts of America because of this discrimination.
I could certainly understand why my friend pointed out the article to me. As a parent of a Boy Scout, I needed to know if the Scouts were unfairly discriminating against others. And I tried to see things from the author’s point of view.
I do think he might have missed one or two things, though, that make a real difference here.
First, from the founding of the Scouts in 1907 by Robert Baden-Powell, the movement was fully intended to be faith-based. The very first Scouting Handbook, written in 1908, declares that “no man is much good unless he believes in God and obeys His laws.”
The Boy Scouts of America make this clear about themselves, when they write on their website that they are “based on the principals of loving and serving God.” Remember the 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.”
While we’ve been seeing a bit of an erosion of religious freedom nowadays (Health and Human Services mandate, anyone?), faith-based organizations still retain the right and the privilege of requiring that their members comply with their moral standards.
Now, I certainly believe the Scouts shouldn’t discriminate against anyone on the basis of sexual orientation. As many gays and lesbians might tell you, they knew they were attracted to their own sex from early on. How wrong it would be of the Scouts to tell people they can’t participate because of the way they were born!
It’s refreshing to know that the Scouts believe that, as well. The Boy Scouts don’t ask people whether they are gay or not. They don’t have a check box for “Straight” and another for “Gay” on their applications.
They do, however, expect their members and their leadership to live up to moral principles they hold as a faith-based organization, and hold the right to refuse membership to those who won’t comply.
That’s why, while they don’t inquire about sexual orientation, they will refuse membership to atheists, agnostics, and those who openly participate in a gay lifestyle.
Don’t just take my word for it, however. In 2000, the Scouts issued a press release clearly stating that “Boy Scouting makes no effort to discover the sexual orientation of any person.”
In 2004, a policy statement was issued clarifying that “Boy Scouts of America believes that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the obligations in the Scout Oath and Scout Law to be morally straight and clean in thought, word, and deed. The conduct of youth members must be in compliance with the Scout Oath and Law, and membership in Boy Scouts of America is contingent upon the willingness to accept Scouting’s values and beliefs.”
When you think about it, this really does make a lot of sense. The Scouts never asked me about my sexual orientation when I registered as a volunteer parent. And yet, if I were openly living in an adulterous relationship, I wouldn’t be doing my duty to God, or living “morally straight and clean in thought, word, and deed.” The same applies to open homosexual conduct.
So — it’s conduct, not orientation, that matters. Since faith-based organizations have the right — and the obligation before God — to hold their members to live up to their standards, I have no problem with the Scouts’ position on this.