*Iowa State Daily column by me*
“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.” This is the Scout Oath, which nearly 100 million members of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) have recited weekly since 1911.
It is this oath that led a committee of professional and volunteer scout leaders to announce an affirmation of its policy of “not granting membership to open or avowed homosexuals.” The Boy Scouts of America is not a Christian organization — instead promoting Christian faith — but to publicly reaffirm the long-held policy after a two-year internal debate simply astonishes me.
To put it simply, the anti-gay announcement was a business decision pressured by a religious organization. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the single largest contributor to the BSA and has stated that if the organization allowed homosexual members, the church would withdraw all monetary and asset donation. (The second-largest contributor is the United Methodist Church, which hasn’t stated they would cease funding.)
As I was once a member of the Boy Scouts and of the Eagle Scout rank, I am slightly embarrassed and ashamed that I had a place in this bigoted organization. I am very proud of the things I learned and would never wish to replace the experiences I had, but I was also ignorant as an adolescent. I would also like to think that my troop was a little more liberal than the Bible thumpers of the South, as I don’t ever recollect an issue during my term in the BSA.
In a little over a decade, the Scouts have lost about 20 percent of their members, and the numbers are still on the decline. Amidst the greatest LGBT movement in world history, I can only imagine that this announcement will strike down the Scouts and quite possibly be a fatal blow if they don’t change their policies to suit the morals of today’s society.
Though the BSA is a not-for-profit organization, the Scouts still need money to fuel their programs. With membership already lacking, donations in the coming years might be difficult for BSA, which largely relies on public (and government) funding. Not to mention, a lot of donations come from Boy Scout alumni; the estrangement of current and future alumni has the potential to put the Boy Scouts on a panhandling soapbox — much like that of many churches today.
In a way, I am glad that this reaffirmation was made. It removed the stagnant policy that was an unspoken written rule on the verge of taboo. More people, especially the younger generation, will no longer support the Boy Scouts and will not send their children through the discriminating program. No law needs to change; the BSA is still completely protected by the Constitution, and that is the beauty of a free society. The change of becoming a less discriminating organization needs to happen internally; and this ruling, though pathetic, might just finally teeter the Boy Scouts towards a truly moralistic organization.
Some BSA groups, including the largest council in Minnesota, have publicly stated that homosexuals will remain welcome in the ranks of the troops regardless of national policy. The council through which I came, in the Chicago area, has stated to its council members that this is a national policy that cannot be locally changed and they urge members and leaders to write in to voice their opinion.
If you wish to contact the BSA and voice your opinion, here is the mailing address at which you can reach them:
Boy Scouts of America, National Council
1325 West Walnut Hill Lane
Irving, Texas 75015-2079
I am in the process of formulating a well-authored letter, and coming from one of their well-honored Eagle Scouts, it will be taken seriously. I strongly suggest you, too, write in — especially if you were involved in the Scouting program.
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