When I think about the Boy Scouts, I think about an organization that teaches boys and young men important values such as kindness, fairness, and ethical behaviour. Boys learning to tie knots, whittle sticks and light campfires under the careful supervision of trustworthy role models paints a picture of continuity and time-honoured traditions. In fact, the Boy Scout tradition dates back as far as 1910, when General Robert Baden-Powell founded the organization in Great Britain. Since that time, the Boy Scouts have developed into worldwide organization. According to the World Organization of the Scouting Movement, there are over 30 million scouts in 161 countries. The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) by itself has over 2.7 million youth members, making it one of the most influential youth-focused groups in America. However, Boy Scouts of American have come under heavy fire because of their controversial decision to ban gay men and boys from their organization – a move that undermines the very values they claim to uphold. This leads me to wonder: have the Boy Scouts lost their moral compass?
The decision to exclude gays came after a two-year evaluation conducted by a committee of “volunteers and professional leaders.” Bob Mazzuca, Boy Scouts of America’s chief scout executive defended the decision by pointing to strong internal support from the parents: “The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers, and at the appropriate time and in the right setting.”
A campaign to lift the ban on gays has been going on for years, ever since the US Supreme Court upheld the organization’s right to exclude gays from membership on the grounds that gay conduct “violated the organization’s values and beliefs.”
Although the Boy Scout’s of America’s decision to ban gays has been upheld by the Supreme Court, the decision has not faired as well in the court of public opinion. Much criticism was stirred up when Eric Jones, a 19-year-old Missouri Eagle Scout, was dismissed after admitting to the camp director that he was gay.
Eric Jones, who has been a member of the Boy Scouts for nearly 10 years, said he felt discriminated against, but did not regret his decision to be open about his sexuality. Jones credited the organization for instilling values that aided his decision to come out, saying: “I have to thank BSA for making [me] the person I am … [a] person who stands up for what I believe in.”
Eric Jones is right when he says he is being discriminated against. The Boy Scouts of America are sending a message loud and clear: if you are gay, you are not welcome. This form of bigotry and close-mindedness has no place in modern society and flies in the face of the organization’s own mission, which aims to “…prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes…” If anything, BSA is teaching children how to discriminate, exclude and treat people unfairly based on prejudicial attitudes. There’s nothing moral or ethical about that.
Thankfully, there is hope for change. Two high-profile BSA board members — Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T and James Turley, CEO of Ernst & Young — have stated their intention to end BSA’s ban on gays. In addition, Jennifer Tyrrell, a gay mom from Ohio started a petition calling for an end to the Boy Scouts’ ban on gays. The petition has already attracted more than 300,000 signatures.
If you’d like to lend your support, tell the Boy Scouts of America what they are doing is wrong. Sign the online petition to end the ban on gay scouts and leaders.