Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Boy Scouts, Being “Morally Straight” But Getting It All So Wrong (Plus, a surprising twist in the religious aspect of this story)

You might have seen the news this morning that the Boy Scouts of America have announced that they will not be changing their policies regarding homosexual troop leaders. 

The organization had announced earlier this year that they would be considering a change, which got many people excited, however, the BSA has decided to continue their bigoted, yet legally protected, policies.

Here are a few things worth noting about the decision:

Note 1: Who Decided?

BSA Spokesperson Daren Smith in a statement explaining the process by which the secret confidential committee reached their decision: “The committee included a diversity of perspectives and opinions. The review included forthright and candid conversation and extensive research and evaluations -- both from within Scouting and from outside the organization. The committee’s work and conclusion is that this policy reflects the beliefs and perspectives of the BSA’s members, thereby allowing Scouting to remain focused on its mission and the work it is doing to serve more youth,”

One can only speculate as to who made up that committee… what sort of diversity was being reviewed. One such potential dissenting voice might have come from BSA board member James Turley, global chairman and CEO of consulting and tax firm Ernst & Young, who said in mid-June that he was working within the organization to encourage dialogue on the policy, which is not one he would “personally endorse.”

Regardless, the committee, after self defined careful review, has determined that the old policy of discrimination is still the best policy.

Note 2: Why This Decision?

The Scouts' chief executive, Bob Mazzuca, contended that most Scout families support the policy, which applies to both leaders and Scouts. "The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers and at the appropriate time and in the right setting," Mazzuca said.

Which… is totally missing the point. The question of same-sex orientation was not part of the BSA curriculum, nor was it being added to the BSA curriculum. The question was whether or not a scout leader could be a good scout leader AND be homosexual. No one was saying that troop leaders were going to indoctrinate their charges into the same-sex lifestyles. Well, ok, some people were saying that, but can we all agree that they were fringe crazy types?

Apparently not.

See, one of the tenets of the BSA is getting the scouts ready for leadership roles… and since you can’t be a leader while being openly gay, you can’t really be a scout while being openly gay either… because then you couldn’t possibly be getting trained to be a leader, since, as just stated, leaders can’t be openly gay. It is a lovely sort of bigoted circle.

You are, it appears, allowed to be secretly gay. As long as no one knows you are gay, as long as you don’t live like a gay person… well, then you are probably okay. Which leads us to Note 3.

Note 3: The Religious Aspect

It is no surprise that the BSA is a religious group, the inclusion of a mandatory belief in God is part of the criteria to being a Scout.

And you have probably heard how the BSA is run by churches… but which churches might surprise you.

The Mormon Church, which is one of the largest and richest supporters of the Boy Scouts of America, teaches that homosexual activity is immoral. The LDS Church is the largest single sponsor of scouting units with over 37,000 units nationwide, which comprise about 13% of BSA's youth members.

The LDS Church has publically stated that it would withdraw from the Scouting program if it was ever compelled to accept openly homosexual Scout leaders. (Thinking about Note 1, one must wonder if this large loss of funds entered into the decision….) This policy is the same as the LDS Church policy of allowing "non practicing" self professed gay members to enjoy all the same rights and privileges as any other Church member.

See, again, you can be gay… as long as it is a secret and you don’t act on it. (This smacks of the severely condescending attitude of “love the sinner, hate the sin” that is so prevalent in not only the Mormon Church but in many churches and religions.)

The United Methodist Church is the second-largest sponsor of Scouting units. Here is the breakdown of Methodists and BSA connections: At the end of 2010, the United Methodist Church’s involvement with Scouting included: 235,672 Cub Scouts from 5,136 packs, 127,419 Boy Scouts from 5,005 troops, 8,408 Venturers from 1,146 crews

(The difference between the Mormons with their 37,882 unites at first place and the Methodists with their 11,078 units is vast and worth noting.)

The Methodist Church is currently going through an internal debate regarding the inclusion of LGBT clergy… and they were a very vocal and hard to miss part of this year’s Fresno Pride Parade and Festival, so the above stats might surprise you.

They surprised me. I talked to Vicki Healy, pastor of the Wesley United Methodist Church here in Fresno.

She reiterated to me that the United Methodist Church is not united in mind on certain issues, including LGBT rights, clergy, etc. Wesley is on the side of diversity and acceptance… the church voted 28 years ago to include the LGBT community as full church members and they are working to change the hearts and minds of the national United Methodists in order to see more equality.

By being active in Pride, by being supportive, Wesely has drawn a line in the sand (similar to civil disobedience if you will, in order to do what they feel is right. “I am heartbroken that organizations, including the Boy Scouts, continue practices of discrimination against gays.” Healy say, “But that isn’t a reflection of all Christian.”

She’s right, and it is worth remembering that faceless organizations are made up of people who disagree. One can only hope that those discerning voices gain power and support… change, for the Methodist Church and the BSA itself, might only come from within.

If you want to see more breakdowns of religious groups and the BSA, visit this link

In conclusion, for a group that is supposed to teach about strong moral character, the BSA has missed an opportunity. Chad Griffin, from the Human Rights Campaign,: “This is a missed opportunity of colossal proportions. With the country moving toward inclusion, the leaders of the Boy Scouts of America have instead sent a message to young people that only some of them are valued. These adults could have taught the next generation of leaders the value of respect, yet they’ve chosen to teach division and intolerance.”

I couldn't have said it better myself.

--Kaylia Metcalfe

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