I've been involved with Scouting my entire life. I earned my Eagle Award at the age of 13 and have since served in various capacities within the scouting organization as an adult leader. I have been to many scout camps, backpacking trips, and overnighters with scouts of various ages. Two of my three sons have earned their Eagle and the third will do so shortly. I'm now 50 years old and and never thought I would see the day when the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) would consider compromising their principles, but, they are.
The BSA is under enormous pressure to change their policies toward gays, and some changes are worth consideration. However, the shaming tactics used by gay activists and their supporters are unfair, though highly effective. These tactics include calling those who disagree "homophobic" and "anti-gay", or simply implying "intolerance" - no one likes to be called intolerant. There are now several organizations that refuse to donate money to the Boy Scouts unless they change their exclusionary policies. A news article from NBC last week was titled "Boy Scouts Survey Members on Anti-Gay Policy" - hmm, I wonder if this article contains any bias? And, a recent editorial by the Standard-Examiner urges the BSA to change its longstanding policy of banning gays as Scouts and leaders. The editorial ended with "If the Scouts have the courage to enact this change, it will be positive evidence of a more tolerant society". I believe it is uncourageous to imply that those who have a different viewpoint are intolerant. These are complex issues that require sound reasoning and thoughtful debate. In reality, this has nothing to do with tolerance or equality, but rather common sense.
As a registered Scout leader, I received a survey last week regarding BSA policies toward gays. Surveying members is a great idea, but unfortunately, this was an ill-conceived and poorly written survey. It tells me that the current BSA leadership, while well intentioned, doesn't get it.
The first mistake is that the survey doesn't make a distinction between same-sex attraction and sexual activity. When it asks whether a gay young man should be able to join a Scout Troop or receive their Eagle Award, this distinction is critical. A sexually active young man, whether gay or straight, is in clear violation of Scouting's most basic moral values - and there is no double standard in this situation. However, a moral young man who might admit attraction to the same sex should not be prevented from being a Boy Scout. There are some who might disagree on this point, and I realize that even this concession has complications. For example, how would this affect the sharing of tents on campouts? I personally believe that these kinds of issues could be worked out and this is a compromise that could be made so as not to penalize a young man with same-sex attraction who wants to be part of Scouting. While we may not be able to choose our attractions, we can choose our actions; and our actions are what we should be held accountable for.
The second mistake in the survey is that it combines the question of whether gay young men and gay adult leaders should be allowed to participate in Scouting. These are two completely separate issues. I already addressed young men, but gay adult leaders are another matter. One might argue that an upstanding gay man, whether sexually active or not, may have greater Scouting skills and qualities than another heterosexual man - and I would agree. You could also argue that, with the 2 deep leadership policy of Scouting, boys would be protected from any adult who might have sexual motives - that also may be true to some extent. However, those arguments are missing the point. I could make the same arguments for why a young women organization should be pressured into allowing adult men to be their leaders. As a parent, I would be just as uncomfortable having gay men taking my boys aged 12-18 on overnight campouts as I would with straight men taking my teenage daughters on overnight campouts. Mixing adults with teenagers in these situations simply doesn't seem prudent when sexual attraction is a reality of life. This is more than just a moral issue - it is a practical issue!
Just as girls can't be Boy Scouts and boys aren't allowed to be Girl Scouts, there are good reasons why some organizations have "exclusionary" policies, and they shouldn't need to apologize or be accused of discrimination. A private organization should be able to determine what is best for their membership without being demonized as intolerant, and in the BSA's case, financially threatened by certain groups. Men and women (gay or straight) are different, and these differences should be celebrated. It's time for clear thinking people to stand up for principles and stop worrying about being politically correct based on a false premise of equality and anti-discrimination.
I believe in tolerance and loving those who may be different. But, critical thinking reveals that allowing gay Scout leaders will be divisive and is not in the best interest of Scouts. This whole debate seems to forget that Scouting should be about the boys - not the adults. Decent people, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, can be great leaders, examples, and make wonderful contributions to our society, including Scouting. But leadership roles with boys are best served by honorable heterosexual men. The disintegration of families and moral decay of our society is alarming. If there were ever a time when boys needed positive male role models in their lives, it is now.
I hope that the BSA will stand up for what is right and not react to outside pressures without thinking through the consequences of policy changes. In my view, differentiating between same-sex attraction and sexual activity will help resolve eligibility issues for Boy Scouts. The BSA could learn from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) who has recently clarified this very thing in a fair and sensible way. What will really be interesting to see is how the LDS Church reacts to future BSA decisions. This may have far reaching effects for a Church that has long ties with Scouting and sponsors the highest percentage of Scout Troops in the United States. Decisions on this matter will affect thousands of boys and their perspective of morality for generations to come. Let's hope they choose wisely.
Dahl, a lifelong participant in Scouting, lives in North Ogden.