In defense of Scouting: Why the protests are wrong

by Matthew M. Lug - Tech News Staff

You may have noticed that the Boy Scouts of America has been in the news lately after several instances of withdrawn support and funding of the youth organization. The controversy is centered around the BSA's policies concerning homosexuals. This past June, the US Supreme Court decided that the BSA is within its rights to decide who is eligible for membership in its organization, specifically that it can refuse membership to homosexuals. Since then, several United Way chapters, including the Boston area chapter, have withdrawn their funding of Boy Scout councils and several towns have denied the Boy Scouts access to schools and other public facilities for BSA functions.

The main reason cited in the withdrawal of support of the BSA is that the BSA discriminates against homosexuals, and that organizations that discriminate deserve less support. As noble as this sounds, it isn't the whole truth. The BSA's recent trouble is actually a case of political correctness rearing its ugly head yet again.

Although it has become a dirty word in recent years, discrimination is neither good nor bad, neither right nor wrong. Discrimination is merely a part of life - it is how we make decisions, including the decision of what organizations to fund. The problems come from two areas: perception and intent.


Thanks to the recent fad of political correctness, exclusion of groups such as minorities, women, and homosexuals is often automatically perceived as bad, wrong, evil, etc., while exclusion of less popular groups tends to be accepted. The difference is usually determined by how much unjust persecution the group has faced in the past. Many organizations and towns have taken up arms over the exclusion of homosexuals from the Boy Scouts, yet how many have spoken out against the exclusion of atheists? The exclusion of both groups is for the same reason, yet only the exclusion of homosexuals is considered "wrong."


Here's what the BSA has to say about its membership requirements (from

"We believe an avowed homosexual is not a role model for the values espoused in the Scout Oath and Law. Boy Scouting makes no effort to discover the sexual orientation of any person. Scouting's message is compromised when prospective leaders present themselves as role models inconsistent with Boy Scouting's understanding of the Scout Oath and Law."

Scouting's goal is to help shape the lives of young men, and in doing so it limits the lifestyles it promotes to heterosexuals with religion of some kind. Why should any group have to promote all possible lifestyles or allow members whose lifestyles run against those that are promoted? Why does everything have to include everyone?

Many people see the exclusion of homosexuals as another form of persecution. Some even believe that the BSA teaches intolerance or promotes gay-bashing. There are even fears that Scouting could be harmful to young men dealing with the issue of their sexual identity. Most of this is wild speculation, at best.

Now, let me state that I was involved in Boy Scouts as a youth for seven years, earning the rank of Eagle in 1996. While my experiences may not be the same as everyone else's, the troop I was a member of followed the same rules as every other troop, so the influence of the national level of Scouting should be approximately the same as in any other case.

In all of my years as a Boy Scout, the topic of sexuality was never brought up. I was never asked if I was a homosexual, I was not asked my views on homosexuality, and I was not told anyone else's views on the subject. The only sexual topic that was ever brought up was molestation, which is an important topic to discuss with any children who spend significant amounts of time away from their families. The idea of intolerance being a part of Scouting is completely unfounded in my experience.

It has been said that the victims of the BSA's policies are young men who are coming to terms with the possibility that they are homosexual. I have no first hand experience with this, so I won't pretend to know what it is like. However, while this argument sounds credible, the problem is that people in this situation are not "avowed homosexuals" and therefore are not banned from membership in the Boy Scouts. It is a bit of a stretch to think that people can be harmed by a policy that does not even affect them, especially when the policy is decided at a national level and may not have the support of local Scouting leaders. Maybe this policy could in some small way influence their decision on the subject (the person would have to choose between open homosexuality and participation in Scouting), but difficult decisions like this are a part of life and we cannot remove everything's influence on every decision, especially when the influence is not in any way intentional.

It should be noted that the BSA's policy on homosexuals is essentially the same as that of the US military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. One would think that if people opposed such a policy, they would start by protesting publicly funded organizations before attacking a private organization, especially in an election year. Why go after an organization that is less visible and receives little or no funding from you? My only guess is that a less visible organization makes a better target because its positive effects are easier to overlook. We need a strong military, but do we need a youth organization that has been developing leadership skills in young men and serving local communities nationwide for nearly a century?

Let's assume correctly for a moment that the Boy Scouts are within their rights to determine eligibility and that in doing so they aren't really hurting anyone. Isn't it still acceptable to protest these policies if you don't agree with them? Aren't people also within their rights to cut funding to the organization and/or prohibit its members from using public facilities?

The short answer: yes. The long answer: yes, but what's the point? Usually, the goal of a protest is to effect a change. It tends to help if the protest can somehow lead to that change. If we don't like what our elected officials are doing, we (in theory) can vote them out of office. If we don't like what a company is doing, we can boycott its products. If we can't think of a better way to solve any other problem, we can (and frequently do) file lawsuits.

The problem in this case is that as a private, non-profit organization, public elections aren't possible and there aren't any products to not buy. The legal option is also unavailable thanks to the Supreme Court ruling. What is a concerned citizen to do? The answer has been to do anything possible to hurt Boy Scout troops and councils. The idea seems to be that if they can't function properly, these troops and councils will cave in to public opinion and do whatever people want them to do. This is a ridiculous plan. If a troop can't be run effectively, it disappears. I've seen it happen (as a result of incompetent management), and it only places more of a burden on other troops in the area. If a council has financial difficulties (again, I've seen this, as a result of embezzlement and other criminal activities), the council closes all nonessential facilities, cuts down on employees, sells off assets, and in some cases merges with nearby councils. The end result of all of this is that the Boy Scouts are less able to serve the community - the same people who cut funding end up getting hurt by it.

So why doesn't this work? Why don't the troops and councils cave in and get their funding back? The simple reason is that they can't - the policy on eligibility is set at the national level, in a place called Irvine, Texas. There is very little interaction between the national headquarters and individual scouts or troops. My Eagle Scout application was sent there to be approved, beyond that I didn't care about the national headquarters and it didn't care about me. Almost everything else dealing with the operation of a troop is handled by the troop or the council. Most of the people involved in this are volunteers and do not get paid for their service. They do the best they can with what they have, and their goal is to serve their communities, not to carry out a political agenda.

Why don't the people at the troop and council levels petition the people at the national level to change the policy? Frankly, I don't see why they would want to. The people who want this change aren't involved in scouting, and yet they feel that they know what is in scouting's best interests. They also show their concern for scouting by making life more difficult for scout leaders and other scouting staff members. If you were a scout leader, would you want to help people like this? Would you want to fight for a cause when doing so could cost you your position and not doing so could have the same end result? Where's the motivation for change? Add in the fact that many people and organizations still actively support Scouting and there is nothing to be gained from these protests. Some people get their names in newspapers and their faces on television, and they think that they are fighting for a righteous cause. In reality, they are compounding the problems and preventing change more than they are helping to cause change.

You are probably wondering by now if there is anything you can do to solve whatever problems you think Scouting has. If you were, you're in luck, because there is one simple solution. GET INVOLVED! If you don't like what's going on, stop complaining and do something that could actually be helpful. If you are worried that children in your community might get bad ideas from this policy, take part in a local troop's activities and make sure this doesn't happen. Change can only come from the inside, and unless you are a Scouting volunteer, you are not on the inside. What if Scouting's policies prevent you from becoming a Scout leader? You don't need to be an official member of a troop or council to be involved in Scouting. Talk to the leaders of a troop or council to find out what you can do without violating Scouting's policies or your personal beliefs. This is not a situation where there can be a simple change. Scouting officials have a legitimate claim that forced inclusion could negatively impact Scouting's effectiveness. If you don't believe this, learn the facts, find a reasonable way to make the change, and get involved.

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