Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Scout’s Honor Reconsidered

For more than thirty years, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) have deemed it necessary to state for the record, that those who openly declare themselves to be homosexual -- that is, inclined toward same-sex attraction -- are ineligible for membership. They have cited the basis for this as fidelity to the ideals enshrined in the Scout Oath ...

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.

... and the Scout Law.

A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.

In 1990, a Rutgers University student and Eagle Scout by the name of James Dale was relieved of his position as an Assistant Scoutmaster, and expelled from the membership, after an interview with him was published in which he admitted to being openly gay. His legal action against the BSA eventually found its way to the United States Supreme Court, in the case of Boy Scouts of America et al. v. Dale, which found in favor of the BSA.

We are not, as we must not be, guided by our views of whether the Boy Scouts' teachings with respect to homosexual conduct are right or wrong; public or judicial disapproval of a tenet of an organization's expression does not justify the State's effort to compel the organization to accept members where such acceptance would derogate from the organization's expressive message. While the law is free to promote all sorts of conduct in place of harmful behavior, it is not free to interfere with speech for no better reason than promoting an approved message or discouraging a disfavored one, however enlightened either purpose may strike the government.

In 2004, the BSA released a new policy statement in light of the High Court's decision.

Boy Scouts of America believes that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the obligations in the Scout Oath and Scout Law to be morally straight and clean in thought, word, and deed. The conduct of youth members must be in compliance with the Scout Oath and Law, and membership in Boy Scouts of America is contingent upon the willingness to accept Scouting's values and beliefs. Most boys join Scouting when they are 10 or 11 years old. As they continue in the program, all Scouts are expected to take leadership positions. In the unlikely event that an older boy were to hold himself out as homosexual, he would not be able to continue in a youth leadership position.

In 2010, a study was commenced by the BSA to determine the feasibility of admitting members who were openly homosexual. After two years, the study was completed, and then-Chief Scout Executive Bob Mazzuca announced that “The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address the issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisors and at the appropriate time and in the right setting.”

And yet, in the face of numerous corporations pulling funding from the BSA due to "non-discrimination policies" in philanthropic giving, and press conferences by celebrities like Madonna, the national leadership attempted to revise their membership policy early this year with a minimum of fanfare, and leave the decision to individual units. But word of their plans was leaked to the outside, which provoked a storm of protest by the general membership. The BSA then pulled back on their plans, agreeing to a three-and-a-half-month long "family discussion" in several phases. Last month, in the wake of an executive summary report on this discussion, and a more detailed report made public (as opposed to the two-year study, which was not), the BSA announced the resolution that would be brought before the 1400 voting delegates at their annual National Meeting which began today.

Youth membership in the Boy Scouts of America is open to all youth who meet the specific membership requirements to join the Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, Sea Scout, and Venturing programs. Membership in any program of the Boy Scouts of America requires the youth member to (a) subscribe to and abide by the values expressed in the Scout Oath and Scout Law, (b) subscribe to and abide by the precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle (duty to God), and (c) demonstrate behavior that exemplifies the highest level of good conduct and respect for others and is consistent at all times with the values expressed in the Scout Oath and Scout Law. No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.

Note that the resolution applies only to youth membership, and that the ban against "avowed homosexuals" in the adult membership would be maintained.

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How did things get this far? How did the largest youth organization in America, the second largest scouting association in the world, reach the point of questioning the very ideals for which it was established, and which has woven itself into the very fabric of American life? How did a policy which was supported by the overwhelming majority of the general membership come under such scrutiny by its own leadership within less than one year? How does this resolution even be considered, when even the most recent reports show that a majority of the current membership still favors the current policy?

Many have commented on this subject, including the various pundits in the Catholic blogosphere. Especially where it concerns the latter, very few if any have a long association with Scouting, much less have any expertise on the movement. On the other hand ...

I was in Cub Scouting for two years, and in Boy Scouting for seven years, before "aging out" at eighteen years. In August of 1969, I was inducted into the national honor society of the BSA, the prestigious Order of the Arrow. In December of 1971, under the authority granted them by the National Council, BSA, I passed the Board of Review convened by the Dan Beard Council, BSA, and was designated an Eagle Scout, an honor achieved by only four percent of those who ever join the program. In July of 2004, after more than thirty years, I once again put on the Scout uniform, and joined the Commissioner Service. I currently maintain a correspondence with Scout leaders all over the world. In 2010, I was one of a group of veteran Scout leaders in the United States, approached independently by leaders of the Uganda Scout Association, to advise and assist in reorganization after years of political unrest. That same year, I led a collection drive of used BSA training material to facilitate the re-establishment of Scouting in the Jalalabad province of Afghanistan.

I am presently an Assistant District Commissioner with the National Capital Area Council, Boy Scouts of America.

In addition to the aforementioned bonafides, I have over the last two months, with my research assistant working nearly full time, conducted a thorough study in subject areas related to the issue at hand, including the history of gay activism, pedophilia and other adverse behaviors, as well as medical risks, all as they relate to same-sex attraction, legal issues pertaining to both the current BSA policy and various proposed alternatives, as well as the moral issues among the various religious confessions who have played a part in Scouting. I have spoken to and corresponded with more than a dozen Scout leaders with access to the leadership of the BSA, all on the condition of anonymity, concerning what has transpired in the minds of the powers that be. I have engaged in lengthy and often impassioned debates with other veterans of Scouting. I have had brief audiences with regional Scout officials, often called upon with little notice, to state my case. (When that happens, you'd better know what you're talking about.) In March of this year, I submitted a one-page summary report on “Critical Issues Pertaining to Review of BSA Membership Policy” to the Executive Staff of the National Capital Area Council, which was forwarded to their Chief Executive as well as the President of the Executive Board. Finally, I have spoken to several Catholic priests on the issue, including one specialist in ministering to those struggling with same-sex attraction, and those who work with Scout units.

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"Norm" was at the Boy Scouts of America's national headquarters in Irving, Texas (between Dallas and Fort Worth) this past February, when this issue was being discussed.

I was personally present in the meeting where Wayne Perry, the National President who is a lifelong member of the LDS [Mormon] Church and a lifelong Scouter and the founder of a billion dollar company, was in tears about having to go to Salt Lake City and discuss with his Prophet why he believes that a change in the membership standards (gay policy) is essential to the health of the organization to protect, among other things, the right of the BSA to maintain the Duty to God standard. NEVER ONCE DID HE MENTION MONEY. He, and Tico Perez, the National Commissioner, and Wayne Brock, the Chief Scout Executive, did mention the personal values and beliefs of todays youth and today's parents and the persons that we serve. There also was mention of the personal heartache caused by communication from parents and Scout leaders of older youth who realize they are gay. Wayne Brock too appeared close to tears when he discussed a phone call from a Scout leader who said that one of his older Scouts had been a member of the group of boys since they were 8. The boys all love each other in the best, Scoutlike, familylike sense. That boy is now 16 and has realized he is gay and so informed the Scoutmaster. The Scout leader asks "Am I supposed to tear this group of youth apart by expelling this one boy? His friends know about and don't care about his sexual orientation. What will it say to each of these older boys if we expel their highly respected friend. Should we not expect to lose all of them to Scouting and to the Scout Oath and Scout Law?"

I heard a 78 year veteran Scouter who has received every honor the BSA has, in a public meeting, discuss the heartache caused when his Eagle Scout youngest son came to him and said he was gay. The heartache was not over the son's sexual orientation. Rather, when he asked his son "when did you know?" the son said, "I realized my feelings about this were different when I was about 10." Then when he asked his son "Why did you take so long to tell me?" and the son said "I know how important the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts are to you and I didn't want to cause trouble for you." There were a lot of us close to tears there. NEVER ONCE WAS MONEY MENTIONED.

I'm not saying money is not a factor; just that it appeared there are many, many other factors just as compelling if not more so ...

They cannot kid themselves, never mind the general membership. Money is a HUGE factor in this decision. The BSA was recently bequeathed an extensive property in the mountains of southern West Virginia. Even now, work continues apace to prepare the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve for this year's National Jamboree, as it will become not only the permanent site for the National Jamboree, but also that of the 2019 World Jamboree. In the interim, it will be the newest High Adventure Base of the BSA. Historically, such events are held on broad, flat land, facilitating travel from one point to another, and the throngs of family and friends who come to visit. This represents a complete rethinking of the very concept of a Jamboree, on a site that is a challenge just to access. To prepare the site, millions of dollars must be spent on infrastructure -- roads, administrative, service, and staff buildings, water, electrical power, wireless communication, health and safety, and so on -- in one of the poorest areas east of the Mississippi. With philanthropic and public sentiment mounting against "exclusionary" policies, the Boy Scouts are under tremendous pressure to maintain any viable program at all on a national scale.

And those who would change the face of Scouting to suit their own agenda know this.

"Brian" provided the following from an attorney by the name of Kelly Shackelford, who specializes in issues of religious freedom.

Making the proposed policy change would have profound implications regarding religious liberty and First Amendment rights. Your organization won at the Supreme Court regarding your current policy by a single vote. But the Supreme Court's majority opinion rested in part on the premise that BSA, as an organization, has a right to define its own mission and its views regarding morality and the values BSA seeks to instill in boys and young men. Delegating that decision to local subsidiaries necessarily means that BSA no longer has a national, organization-wide position on the morality of homosexuality. As such, those local affiliates would be beyond the limits of the Supreme Court's holding in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, and each would be subject to new lawsuits under antidiscrimination laws and policies in whatever city and state each troop and pack is situated in.

While it is possible many of those local units would prevail in their lawsuits, many others might not, and the costs of litigation in either event would be nothing short of crippling for BSA. The legal safe harbor you currently enjoy could only be restored by a second victory at the Supreme Court, if this matter reaches the justices a second time and if the Court again sides with you, during which process you will again incur very significant legal costs.

As "Bill" reports, the threat of long, sustained litigation is very much a factor in the decision, but there is more than one few weighing in, adding to the complexity of the issue.

Based upon multiple conversations I have had, face to face all over the country, on the telephone through this and other forums like it and via various back-channels that I have access to, it is clear to me that our national leadership strongly believes that if we do not change to a more inclusive policy, we will swiftly become embroiled in a battle in the courts on multiple fronts ... constitutionality of exclusion ... tax exempt allowance ... public property use ... and that we will lose in every case. My read of the courts is consistent with that view. We will lose. And we will waste a lot of our treasure and standing in the country defending ourselves. And we will be broadly perceived in a negative way across a wide spectrum of society. And our eagles will no longer confidently and proudly put “eagle scout” on their resume’s for fear that the politics of a particular potential decision maker will be anti-scouting. (this is actually already beginning to happen) Yet, we will have some troops and councils able to survive this and thrive once again in time, perhaps 20 years or so. But they will have gay members. Openly. If not, they will be a church group, but not allowed to claim to be “Boy Scouts of America”. And we will have been incredibly limited in the number of youth we can impact. But our lawyers will make a bunch of money via a transfer of BSA’s wealth to them.

Of course, without the protection now afforded by the BSA through the Supreme Court's 2000 decision, it is small wonder that they would be vulnerable. This makes the above (which really does reflect the opinion of many Scout leaders, and some legal experts who guide them) all the more perplexing. The highest court in the land has ruled in their favor, and they're prepared to give that up, roll the dice, and see what happens, all to placate the popular culture.

That said, we must face the realization that the "gay lifestyle" is slowly becoming acceptable as "mainstream" in American society, and the primary demographic to which recruiters of Scouting must appeal, is parents between the ages of 30 and 40. And in the extensive membership survey conducted this year, younger members, and even the boys themselves, are more sympathetic to the idea of gays being in Scouting. At this level of the conversation, it is not about the reality of what the Church refers to as an "objective disorder," the acting upon of which is strongly held to be an "objective moral evil." It all comes down to that kid down the street who is wired a bit differently than most others, but isn't such a bad guy after all.

But this isn't about that one guy. And it isn't about any one guy. It is about whether a particular conduct is consistent with the ideals of Scouting or not. But what if it is only about "orientation" or "preference"? It is not as if it will be acted upon ... right?

James Weaks of Hillsborough, North Carolina, answers that question with ... more questions.

What is a “sexual orientation?” What is a “sexual preference?” Sexual orientation has no real definition, but instead an ever changing clinical and legal argument. Sexual preference is an even broader term. This language brings into view an expanding range of behaviors that includes: homosexuality, pedophilia, exhibitionism, voyeurism, bestiality, bisexuality, frotteurism, fetishism (of multiple sorts), gender identity disorder, klismaphilia, necrophilia, partialism, sexual sadism, sexual masochism, transgenderism, transsexuality ... and this is a limited list. There are more of these orientations than I have listed and more of them coming.

The paraphilias (abnormal sexual desires) as defined by the American Psychiatric Association have been shifting for years and continue to do so ...

Notice that the list includes “transgenderism” which one Scout executive told me was "not on our radar." Will they be recalibrating their radar anytime soon? Consider the following scenario, which has been the topic of discussion at an official BSA weblog known as "Bryan on Scouting."

A transgendered [male] scout leader at summer camp insists on being allowed to shower during time reserved for female adult leaders (and yes, there are camps that still have old-style, open shower houses).

... and the response of one renowned veteran Scouter, with experience at both local, regional, and national levels. You'd better be sitting down.

Depending on the camp, we allow her [sic] to do so. If she [sic] self-identifies to both camp staff and her [sic] unit as female, we let her [sic] shower with other females. This is only a big deal to people who cannot keep their heads out of the gutter. We do the same thing when we allow young children to go to the bathroom with their female or male adults. This isn’t sexuality — this is getting a shower and being clean.
Not complicated in the least. This is a LOCAL ISSUE. The other females know her [sic] as a “her” [sic]; and those who do not know her [sic] as a “her” [sic] would be counseled when the unit showed up for camp. Non-issue here. Just like if an adult showed up and required a shower every 12 hours for health reasons. Just like if an adult showed up and required the shower stall area be emptied because he (or she) has burn grafts which would be awful to “look at” in a more “opened” shower.


Oh, is THAT what they're calling it, as opposed to a subtle form of brainwashing? Whenever these subjects come up at Scout meetings lately, it feels like a bad remake of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," and the Pod People are starting to take over. (Just when you think you know a guy, never mind every other guy in the room ...)

You also have to wonder whether any of this was taken into account by leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), when they announced their acceptance of the proposed resolution. Here is where we should take "the Mormon factor" into account. Early in the BSA's history, the Mormons in the United States decided to adopt Scouting as a component of their training of young men. Every Mormon boy between the ages of eleven and fifteen is a registered Boy Scout, and it remains an integral part of their formation in "the Aaronic priesthood." It is also why Mormon congregations are responsible for just over 16 percent of the total youth membership (although some put the number as high as 20 percent). Mormons dominate life in Scouting. In areas where there are a lot of Mormons, there are times when it seems as though there are two "tracks" in the Scouting programs -- Mormons, and the rest of us. But to be fair, they are largely congenial to a fault, and manage to contribute an overall sense of civility to the proceedings.

Even so, units sponsored by religious congregations account for SEVENTY PERCENT of the youth membership. And when you read a finding like this in the summary report ...

Many religious chartered organizations stated their concern is with homosexual adult leaders and not with youth. They estimate a membership policy change that includes both youth and adults could cause the BSA to incur membership losses in a range from 100,000 to 350,000. It is believed any gain in membership because of a change to the membership policy related to youth and adults would be in the range of 10,000 to 20,000 youth.

... you have yet one more reason to wonder how it got this far.

The truly sad thing is, that boys who struggle with issues of gender identity will be the biggest losers if the resolution passes. There will be no presumption of the need for guidance if the product of any amount of confusion in adolescent development is immediately dismissed as "normal," despite the bulk of civilized history speaking to the contrary. A seventeen-year-old candidate for Eagle Scout who believes he is gay can be handled one way, while the eleven-year-old girl who "self-identifies" as a boy and wants to join a Boy Scout troop can be handled another way. The point is, there is presently the potential for options. If the resolution passes, there is only one.

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But what has happened of late has been the most troubling. It wasn't enough to attempt to slide a policy change through the back door and get caught. The National President of the BSA has just made his own feelings known in an editorial in USA Today.

Today's proposed resolution reaffirms our core belief in doing one's "duty to God." It would remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone and would maintain the current membership policy for all adult leaders. Further, the resolution reinforces that Scouting is a youth program, and that any sexual conduct, heterosexual or homosexual, is contrary to the virtues of Scouting. It also prohibits the use of the organization to promote or advance any social or political positions or agendas ...

Oh? With a change in the policy for youth membership, how in the name of heaven can a change for adult membership be that far behind? Do they honestly believe they are not simply voting, not just on a resolution, but to continue voting on resolutions? Are they in fact hoping that the subsequent and invariable litigation will fit into the plans they had made all along? Is the general membership really that gullible?

Mr Brock is entitled to his own opinion, but the general membership of the Boy Scouts of America have been entitled to a fair and balanced discussion, and with this tome, and those of others among the Powers That Be -- Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T and a member of the Executive Board, has expressed similar sentiments in a recent issue of Business Week -- that prospect of a level playing field is brought into question, especially in light of how they have conducted themselves up to now. Was this really an open and honest "family discussion" over the last few months, or one with a carefully guided and pre-determined ending?

Which brings something else to mind, something that appeared in every Scout handbook, from the first edition in 1911, and for the next sixty years thereafter, in elaborating on the first point of the Scout Law.

A Scout's honor is to be trusted. If he were to violate his honor by telling a lie or by cheating or by not doing exactly a given task, when trusted on his honor, he may be directed to hand over his Scout Badge.

If the proposed resolution passes, it will be the end of Scouting in America as we know it, as the BSA slowly becomes indistinguishable from any other youth organization. If the resolution fails (and it may yet do so), the very notion of Honor itself demands the immediate resignations of Chief Scout Executive Wayne Brock, National President Wayne Perry, and National Commissioner Tico Perez. It would also demand those of two members of the Executive Board most responsible for instigating this malfeasance; AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, and Ernst and Young CEO James Turley.

Shall we be forced to choose between our duty to God, or our loyalty to a corporation? Whatever the choice, we who are in Scouting are all on our honor, an obligation that does not go away after the meeting is over.


James Young said...

Perhaps the most disgusting element of this in the NCAC is their moral cowardice: they announce their support for the change only AFTER it has been passed, and refuse to reveal the identities of those attending in Grapevine for the NCAC. I suppose it doesn't really matter: I am finished with Scouting.

Osusanna said...

So sad for the BSA. Bullies won.