Although many in today’s society have heard of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and acknowledge the skills they learn, the old fashioned policies seem to be the main focus for many who combat the BSA. Because of these combatants, a plethora of harsh controversies and heated debates have engulfed the BSA and launched them into the spotlight of the ever present and judging American public. These discussions have mainly revolved around the acceptance of openly homosexual individuals as well as leaders and the effects that these leaders and Scouts could have upon other youth as they develop their skills and morals as Boy Scouts. As an individual who has attained the rank of Eagle Scout and who credits the Boy Scouts for shaping his morality, I feel that the BSA should allow Boy Scouts as well as Scout leaders who identify as homosexuals in the their organization because the codes and standards that every Boy Scout learns to live his life by are truly embraced and utilized to promote brotherhood and development of moral young men. These codes and standards drive the morality and sensibility of every member in the BSA and the values instilled upon them through these codes and standards open new doors to opportunity, build long lasting friendships, and contain the potential for the betterment of our country. I find purpose in life by adhering to these codes and standards which I have shaped through my experiences whilst in the Boy Scouts.
Growing up from a tiger cub and finally graduating as a distinguished Eagle Scout, I have seen many facets of the Boy Scouts, both positive and negative. With the vast majority of the experiences in the BSA being of a positive nature, the seldom occurring negative experiences stick out. For example, whilst attending the yearly summer camp, a camp employee was fired on the spot from his position, stripped of his Eagle Scout, and forcibly escorted off of the premises. He didn’t molest a young child; he wasn’t caught selling drugs; he never laid knuckles upside the head of one of his fellow scouters. What crime could possibly have been so terrible to strip him of an honor such as being an Eagle Scout? His only crime was being an openly avowed homosexual. At the time, I did not really know what to think as far as morals and ethics were concerned as I was 12 years old and really only participating at this summer camp for the week of delicious food, joyous brotherhood, and general rough housing but as the years passed and I attained my Eagle Scout, it dawned on me that the greatest achievement of my life, and quite possibly the greatest achievement in any Boy Scout’s life, had been taken away from that man due to his sexual preference. A multitude of emotions come to mind once I had come to this realization such as anger, disgust, confusion, pity for the man who had lost something dear to him, and resentment towards the BSA who, for many years, upheld their position against homosexuality. Through time and careful introspection, I realized that the actions of the whole do not represent the decisions of the few which is what ultimately made me realize the true meaning and purpose of the Boy Scouts. The code, oath, and law are not strict religious decrees but rather are guidelines that help to build the faith and individuality of each Boy Scout in order to build a better man who can serve God, his community, his country, his family, and himself.
Through Scouting, every boy has the opportunity to live his life according to the values instilled in the Scout Law and Oath, which are not explicitly defined, but rather open to individual interpretation. For example, some Scouts may choose to live their lives strictly by Christian Scripture, which the Oath and Law are derived from and others seek to maintain an open interpretation. In an article by Debra Punton, she details the Catholic perspective as far as homosexuals are concerned which correlates directly to the Boy Scouts as they are primarily a Catholic organization. Punton states, “This message expresses the gospel values Catholics believe exemplified in the teachings and example of Jesus Christ. Homosexual persons within the Catholic Church may argue that this is not the message they receive within the hierarchy” (Punton 162). Scripture can be interpreted, as best exemplified in the sheer number of different groups in Christianity, in whichever way the individual chooses to. I am of a Lutheran denomination that does not blatantly discourage the practice of homosexuality but rather accepts them as people who choose to follow God. This has led me to believe that since Christianity’s Scripture is up for open interpretation and the Boy Scouts follow Scripture, isn’t the doctrine that the Boy Scouts develop also open for interpretation by way of association? By allowing an open interpretation of the Boy Scout doctrine, this allows the youth to develop their own opinions of different topics, including homosexuality. I really believe that I am not bending the rules of the Boy Scouts or my faith but rather allowing myself to make my own decisions and thusly shaping myself and my future.
Through this personal development of morality and opinions, I believe that I adhere to the BSA’s resolution standard which states, “Duty to God, duty to country, duty to others, and duty to oneself are each a core value and immutable tenet of the BSA” (“Membership Standards Resolution.” Par. 2). By pledging each of these items, I have developed a strong sense of self, or rather an identity, which reflects all of my life experiences as well as the personal decisions that I make every day. However, my personal opinion does not necessarily equate to the opinion of all Boy Scouts just in the same way that a Scout executive’s opinion does not reflect the organization as a whole even though they are the major decision makers in the organization. As an Assistant Scoutmaster, I feel that each youth in the Boy Scouts is open to make their own decision, which is a duty to self, as opposed to blindly following the decisions of the upper Scouting leadership. Our society is mutating to a general acceptance of homosexuals as demonstrated by the studies of Tom Smith, a research analyst with NORC and the University of Chicago. Smith states, “In 1991, 72% considered it “always wrong” and this declined to 44% in 2010, a drop of 28 percentage points. Likewise, from 1991, to 2010, the percent saying homosexual behavior was “not wrong at all” rose from 14% to 41%, a gain of nearly 26 percentage points” (Smith 1). As the acceptance of homosexuals increases, the BSA must remain true to their values of brotherhood and tolerance of all individuals. Through tolerance and acceptance of homosexuals, lessons can be learned, morality built, and Scouting traditions can survive in a delicate symbiosis that fosters the growth and development of boys into men.
“Membership Standards Resolution.” Boy Scouts of America. Boy Scouts of America, n.d. Web. 27 Sep 2013.
Punton, Debra. “Homosexuality in the Psychology of Spirituality: Comment on “Homosexuality in World Religions” from a Catholic-Adlerian Perspective.” Journal of Individual Psychology 64.2 (2008): 161-67. Academic Search Premier. Database. 27 Sep 2013.
Smith, Tom. “Public Attitudes toward Homosexuality.” General Social Survey (2011): 1-4. NORC/University of Chicago. Web. 29 Sep 2013.