The official blog of University of Missouri Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists, & Agnostics

My Beef with the Scouts

The Boy Scout pledge.

The Boy Scout pledge.

As you are likely well aware, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) ruled to allow openly gay members last month. What will come as a shock to no one with whom I converse with regularly, is that I am of the opinion that such a diminutive new rule comes nowhere close to what is necessary. This new ruling does not apply to leaders (anyone over the age of 18 involved in scouts) or atheists of any age.

By continuing the ban on openly gay leaders, the BSA is strengthening the current heteronormativity within our society, continuing to teach youth that homosexuals are inferior and somehow unfit to fill certain roles. While banning atheists furthers the ongoing stigmatization of non-theistic individuals.

Not only is this an issue because it is abhorrent policy for an organization in our modern society to publicly endorse, but it gets worse. This paltry new stance is causing outrage in many involved in the scouts. Additionally, BSA receives endorsement from the US government, which seems to imply some time of approval of scouting (which seems obviously opposed to many values and, dare I say constitutional protections).

So what is it the dissenters have to say? The Washington Post provides us with many examples:

First off, we have Theodore Anderson, an 18-year-old leader in the scouts, leaving due to the new ruling.

“[The policy] goes against what my Bible and religion states are pleasing to the Lord.
You’re bringing into Scouting a whole new aspect that isn’t part of the program…
Parents would have to explain certain things to youth of certain ages they don’t need to know about or worry about yet. It would slowly take the fun out of it.”

The Washington Post goes on to explain that Anderson plans to help his church develop a new youth program that does not allow any homosexuals.

There is also Rob Schwarzwalder, a father of twin 15-year-old scouts, that plans to have his sons reach Eagle Scout and then abandon the scouts because

“I don’t want my sons to leave my home thinking, ‘Dad was pretty principled except when it mattered.’”

Oddly enough, if a parent thought scouts was a good idea and yet wanted to disavow allegiance to them due to accepting homosexuals, I think a fantastic description would be that they were ‘principled, except, you know, when it mattered.’boyscouts

The Washington Post also explained that “Polls before the vote showed that large swaths of Scouting families, particularly in the South and the Midwest, wanted to keep the total ban.”

The BSA did have this to say about the new ruling,

“The Boy Scouts of America will not sacrifice its mission, or the youth served by the movement, by allowing the organization to be consumed by a single, divisive, and unresolved societal issue…While people have different opinions about this policy, we can all agree that kids are better off when they are in Scouting.”

I, however, am less inclined to agree that ‘kids are better off when they are in Scouting’ than the BSA would lead you to believe. Such a claim requires a tremendous amount of evidence on the BSA’s part, and I think their exclusionary tendencies would act as a severe detriment to a child’s upbringing.

There were equal rights organizations, such as Scouts for Equality, among those that were excited by the new ruling. But even they seem to notice that the ruling is awkward in that it still excludes many gay individuals that would otherwise be eligible to participate. Claiming they are “… honored to be a part of the movement that has achieved a tremendous victory towards the fight for equality in America and we are proud to call ourselves Scouts. We look forward to the day where we can celebrate inclusion of all members and are committed to continuing our work until that occurs.”

Finally, there are those that think this is an almost meaningless gesture. Such as James Dale, kicked out of the scouts for being gay, who states

“This is not progressive at all. It will continue to teach the 2.7 million youth members the same toxic message: being gay means you cannot fully participate in the Scouting experience because there is something intrinsically wrong with who you are.”

And I could not agree more.

This would, of course, just be a bigoted private organization, that we could all point at as despicable and advocate that people do not participate in their activities. But let me turn your attention to Army Regulation, Administrative Publication on Personnel Procurement, specifically Active and Reserve Components Enlistment Program, Section 2–18, which deals with ‘Enlistment pay grades for personnel without prior Service’

“a. The following explains who may enlist and when and at what pay grade. An applicant who—
(12) Has been awarded the Boy Scout Eagle certificate as a member of the Boy Scouts of America (Form 58–708)
or the Sea Scout Quartermaster Award Certificate or the Venturing Scout Silver Award may enlist at any time at pay
grade PV2, a combination of these awards to enlist at the pay grade of E–3 is not authorized.” “

So, Eagle Scouts joining the army get an automatic promotion for being eagle scouts. To me, this seems like the US Government clearly showing preferential treatment to an organization that is expressly homophobic and religious in nature. Think that there is not enough evidence that the BSA is religious? Here is what they have to say on the issue,

“Young people need faith. There is abundant evidence that children benefit from the moral compass provided by religious tradition. We acknowledge that faith can become an important part of a child’s identity. Each of the major faiths breeds hope, optimism, compassion, and a belief in a better tomorrow. Scouting encourages each young person to begin a spiritual journey through the practice of his or her faith tradition. One of the key tenets of Scouting is “duty to God.” While Scouting does not define religious belief for its members, it has been adopted by and works with youth programs of all major faiths. ”

Seems to fail the lemon test to me, in addition to the fact that the BSA enforces homophobic policy forbidden to the US military.

Given all of these factors, I must strongly align myself against the BSA. They either need to drastically change their policy, and quickly, or cease to given any special benefits by the US government. In the event of the latter, I posit that we encourage others to boycott the BSA until either they do change their policies or cease to exist as an organization.


About Tony Lakey

Tony is the President Emeritus of MU Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists, and Agnostics at the University of Missouri - Columbia, where he studies Philosophy and Sociology.

10 comments on “My Beef with the Scouts

  1. Wyatt
    June 13, 2013

    As a youth member of the Boy Scouts of America, I could not agree with you more. The entire organization is rooted in the last century, and is unwilling to change at a reasonable pace.

    • Tony Lakey
      June 13, 2013

      Thanks for your comment, Wyatt. My roommate is an eagle scout and disagrees with me rather strongly. He thinks the discrimination is wrong, but sees no reason to do anything about it right now. While we get along just fine, this particular issue is one of the more frustrating ones 😛

    • Tony Lakey
      June 13, 2013

      “(13) Has earned the Girl Scout Gold Award Certificate as a member of the Girl Scouts of America may enlist at any
      time at pay grade PV2.”

      The next line provides the same benefit to girl scouts reaching what I can only assume is an equivalent honor.

      • rocketkirchner
        June 23, 2013

        tony , i left a reply down below . you may want to check it out . thanks .

  2. Rogue
    June 13, 2013

    Wait, boy scouts who reach eagle scout can receive a leg up in the military? How is that not viewed as discriminatory and sexist against females who are ineligible?

  3. Emily Wiechmann
    June 14, 2013

    I am so glad you posted this Tony. I am currently working at a girl scout camp and I feel strongly about this issue. Many of my coworkers have different backgrounds, sexual orientations, and beliefs. We are proud of our diversity, and I feel that it helps our girls become more accepting and open minded. It hurts me to think that young boys don’t get that same opportunity.

    However, the girl scouts do have some room for improvement. For one thing, we aren’t allowed to directly discuss politics, religion, sexual orientations or lifestyles. I understand avoiding these topics with younger girls, but I feel like with the older ones, the scouts would be a safe place to discuss and learn about these things, and develop a greater appreciation for them.

    • Tony Lakey
      June 26, 2013

      Emily, I don’t know what to say other than, “I couldn’t agree more.”

  4. rocketkirchner
    June 22, 2013

    Tony , a very important article but a bit unbalanced . on the homophobic front you are dead right . but i would like to submit in this comment section what i wrote about the stellar environmental policys of the scouts that i wrote about on a progressive blog that i write for . here it is —

    the wonderful park we enjoy here at stephens lake is partly to us building a broad based coalition with the scouts and the Green party to save the lake from greedy developers that wanted to buy it back in 2000.

    • Tony Lakey
      June 26, 2013

      I am not claiming that the scouts are not capable of doing anything positive. In fact, I would ideally prefer for them to continue and just drop their discriminatory policies. However, I don’t think that it is acceptable to support a group that is as bigoted as the BSA. Particularly when any good they can accomplish can be done without their organization and bigotry. We can (and for some causes have) form different goal oriented groups that would fill the roles that the BSA does for things we value without having to include the religious requirement or homophobia.

  5. Pingback: Being Saved, yet Drowning in Guilt « Two Different Girls

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