On Monday, the Boy Scouts of America took a huge step for tolerance in our nation when the National Executive Committee voted unanimously to approve a resolution allowing openly gay adults to serve in the organization as both employees and volunteers. The resolution ends the Boy Scouts of America’s longstanding ban on homosexuality at the leadership level.
Signed by National President Dr. Robert M. Gates, National Commissioner Tico Perez, and Chief Scout Executive Wayne Brock, the 11-page document begins by highlighting the Boy Scouts of America’s ultimate goal, “to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes.” Far from being a club that lets boys tromp around in the woods on the weekends, the Boy Scouts of America takes its charge with the utmost seriousness. Regardless of how you’ve viewed the organization in light of its previous anti-gay stance, there can be no doubt that the Boy Scouts of America have always placed the education of the kids in their care above all else.
True, they took their time arriving at the decision to allow homosexuals into their club, but the decision wasn’t forced upon them from the outside. In fact, change came from within. In June of last year, for example, several New York area scouts joined in New York’s 44th Annual NYC Pride March in an attempt to voice their displeasure at the Scouts ban on homosexuality. Several former members of the Boy Scouts of America have also banded together to form Scouts for Equality, a group that’s dedicated to ending the Scouts’ ban. These people weren’t protesting out of a sense of shame at their organization, but out of a desire to expand the Boy Scouts undeniably awesome attempts to raise a better generation of Americans.
What may surprise most is that the Boy Scouts didn’t actually need to change any of the language contained in their leadership guidelines. The adult leadership standard of the Boy Scouts of America still read the same way they always have: “The applicant must possess the moral, educational, and emotional qualities that the Boy Scouts of America deems necessary to afford positive leadership to youth. The applicant must also be the correct age, subscribe to the precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle (duty to God), and abide by the Scout Oath and the Scout Law.”
Those obligations, the adherence to religious principle and the adoption of the Scout Oath and Scout Law, still apply to anyone hoping to lead the next batch of scouts. The Scouts have simply moved to add an addendum which states, “No adult applicant for registration as an employee or non-unit-serving volunteer, who otherwise meets the requirements of the Boy Scouts of America, may be denied registration on the basis of sexual orientation.”
The resolution further maintains that, “sexual relations between adults should be moral, honorable, committed, and respectful.” While these words do not prohibit homosexual scout leaders or volunteers, the Boy Scouts of America clearly state that it’s up to each scouting organization across the country to determine if homosexuality fits into the criteria for adult sexual relations. In their words, “The message of Scouting is one of toleration and respect for different religious and moral conclusions in this matter, acknowledging that reasonable minds may honorably differ.”
And you can bet that several pockets of scouts across the country will opt to maintain the organization’s history of heterosexual exclusivity. Immediately after the Boy Scouts of America announced their plans, the Mormon Church proclaimed, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has always had the right to select Scout leaders who adhere to moral and religious principles that are consistent with our doctrines and beliefs. Any resolution adopted by the Boy Scouts of America regarding leadership in Scouting must continue to affirm that right.”
That, of course, is their choice. The Boy Scouts were extremely wise to allow their individual chapters to make up their own minds on the issue. Tolerance of homosexuality is still a hot button issue in this country (duh), and the quickest way to get people up in arms is to force change on them. The Boy Scouts’ reversal of their policy is so magnificent purely because it was the organization’s choice to change the way they operate. Sure, some people may be slow to adapt, but they’ll get there. Change takes time and slow change is rarely fleeting. Instead, it speaks to a fundamental shift in the way we as a nation (or at least the Boy Scouts of America) interpret morality and ethics.
Of course, morality and ethics as they relate to activities between the sheets. As a Boy Scout, you can openly love another man, but you still better believe in God, because the Boy Scouts of America’s ban on atheism still stands, and that’s not likely to change any time soon (Boy Scouts are pretty big fans of God). Thankfully for those young children burdened with an overabundance of religious skepticism (and who isn’t at the age of 9 or 10?), some former Eagle Scouts have opened Camp Quest, a rough and tumble scout-like summer camp that plays to nonreligious families.
While the National Executive Committee’s vote doesn’t make homosexuality an official option just yet, the unanimous resolution hints at big changes when the Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board meets to discuss the matter on July 27.