Courtesy, Respect, and Sexuality: Discrimination and The Boys Scouts of America

“Be a leader, but, lead only towards the best.…We have too many who use their strength and their brains to exploit others and to gain selfish ends. I charge you to be among those who dedicate their skills and ability to the common good.” –Boy Scouts of America, Eagle Scout Charge

As last week’s issue told us, the Chestertown chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and Washington College’s EROS (Encouraging Respect of Sexuality) held a rally in support of gay marriage. This rally attracted so much attention that even passersby became involved. Plenty of them were in favor of same-sex marriage too. It’s rather incredible then that, across the country, in the first state of the Union to outlaw “realignment therapy,” there’s a boy who cannot earn his Eagle Scout Award because he’s gay.

The Boy Scouts of America organization is supposed to teach courtesy, kindness, tolerance, and respect. However, the BSA has decided that keeping its policy banning gays from participating in the Scouts “is absolutely the best policy.” After two years (supposedly) of review, the BSA is keeping a policy encouraging discrimination. This ban doesn’t just discriminate against actual scouts, either; even den and troop leaders aren’t allowed to be homosexual.

The highest award that a scout can earn is hisEagle, wherein a scout must complete several tasks, one of which is a self-directed community service project. For California Scout Ryan Andresen, this involved working with his local middle school to create a Tolerance Wall, made up of 288 ceramic tiles illustrated by students detailing acts of kindness. The goal of the Tolerance Wall was to spread awareness of bullying – of which Andresen himself has been a victim – and to remind victims that they are not alone. According to interviews, Andresen had come out to his troop leader before ever starting his project to earn his Eagle. He was even told they’d “work around it.” Now, however, the troop leader is refusing to award Andresen his Eagle because of his sexual orientation. Deron Smith, national spokesperson for the BSA, claims that another reason Andresen is ineligible for his Eagle is because he does not follow the BSA’s requirements of religion.

Andresen’s mother has started a petition – which has gainedmore than 400,000 signatures – asking that the BSA reconsider their stance. More than 300 Eagle Scouts have returned their badge, and many more have decided to instead dedicate theirs to Andresen.

It’s kind of funny in a twisted way that this policy is something that both men running for president of the United States can disagree with it. Both President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney have stated that the BSA does wonderful work with youth, but its discriminating policy against gays is unacceptable.

Speaking of the United States as a whole, California recently became the first state to outlaw realignment therapy. This “therapy” essentially involves a psychologist trying to talk a person into being straight. California has now made it illegal for psychologists to use this on minors.

For those of us not “stuck in the 1950s” this issue doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. If the end result is that Scouts become outstanding citizens, why do these specifics matter?
Leaders in the BSA have said that they have this rule so that parents can address the “issue” of sexual orientation at home when they feel that the time is right. However, by making it a rule that gays cannot be involved in any way, doesn’t that already expose scouts? Others say it’s not discrimination, but the right to create rules of membership.

For example, “The Girl Scouts have a rule that you have to be a girl.” Well, it’s called the Girl Scouts, and this is the Boy Scouts. Do you really need any criteria beyond that?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *