For some thirty years the Boy Scouts of America has been defending many of its exclusionary membership policies, both in the courts and in the realm of public opinion. These exclusionary policies are commonly called the 3 G's. This is a review of only one of these policies, the ban on openly gay members -- both youth and adults.
The Girl question had in the past consisted of two elements: 1) allowing women to be unit leaders of Boy Scout troops/packs, and 2) allowing girls to join a Boy Scout troop. While BSA is still defending the second issue, they settled the first issue in February 1988 when they dropped their ban against women in al leadership roles in Boy Scout units (Women had been allowed to hold support positions in troops and all but two positions in Cub Scout packs.). The only reason BSA gave for changing its 78-year-old policy was the cost of defending the ban. PERIOD!
For some reason, the BSA believes that the legal costs incurred to defending its discrimination policy on gays and the lost contributions to local councils, is worthwhile. (If you've not read BSA's policy, please take a moment to do so.)
BSA's Policy on Homosexuals
There are many issues brought up in the BSA's discrimination policy that could be examined point by point. However, we'll confine our discussion to just a few notable problems with the BSA's policy.
In their policy, BSA mentions homosexual conduct. In our
25+ years in Scouting, sexual conduct, of any kind -- heterosexual or homosexual -- has never been condoned within the Scouting program. Therefore, we have to question why conduct is even in such a policy?
Not only is sexual conduct prohibited, but BSA asserts in its "A Statement Concerning Human Sexuality"
(1984), that "education for sexuality belongs in the home. Parents should be the primary sexuality educators of their children, particularly in the early years. In the home, the most sensitive information as well as family and religious values can be shared." Given this clear statement, why does BSA persists in violating it's own statement, by forcing its own views of sexuality on children, parents, Scouters, and chartering organizations?
public denouncement of homosexual conduct, but absolute silence on heterosexual conduct, leaves one to the inescapable conclusion that BSA allows Scouts and adult leaders to participate in sexual relations, within or out of Scouting, as long as it is heterosexual conduct.
To our personal knowledge, not one name of a youth or adult has ever been
placed in BSA's Confidential File for engaging in consensual heterosexual conduct, much less stating that they are heterosexual (like saying they are dating Jane). Whereas, gay youth and adults have had their names recorded in this infamous file for simply living up to the Scout Law of being Brave -- by publicly stating who God made them to be. (See Patrick Boyle's book, Scout's Honor, for more information on BSA's Confidential Files.)
Even though the policy talks about homosexual conduct within the confines of the Scouting program, no evidence, much less suggestion of homosexual conduct is required for the BSA to expel a Scout or adult leader. Only the admission that a youth or adult is, or might be, a homosexual, is sufficient for immediate expulsion from BSA under its discrimination policy.
BSA's Policy on Homosexuals Amounts to Child Abuse
BSA's policy proclaims a ban on both
adult leaders and youth members who may or may not be gay. While an adult will probably be aware of his/her sexual orientation, a Scout who is coming out of puberty and entering adolescence may not. In its "Statement on Human Sexuality," BSA correctly states that "the development of human sexuality is viewed as a lifelong process encompassing one's thoughts about oneself in sexual terms." However, BSA's failure to support a
child during the confusing period of puberty and adolescence once again contradicts BSA's own position on this matter.
The existence of the BSA's accepted discrimination against LGBT individuals provides tacit approval to both youth and adults that it is correct to judge, ridicule, and hate another person - simply because of their sexual orientation. While it might win support from some socially conservative-minded adults, it will have detrimental effects on our
future society, and have destructive effects on our youth today.
In the August 2001 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, researchers found boys with same-sex orientation were linked to a 68% greater likelihood of having suicidal thoughts, than their opposite-sex oriented classmates. This study confirmed a Department of Health and Human Services Study (1989) which concluded that gay youth are often more likely to
attempt suicide than others of their same age group.
The BSA has yet to develop a program to address this deadly issue for many of America's youth, like it did so effectively with drugs, literacy, and child abuse. As a responsible youth serving organization, the BSA should take a responsible role in building self esteem among all individuals, no matter their sexual orientation.
Personal Accounts of Discrimination in Scouting
The following are just a few examples of how the BSA has discriminated against gay youth. In most of these cases, a reasonable person would come to the conclusion that the manner in which these Scouts were expelled from Scouting would
constitute emotional abuse. In at least one of these cases, the BSA publicly proclaimed that this type of behavior from adult volunteers was acceptable. Given that BSA took no action against any adult(s) in the other cases, we can reasonably conclude that BSA fully supports the abusive manner in which both Scouts and Scouters alike have carried out its discrimination policy.
- Life Scout Patrick Renner had been involved in Scouting for several
years and had worked at summer camps in previous summers by the time he was 16 years old. During the summer of his sixteenth year, Patrick was working in the dining hall at Cricket Holler Cub Scout Camp in Dayton, Ohio. During the summer, rumors began to circulate that Patrick was gay, but this was nothing new to him. Patrick always "had a high voice and what would have been considered effeminate mannerisms." When these rumors reached the camp chaplain, he called Patrick in to
interrogate him "like a court-martial" with two other camp officials. At the end of this "interrogation," they gave Patrick one hour to leave the camp. Patrick later recounted that he really felt "unwanted," and that "School was basically a hell where I was harassed and abused all day to the point where I came home crying. Scouting just rubbed it in my face."
- Scouting was something "really special"
to another 16-year-old boy who had had problems with his parents and school. When Chris Strobel joined his Boy Scout troop at 11, he had been involved in Scouting since he was eight. Chris truly loved Scouting. In the troop, Chris assumed many responsible leadership positions, including the top boy leader in a troop -- Senior Patrol Leader. However, he was also beginning to come to terms with his sexual orientation and was troubled. He felt that society was telling him that as a gay person he
could not be a Scoutmaster, could not serve his country in the military, and could not have a family. Being a faithful Scout and not knowing what to do, he was encouraged by the Boy Scout Handbook, which suggests that Scouts with questions about sex and relationships to discuss them with their unit leaders. Having read this and feeling that the Scouting program was there to support all youth, even gay youth, he talked with an Assistant Scoutmaster. Chris recalls that while the
conversation was tense and awkward, he thought the adult was supportive. The Scoutmaster called him the next morning and arranged a meeting to discuss this issue. Like Patrick Renner, the adults interrogated Chris about his sexuality. However, when Chris told them that he did not feel he was old enough to say whether he was gay or just a confused boy, his "questioners decided to let him remain a Scout." To this decision, Chris was overjoyed. For the next several months, everything
seemed fine. However, after some adults observed that he had developed a close (but non-sexual) friendship with another Scout, things changed. At a troop meeting the Scoutmaster pulled him out and told him that "word had come down from the council and that he couldn't stay." He had to leave Scouting right then. Not having a ride, Chris walked home alone. He later recalled that he "was really hurt, really scared, [and] really suicidal."
- "Brad," a 17-year-old boy, hoped to return to Scouting to finish his Eagle Scout Award, after he was forced to quit on March 7, 1995, the worst day of his life. Brad also started in Cub Scouting and moved onto a Boy Scout troop. By the time Brad was 15, he was happy, feeling that he had "rally hit the top." Brad at this time was active in the Yucca Valley Youth Commission, in Scouting, an honor student at school, in the school band, and active in his
church. Everyone was proud of Brad. However, Brad was gay. He always knew that he was gay. It was when he was 11 that he started hearing about how sinful it was. As many others do, Brad thought it was "just a phase." By the time he was 15, it had not gone away. Instead, in trying to come to deal with his sexuality, Brad had occasional outbursts of "temper as well as depression and thoughts of suicide." He never told anyone what was bothering him - he was afraid to. He
gradually accepted his sexual orientation, but told no one. He finally told his parents, but no one else. When he went to school one day, he had written on his backpack "In Memory of Pedro Zamora," for the openly gay actor on MTV's "The Real World," who had just died of AIDS. He had not thought of it as a coming out gesture, but it was when one boy yelled, "Why are you mourning for him? He's a fag!" An argument followed and they asked Brad if he were gay,
to which he replied, "Yes." Brad's news spread throughout the school and he became a target of "growing hostility, taunts and harassment." When his troop heard of it, they greeted him with the opposite - silence. People started ignoring him and not wanting anything to do with him. Since Brad was close to completing his Eagle, which he really wanted, he continued going to the meetings, despite the reception he received. Unfortunately, as in many other cases, they called
Brad to a meeting. In this case, a parent had accused Brad of molesting his son. This was the stated purpose for the meeting, but they dropped the accusation and the panel of 10 Scout leaders and representatives of the local Mormon church started grilling him about his homosexuality. These adults informed him that homosexuality was a sin and that it was mainly pedophilia, a disease, and according to the bible, an abomination. Between sobs, Brad did not deny being gay but tried to reason with
them. They offered him the option of quitting voluntarily or being formally banned from Scouting. Still fighting tears, he reluctantly left the troop. When asked about this incident, the new Scout Executive for the council, Donald Townsend, expressed no surprise at the events and said that what happened to Brad was "normal and proper." Before being Scout Executive, Townsend had been the director of BSA's National Relationships Division - the division most heavily involved in keeping
BSA's exclusionary policies intact..
- Greg Novak recalled the many times he heard from both youth and adults telling jokes and making slurs against gay people when he was a Scout. Greg even "overheard a group of 12-15 year old scouts discussing in front of adult leaders how they wanted to bash gay people. The only response from the other kids was laughter. The adult leaders simply ignored it as if nothing unusual was going on." This is also
how another former Scout, Charles Galvin, recalled some of his Scouting experiences. During his later Scouting days, he wanted to get some understanding from Scouting, since he was coming to terms with his sexuality. The only support he received was "fag jokes around the campfire."
- In 1985, the Boston/Essex Council expelled "Bob Columbia" when he felt that it was "only right to express my true feeling, and let my leadership know, that
while I was not acting out any of my gay feelings toward anyone specific, that I was gay." At the time, Bob was working for the Boston/Essex Council as a youth staff member in their summer camp. The Council's response was to tell him not to tell anyone and he would be kept on staff. When the Council heard that Bob had informed a close friend that he was gay, they "fired him on the spot." Bob returned to his troop, which was luckily in another Council. Later in the year, he
received his Eagle Scout Award. However, his local Council asked that he "not stay on as a leader" as he had planned to do. ("Bob" is a pseudonym, as he and his partner of 15+ years are not in a situation where they feel they can hold themselves out as a committed couple.)
The above examples dealt with Scouts who were still youth members when
they began to come to terms with their sexuality, and immediately expelled from Scouting. Because of society's negative view on gay people, many gay youth begin to deal with their sexuality later in adolescence. The following examples are of young men who had grown up in Scouting. As only a few young men do, they stayed with Scouting after turning 18, so that they could give something back in return for what they received. While legally adults, these 18 and 19-year-old young men were as
vulnerable as Scouts 17-years-old and younger. (Please note that BSA is unique, in that most other Scouting organizations around the world do not consider an 18-year-old youth as an adult leader. Scouting in many countries continues through college for Scouts.)
- Matthew was never expelled as a youth. After turning 18 he stayed on as an adult leader to help his troop. As an Eagle
Scout, his experience was greatly appreciated. His troop, in a small Illinois town with a population of 2,200 was a large troop of more than 50 Scouts. Given the size of the town, when a rumor started circulating that Matthew was gay, it did "not take long for everyone and their dog to hear" it. Many parents of Scouts, who knew Matthew, heard the rumor as well. Within a month, at least half the Scouts were pulled from the troop by their parents. Matthew, now 20 years old, realized
that the reason for the precipitous exodus was due to the rumor that he was gay and decided it was in the best interest for the youth that he leave both the troop and the town. Matthew is now living in St. Louis, but makes occasional visits to the troop. "All of the kids ended up finding out about me and only a few seemed to have a problem with it," he recalled "Many still ask when I am coming back." Matthew did not know what to tell them, but told them that he wished he
- Another young Assistant Scoutmaster was asked to leave Scouting because he was found to be gay. Eli graduated into Scouting, after being a Cub Scout and earning his Arrow of Light, and earning the Eagle Scout Award. In addition, he earned all but two merit badges that Scouting offered. These two he chose not to earn because of his personal objections to firearms. As many 'Scouting addicts' do, Eli applied for and was hired to
work at his Council's summer camp. While working at summer camp in 1991, he met another Scout that was as gung-ho about Scouting as he was. He was also gay like Eli. During the summer, as both were leading the high adventure program, they became close friends. After the summer, Eli's friend went off to college, but he left behind his old journals. The same journals that his mother read one day and not only found out that her son was gay, but that Eli was gay too. She informed the
local LDS church, which chartered Eli's troop. The Ward Bishop asked Eli "to leave and not to return to either the church or [the] Scout program." Eli is currently living in Albuquerque where he "operates a shelter for Gay/Lesbian children who have been asked to leave their home environment."
While the BSA's policy can be portrayed as the
right of a private organization to establish its membership requirements, these and countless other examples prove the abusive nature of this policy on children. If the BSA truly stands against child abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, and neglect), then it should discard any policy where evidence exists (such as presented above) that encourages such abuse on our children.
Scout Oath - Morally Straight?
Another difficulty with the BSA's position is its misguided interpretation of the "morally straight" clause in the Scout Oath/Promise as meaning heterosexual. This interpretation implies that gay youth and adults are incapable of living up to the Scout Oath. BSA is of course participating in revisionist history. To illustrate this, below is a brief outline
of the development of the US Boy Scout Oath:
Baden-Powell's original Scout Oath was:
"On my honor I promise that
I will do my duty to God and the King,
I will do my best to help others, whatever it costs me,
I know the Scout Law, and
will obey it." (SFB, 1908: 40)
It was subsequently revised as follows:
"On my honor I promise that I will do my best
To do my duty to God, and the King,
To help other people at all times,
To obey Scout Law." (SFB, 1940: 40)
The BSA developed its Scout Oath as follows:
"On my honor I promise that 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."
As you can see, the last part of the BSA Scout Oath is not in any version of Baden-Powell's Scout Oath. We can trace the addition of this clause to James E. West and the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA).
West, the first Chief Scout Executive of the BSA,
wanted to "Americanize" the Scouting program, especially its Oath and Law. The last clause of the BSA Scout Oath had its origin in the YMCA.
As historian Carolyn Wagner states: "the YMCA men in the Scouts gave the organization a distinctly Protestant orientation. In the rewrite of the Scout promise, they successfully lobbied for the inclusion of a line requiring the boy to be 'physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.' This
line spoke to the significance of the Y's emblem, a triangle representing spirit, mind, and body which, in turn, referred to the organization's goal of furthering 'all round development.' The Y men thought it particularly important that the BSA incorporate this line in the promise because they regarded Christ as the perfectly developed man and, therefore the ideal role model for youth, ALL youth."
Including even indirect references to Christ,
when BSA is supposed to be a "non-sectarian" youth organization, is problematical. "Non-sectarian organizations" as a rule do not involve themselves in theology. The BSA purports that theology and religious instruction is to be left up to the parents and religious leaders of the boy -- be his religious faith Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Native American, etc. -- not the BSA. (The Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund prepared an information sheet on the definitions
from the Boy Scout Handbook. It is available as a PDF file.) However, when it comes to theology, BSA has had some problems in defining who or what God is?
As to the term straight, historian George Chauncey notes that it was only in the 1910's and 1920's that the application of the term straight to a man who was considered -- using the relatively new term -- heterosexual, was first beginning to be used. However, Chauncey notes that the use of the term straight was a slang term and only used within the gay subculture. It's first appearance in mainstream publications was in the glossary of a 1941 book on "sex
deviants." According to historian Jonathan Katz, this book identified the term straight as "being employed by homosexuals 'as meaning not homosexual. To go straight is to cease homosexual practices and to indulge -- usually to reindulge -- in heterosexuality.'" The definition of the term straight, meaning heterosexual, in society at large, did not occur until much later.
For those who assert that the framers of the BSA Scout Oath deliberately
used the term "morally straight" to imply heterosexuality, and thus exclude all homosexuals, would infer that these same Scouting founders knew slang used only among homosexuals themselves -- slang that was not incorporated into the dominant culture until the 1970's. What would that say about the possible sexual orientation of the framers of the Scout Oath?
We are not in any way asserting that the bankers, military leaders, and business executives
who comprised the 1910 BSA Executive Board would have consciously permitted, who were then considered homosexual men, to be unit leaders. However, BSA's use of the term morally straight in this context is both inappropriate and incorrect.
It is of interest to note that historian Allan Whitmore states that the first Boy Scout Handbook "deplored the decline of individualism and sufficiency in American life . . . [and] . . . criticized the development of spectator sports in which a few specialists played while most people sat and cheered." According to Whitmore, the founders of Scouting in the United States "viewed Scouting as an outdoor movement to revitalize the American people and nation, but the organization had come to regard itself as an instrument for adjusting youths to the established values of American life." So if BSA wishes us to go back to the original intent of the Boy Scouts of America, there would not be many professional Scouters left with paid jobs.
A Scout is Clean
In addition to the "morally straight" clause, BSA refers to the 11th point in the Scout Law - A Scout is Clean - as prohibiting homosexuality. One must recall that when the Scout Law was written, sexual perversity was meant to include;
premarital coitus, masturbation and marital excess. Homosexuality was not even considered by BSA officials, much less talked about openly.
Statistics show that almost every male has masturbated in his life. Thus, the many Boy Scouts out there entering puberty and exploring their body, according to the BSA's definition of cleanliness, should all be expelled from the BSA. Just like Tim Curran and James
Dale. Of course, if the BSA was an organization which was based on principles and applied them evenly, then no one would be left in the BSA.
So, the next time you hear a Scout defend the BSA's exclusion of gays, ask him if has ever masturbated! If so, then he should consider himself to no longer be a Scout -- just like James Dale. Might get them to start thinking.
Recruitment of Scout Leaders
In another historical side-note, in the early 1930's, the BSA decided to have an official history published documenting the first 25 years of the organization. William D. Murray was chosen to put it all together. It was a difficult time for Murray, as everyone wanted to be presented in the best of light, and wanted to be recorded as important to the organization. As a longtime Executive Board Member and in charge of the BSA's editorial matters, most later historians use Murray's book for basic facts, but do not consider it a reliable reference for the reasons and motivations behind the scene. Murray is considered to be a very biased reporter of information -- biased in BSA's favor. (A flaw repeated in every successive BSA-approved history.)
In his book, Murray discusses adult leadership: "In the early discussions of the National Board and the committees and Commissions, our main concern was to be sure and see that the right kind of leaders were found....Only men who are citizens may be commissioned as Scout Leaders and they must subscribe to the Scout Oath and Law and the declaration of religious principle as set forth in Art. III of, the Constitution." (From Murray, William D. The History of the Boy Scouts of America. New York: Boy Scouts of America, 1937. p. 334-335)
At no time does he mention sexual orientation or even define morally straight, as
BSA has been doing since the 1990's.
With the exception of the exclusionary membership policy stated at the beginning, which was adopted in 1991, we have provided no references from
BSA's By-laws, its Congressional Charter, Scout Law, Scout Oath, Explorer Code, Cub Scout Promise, Cub Scout Law, Scoutmastership Fundamentals, Wood Badge Adult Leader Training, etc., concerning the exclusion of membership of openly gay youth or adults. The reason is simple -- there are no such references to this policy in these documents.
The BSA has consistently asserted in court that "a significant
part of their mission involves teaching that homosexuality is immoral." However, in none of these important guiding principles and/or documents is homosexuality ever mentioned.
As a former Scoutmaster, who received his Wood Badge beads, I can not recall at any time when BSA brought this issue up. For those not familiar with Scouting, Wood Badge is sort of like going to graduate school for adult Scouters (volunteer and professionals). It
is held either for a one week period or over three weekends. After completing course, you have two years to complete your ticket - a contract on how you will put into practice what you learned in Wood Badge. Those adults who have finished their ticket, are presented with their Wood Badge beads. Wearing them lets others know that the Scouter has received the best training BSA can provide to its unit leaders. So, it's strange, when at no time during a Wood Badge
course are participants taught anything about this "significant part of BSA's mission."
The discrimination policy against gay youth/adults can only be found in internal memoranda. If this is a significant part of BSA's mission, then this should be taught in all training courses, as well as printed in all leader manuals. If this mission is not clearly stated in these publications or included in the training courses, then a
justifiable questioning of what really is the mission of the BSA is in order -- especially in light of the BSA's assertion in the courts.
At the end of February 1997, the United Kingdom Association (UKSA) adopted an equal opportunity policy which clearly states that the sexual orientation of youth or adults is not to be considered for membership
. Homosexual youth and adults are not to be barred from Scouting on the basis of their sexual orientation. The only classes of individuals subject to automatic exclusion by the UKSA from adult membership are pedophiles and atheists.
According to John Fogg, of the UKSA: "One of the problems about discussing this is that in some quarters there is [a] belief that a homosexual is automatically a paedophile and this is simply not the
case. We have vigorous procedures to keep the undesirables out and nothing in this policy undermines that."
Unfortunately, the BSA has yet to move into the twentieth century, much less the twenty-first century and adopt such a non-discriminatory policy. Such non-discriminatory policies have been codified into law in states and local governments across this country, not to mention the many Fortune 500 companies that have
voluntarily adopted such a policy, or countries which have included sexual orientation as a protected class in their constitution. But what would happen if BSA did adopt a policy similar to that of the UKSA?
From a very practical point of view, the implementation of a non-discriminatory policy would have very little effect on adult leadership. Although we're loath to even bring this subject up, given BSA's previous publicity of a minuscule group, we find it necessary to address this concern.
Contrary to BSA's propaganda, there are not legions of NAMBLA
(North American Man-Boy Love Association) members waiting to be unit leaders. First of all, we would hazard to guess that the number of pedophiles who are card-carrying members of NAMBLA can be counted on one hand in the USA. Secondly, we would hope that the BSA's new policy, like the UKSA's, would specifically ban pedophiles - those who prey on girls and boys.
Regarding leadership selection, it is the chartering organization
that will be (as it always has been) the one responsible to recruit and select their adult leaders -- not BSA. BSA has consistently stated this fact. (Which is why the PTA-PTO national organization found it disconcerting when it realized that as the chartering organization it could be held liable for the actions of its volunteer leaders.) This should not be changed. The abolition of the BSA's discrimination
policy against gay youth/adults can only strengthen the chartering organization's role in selecting unit leaders. It could be argued that BSA's ban on gay youth/adults not only harms the individuals, but also restricts the right of the chartering organization to not only serve all of their youth, but to select those leaders they feel are the best.
With the exception of its discrimination policy against LGBT
adults, BSA has always allowed the chartering organizations the right to determine its membership requirements for youth and to select its adults -- and to reject adults -- for whatever reasons.
The concept of closed units, wherein the only youth members in the unit are those who belong to and/or meet the chartering organization's requirements, has been around since the founding of
the BSA. The majority of these requirements have taken the form of religious and racial requirements. In the past, racially segregated units commonly occurred in the both the Southern and Northern United States. Persons of color were routinely segregated into Boy Scout units with the express approval of both the local council and national office across the country.
To our knowledge, the option of a closed unit has never been
rejected by BSA. While racially segregated units do occur today, chartering organizations do not publicly admit to discriminating against youth on the basis of race/ethnic origin. In almost all cases, it is simply a mater of the demographics of where the unit is located, rather than active racial discrimination. However, religion is an entirely other matter.
Many LDS (Church of Jesus Christ Latter-Day Saints) units are
comprised of only their youth. While this is a perfect example of the concept of the use of a closed unit, some think this concept can be taken too far.
A recent example is when the Detroit-based Haven Reformed Church, sponsor of Cub Scout Pack 293, dismissed an otherwise qualified Cubmaster solely because of his religion.
In November 1995, the church expelled Umar Abdul-Mutakallim as Cubmaster simply because he was Muslim. The church felt that the Cubmaster should be Christian. "For any of the programs we
offer here at the Protestant church, it only seems consistent that the people leading those programs would at least identify with what it is that we represent," said program director Dale Boone.
According to newspaper reports, BSA officials said the church was within its rights. The charter agreement made the troop a program of Haven Reformed, giving it authority to select leaders. A Michigan
scouting official defended the church's right to determine the shape of its program. "We let (sponsors) decide... how they want to use scouting in their outreach," said Verlyn Haahr, field director for the Southwest Michigan Council.
Abdul-Mutakallim said the church should have been up front about its requirements, especially since it recruits Cub Scouts at public schools. Many parents, both Christian and non-Christian,
reported that they were not aware of the church's opinion and planned to take their sons out of the pack and start another one.
To our knowledge, once a chartering organization decides to include Scouting as a part of its youth programs, it is free to determine who will be the adult leaders of the program. While there are laws that prohibit discriminating against persons on the grounds of race, sex, religion, marital status, etc., religious-based chartering
organizations are free to discriminate on these and many other areas regarding adult leaders. Chartering organizations can reject women from occupying any role in the Scouting program or just unit leadership positions. Single, divorced, or divorced and remarried adults can be rejected from serving as adults leaders, simply on the basis of an organization's position on marriage and divorce.
Given this history, if BSA dropped its institutional discriminatory
policy against gay youth and adults, those chartering organizations that, for whatever reason feel that having openly gay youth and/or adults in its Scouting program was inconsistent with their organization's values, would be able to continue to exercise their right to exclude them. By the same logic, those chartering organizations whose values do not reject gay youth and/or adults for simply being gay, would have the right to allow them to participate freely in their Scouting program.
It is especially mindful to remember that there are civic, religious and public organizations that would like to bring the Scouting program to its members, but are unable to because BSA restricts the participation of youth/adults to only a portion of the organization's membership. This is especially true of public and private organizations that include in their non-discrimination policy sexual orientation.
While we may not personally agree with a chartering organization's decision in rejecting some of its youth from participating in its Scouting program, this option is currently available to all of BSA chartered partners.
If BSA ever permitted its chartered partners the right to select the adults they feel are the best role models for their youth, they would find that the number of openly gay men who would wish to
volunteer would be very small. The fact that recruiting qualified heterosexual men/women to make the commitment to be unit leaders is difficult for many organizations, should indicate that the number of openly gay men wishing to make not only the commitment, but to take the risk would be even more difficult.
An openly gay man wanting to be an adult unit leader has several obstacles to overcome and runs a higher risk to himself than
heterosexual adults. The very first one is himself. Is he willing to place himself in a position that could subject him to false allegations of child abuse from Scouts? Heterosexual adult leaders have become aware of the fact that if they deny a Scout anything (advancement, promotion, etc.), they open themselves to a charge of abuse in retaliation from the Scout. While this rarely happens, it is definitely a possibility. An openly gay man would have to believe
that a false charge against him from a disappointed Scout would be given more credence by parents, simply because he is an openly gay man. Even after BSA's own Youth Protection Program states that almost all pedophiles would be considered "normal" by most parents, the number of men willing to place themselves in such a position is very small indeed.
The next obstacle for an openly gay man who wishes to accept
the risks of being a Scout leader is the chartering organization. About half of BSA's chartered partners are religious organizations. Most would probably reject a qualified gay man out of hand. However, there are many religious organizations that would be open to accepting a gay man as a unit leader. In addition to these religious organizations, civic, educational and especially publicly funded organizations (police departments, schools, etc.) would also accept
such qualified individuals to be unit leaders. We'd hazard to make an estimate that about 20-30% of currently chartered units would accept an openly gay man as a unit leader.
The next obstacles are intertwined. If the chartering organization has found a gay man and wishes him to be a unit leader in their Scouting program, he has to win over: 1) the other adult leaders, 2) the parents, and 3) the youth.
Just because BSA states that women can be Assistant Scoutmasters and Scoutmasters does not mean that everyone likes it. It was been over 15 years since the ban on women Scout leaders and there is still resistance. There are men, and some women, who will not be associated with a troop if there is a female Assistant Scoutmaster and definitely not a female Scoutmaster. This scenario would undoubtedly be repeated if the chartering organization
introduces a new unit leader -- who happens to be gay -- to other adult leaders. If the other adult leaders accept a gay unit leader, then it is up to the parents to give their approval. If they do not wish to have their son in a troop that happens to have a gay leader, then they will find one that does not have a gay leader. And lastly, if the youth are not comfortable with a gay leader, they will inform their parents and find another troop. Any of these obstacles will
either change the decision of the chartering organization, forcing the gay man to resign, or translate in an immediate reduction in the number of youth participating in the unit.
With all these obstacles, the number of units that would have an openly gay man as a unit leader would probably plummet to around 1-5% of the total number of units. Of course, this figure does not include the number of units that currently have gay men in
leadership roles, albeit gay men who are still in the closet. In that case, the number would be much higher.
If the possible number of openly gay adult leaders would be small, one could ask the question; "Why be so concerned about this policy for such a small number?" A good question. If we were only talking about adult leadership requirement, then the question might be worth discussing. Unfortunately, BSA's discrimination policy goes
further. Not only does the policy advocate discrimination against youth, but continues on to make a value judgment on the lives of human beings. Given these facts, such a question is moot.
BSA's discrimination policy does not just keep openly gay men from serving youth through Scouting, or expel openly gay youth, BSA communicates a clear message to all of its professional staff, chartered partners, adult leaders, parents, youth, and the country at
large, that homosexual persons are fundamentally immoral and incapable of being "the best kind of citizen." This message not only deprives homosexual individuals of the basic dignity inherent in each person, it relegates gay adults and youth as Americans not worthy or capable of citizenship. This attitude is inconsistent with all of Scouting's founding principles.
The question posed at the beginning of this section: "What would happen if BSA did adopt a policy similar to that of the UKSA?",
to a certain extent remains unanswered.
If BSA took a leadership role, abolished its policy and allowed the chartered partners to do what they would like, we'd predict that it would have little effect. Ironically, while this approach could have been successful in the early/mid 1980's, given BSA's demonization of the issue and the deteriorated relations with their national chartered partners, at the beginning of the 21st century this solution could
have serious problems. One avenue to salvage this remedy would be for BSA to meet with their national chartered partners and explain the situation to them. Not only explain, but ask for their input and work as a team to effectively publicize the adoption of a non-discriminatory policy.
In the past years, BSA has treated their chartered partners shabbily and taken them for granted. BSA has to understand that if
they want to continue as a national organization, they have to shift from thinking about what is best for BSA, Inc., and start thinking about what is best for the youth they serve. A meeting with the UKSA, Scouts Canada and other Scouting Associations, as to how they developed and implemented their non-discrimination policies would be a great starting point.
Since the Dale decision, BSA is finding out that garnering the
attention of a Supreme Court battle exposes their policy against gay youth for the entire country to see. While they may be able to weather the backlash, we do not think they ever predicted that there would be any sort of backlash in winning.
BSA can accelerate the demonization and bashing of all gays, attempting to tap into the hate in some bigoted Americans for funds, or realize that society has changed in its views of homosexuals as
persons requiring human dignity.
BSA has many choices to resolve this matter. It would be courageous of BSA if they actually applied Scouting principles to choose their course.