Moderated by Rick Badie
Last month, the Boy Scouts of America reaffirmed its policy that bans gay members, saying the rule reflects the beliefs and perspectives of the organization. The BSA doesn’t inquire about members’ orientation but doesn’t grant membership to open homosexuals. A guest writer applauds the decision; another says the policy is outdated and based on stereotypes.
Boy Scouts missed opportunity to lead
By Jeff Graham
The stated mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to build character and train young men in the responsibilities of citizenship. The goal is to build a more conscientious, responsible and productive society. Unfortunately, when the organization recently announced it would adhere to its policy of rejecting openly gay youths and adults from membership, it reiterated that the vision of responsible citizenship and a productive society does not extend to all.
In 2000, the Boy Scouts won its case before the U.S. Supreme Court to assure the right as a private organization to discriminate purely on the basis of sexual orientation. While the Scouts have historically benefited from access to public facilities and community funding, leaders feel strongly that such support does not mean they should welcome all youth or qualified adults. However, simply having the law on one’s side does not make a position moral or ethical. The Scouts did not go into the reasons behind this decision; however, I assume the policy has no rational basis. Instead it falls back on outdated stereotypes of gay men as pedophiles and predators. Such beliefs have been soundly discredited. The most narrow-minded of institutions cling to the belief that homosexuality is somehow inconsistent with strong character.
Some defend the Scouts on religious grounds by stating the policy is consistent with Christian teachings. This is misleading and false. Many Protestant denominations have embraced gay men and lesbians as morally equal to straight people and allow them to serve in ministerial capacity, including youth ministries. These falsehoods stigmatize many young men coming to terms with their sexual orientation and often lead to low self-esteem the Boy Scouts claim to fight against.
The majority of youth organizations have done away with such discriminatory policies. The Scouts seem to recognize this when they qualify the policy by stating they do not “proactively inquire” about someone’s sexual orientation, setting up a system of “don’t ask, don’t tell” that encourages people to mislead and lie.
In Georgia, 20 percent of the 21,000-plus gay and lesbian couples are raising their own children. Countless others serve as guardians for nephews or foster children. What is moral about telling these tens of thousands of young men that while they may join the Scouts, their parents are not fit to serve as Scout leaders? What is ethical about telling a group of youth that if they are honest about who they are, they are no longer fit to be members of an organization that claims to train people to responsibly participate in citizenship? Finally, the policy encourages members of the Scouts to judge gay and lesbian family members as people less responsible and productive to society because of one inherent trait. How do you build a more conscientious society upon a core value of discrimination? It is unfortunate the Boy Scouts missed an opportunity to join with the majority of the country in rejecting discrimination based solely on sexual orientation.
Jeff Graham is executive director of Georgia Equality.
BSA focuses on a mission
By Wayne Perry and Bob Mazzuca
The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout oath and law.
The BSA delivers this mission by giving young people the opportunity to develop skills to take responsibility and teach by example.
This preparation helps inspire a lifetime of character, leadership and service.
Recently, after a two-year-long evaluation, the national leadership of the Boy Scouts of America decided to maintain its membership policy because it allows the organization to most efficiently accomplish its mission of preparing young people for life.
Our role is to equip young people with life skills so one day they can make their own decisions.
Let’s be clear.
The BSA does not have a political agenda or proactively inquire about anyone’s sexual orientation.
The BSA’s evaluation, which included extensive research within and outside the organization, showed us that parents of youth we serve do not put their children—most of whom are under 12 years of age—in scouting to address the issue of same-sex attraction in any way.
Also, we learned that doing so would potentially force parents to have to address this complex topic with their children before they are ready.
The majority of scouting parents, our core constituents, do not believe scouting is the right forum for same-sex attraction to be introduced, discussed or demonstrated in any way.
With 2.7 million young people and 1.1 million adults, the BSA represents widely diverse socioeconomic, religious and ethnic communities across the nation.
It is unreasonable to expect any single policy to accommodate everyone’s views about this topic.
We fully understand and appreciate that not everyone will agree with the direction we’ve chosen.
However, we believe that good people can personally disagree on this topic and still work together to accomplish the common good.
The bottom line is that scouting will not use its youth development program to enter a social and political debate beyond its level of expertise.
We know some will not prefer the conclusion of scouting’s evaluation and will naturally question or criticize the process, citing that it doesn’t match their individual viewpoint or opinion.
Again, no single policy could possibly accommodate everyone, and the BSA values the freedom of everyone to express their opinion.
We will continue to teach our members to treat everyone, including those with different opinions, with courtesy and respect.
The organization requests that the same courtesy be extended in return.
Wayne Perry is national president and Bob Mazzuca is chief scout executive of the Boy Scouts of America.
Gays should start own service group
By Jerry Luquire
The Boy Scouts of America is a private, voluntary association that requires high character and moral standards. The organization has received criticism from some outsiders for a decision to continue prohibiting homosexuals from its activities.
As a father of two sons and grandfather of five adult grandsons, I cannot understand parents of a teenage boy, who has chosen an affinity for his mirror sexual image, wanting him to be in a camp with testosterone-filled boys. Parents who compel a homosexual son to be with those boys (regardless of their kindness) who are not like him should themselves be accountable. In spite of the most-accepting adult leadership, he is going to be uncomfortable and feel out of place.
What really are the motives for those adults who want to be among those so unlike themselves? Any question as to whom they want to change?
The government’s protected classes do not include those who choose their own sex for intimate behavior. There are females who are welcomed by the BSA in certain categories, but not in tents all night with boys. So even within its acceptance under law of non-discrimination by sex, there is a common sense and in some cases even legal restrictions which could be viewed as discrimination.
There is one fact overlooked by those who feel the BSA does not have the right to choose its associates. The right to exclude does not, by contrast, bring an obligation to include.
The Boy Scouts are content to leave homosexuals to pursue their choices, only not with them. It is the position of homosexuals that they do not have the ability to become heterosexuals; that they are born to be as they have become.
So parents who believe that homosexuality is an anti-God lifestyle do not want their sons to be in private contact with individuals choosing the opposite behavior have the right (some would say obligation) to assure situations where their sons are as comparable to their heterosexual fathers as possible. And to grow as they determine what is best for them morally, physically and spiritually.
Supporters, families, members, volunteers and others rely on the Boy Scouts to present a God-friendly environment where their sons are sexually secure. The BSA must have the right to exclude those they feel would violate this charge. In this case, it is homosexual teachings and behavior they oppose. They want their sons to interact naturally with each other as they become men. And, just as importantly, for these young men to recognize, appreciate, respect and enjoy the uniqueness and beauty of the opposite sex.
BSA leadership continues to seek membership and supporters’ views on their moral stands. Overwhelmingly, in spite of threats to do all possible to destroy this organization, the majority congratulates it for its choices.
If homosexuals admire and want to provide a service such as the Boy Scouts, encourage them to form their own organizations. They can grow themselves without influencing others.
Jerry Luquire is president of the Georgia Christian Coalition.