Even as an Eagle Scout, the actions of the Boy Scouts of America have been nigh impossible to support, or even condone, in recent years. However, this past week the BSA announced that it would be renouncing its outdated practice of denying membership to youths “on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”
For all its politics, the organization heavily shaped who I am as a person, and one that most boys could get a lot of. Fostering leadership, confidence, survival-ism, athletics, and self -reliance, many attribute our battlefield success in World War II to just this type of mindset. If one of our commanders fell in combat the next in line had the skills to be able to step up and guide his patrol, maintaining morale and mission focus.
For these reasons I often associate the BSA as an organization with Captain America not only in their mindset and goals, but also in their formation. At his onset Cap was created to be nothing more than an outlet for wartime patriotism but over the years has evolved with the country’s needs and wants. So too, scouting should be a reflection of the country: the Boy Scouts of America. As more and more states are evolving their standpoints on gay marriage and even the military dropping its Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy our organizations and everyday lives should reflect these ideals. Officially the BSA is a private organization (there’s some debate over what they should be classified, but that’s another rant for another day) and can dictate their membership requirements however their elected membership sees fit. However, for an organization whose founding goals are to “foster growth in moral strength and character, participating citizenship, and development in physical, mental, and emotional fitness” they could certainly learn a thing or two from the Girl Scouts who as a whole have greater flexibility over their interpretation of religion and consider sexuality as a personal matter to be discussed privately within the family. In fact I maintain that a strong self identity and positive self worth in knowing just who you are can only further those aims.
Earlier this year, as an Eagle Scout, I was sent a questionnaire inquiring to my thoughts on amending their membership practices for both homosexuality amongst its youth and adult participants. I like to think that I had some small part in this change; however, this same questionnaire was also sent to those who donate to the scouts and included questions along the lines of “would you continue to support the scouts if we were to rule in favor of X or against Y.” So, like most things in life, enlightened idealism might not have gone as far as I’d like to think, but just this once maybe the ends can justify the means. The final vote of the 1,400 person voting council come to 61% in favor; though all told, there is still work to be done. The BSA is still maintaining an exclusion for openly gay leadership, revealing an ingrained prejudice that homosexuality and pedophilia are somehow inextricably linked.
However, for the moment please join me in offering the BSA a salute to progress.