I’m a man in conflict.
You may have heard the news:
The Boy Scouts of America on Tuesday announced that it will uphold its existing ban that excludes gays, something the group said was “absolutely the best policy” for the group.
“While the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.”
I was a Boy Scout for more than ten years, and it was by far the most positive and meaningful experience of my entire life. I learned more from Scouting than from any school or college that I ever attended, and summers I spent at Camp Yawgoog were by far the best times of my life.
When I die, I have asked that my ashes be spread on the waters of Yawgoog Pond.
Yet the organization that I love and hope to one day become active in again with my son has upheld its ban on homosexuals, and I am not sure how to reconcile my overwhelming respect with and love for the organization with this stupid, discriminatory, hateful policy.
What’s even more frustrating is that it’s clear that this policy cannot and will not stand forever. The US military has overcome it’s discriminatory practices against homosexuals. States have begun permitting same sex marriage. The laws that discriminate against gays and lesbians are slowly beginning to crumble just as the laws that discriminate against African Americans fell generations ago. It is only a matter of time before we do away with these arcane and mindless policies entirely. Holding onto these policies and beliefs at this point only serves to identify your state or organization as backwards thinking and incapable of accepting the inevitable.
In twenty years, the policy that excludes homosexuals from Scouting will most certainly no longer exist. End the policy now and stand with the righteous or risk the legacy of those Southern states were desegregated through military intervention.
Until the policy is ended, however, what am I to do?
In the past, I have questioned the decision of people who choose to remain affiliated with religions that base their belief on a text filled with racist, sexist, homophobic doctrine. I have criticized religions that elevate books like the Bible as the Word of God while knowing full well that to follow its dictates to the letter would require them to stone many of their friends and relatives to death. I stand in opposition to people who use religious doctrine to justify their racist, sexist and homophobic beliefs while simultaneously ignoring the book’s less convenient dictates.
I have also challenged specific religious institutions who have adopted the same arcane policy that the Boy Scouts have recently upheld. If your church policy is homophobic, I have argued, find another church. Lord knows there are plenty from which to choose.
In response, I have been told that the good that these organizations do far outweighs policies, practices and teaching that even their congregants may openly question.
I have scoffed at this notion.
But now I find myself in the same position as many of these people. While not currently affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America, my fondness for the organization remains. Rarely does a day go by that I do not think about a moment from my time as a Boy Scout and smile. My experience with the Boy Scouts serves as the foundation upon which much of my life has been built. My greatest hope is that my son will someday love the Boy Scouts as much as I did and still do, and that I can participate in Scouting with him in a way my father never did for me.
But when that time comes, what should I do if this discriminatory policy remains in place?
Reconcile my participation in the organization by declaring that the Boy Scouts do far more good than harm?
Vow to promote change from inside the organization?
Argue that even though I do not agree with many of the laws of the United States, I remain a proud citizen of this country and will therefore take the same tact when it comes to Scouting?
None of this sounds right to me. It strikes me as a convenient use of semantics. But rejecting the Boy Scouts outright until this policy is changed is something I cannot see myself doing either. When I was fatherless and rudderless as a boy, Scouting was there for me and made me the man I am today. Ironically, I have little doubt that my stand against this homophobic policy and the internal conflict that it has generated would not exist had I not been taught by the Boy Scouts to respect and honor all people.
Thanks in part to Scouting, I know that a person’s sexual orientation is irrelevant when it comes to judging a person’s character and honor. Yet they have failed to learn this lesson themselves.
I am a man in conflict. The thing I loved and respected most as a boy has let me down. I am the son of a flawed and failing parent, the product of an organization that has failed to stand behind its tenet to “help other people at all times” and keep oneself “mentally awake and morally straight.”
I love the Boy Scouts with all my heart, but now that heart is broken.