(5/23/13: This post was before the BSA came out with the actual resolution. It is still an important baseline document for understanding the issue so please read it, but also go to the home page for more up to date information.)
On Monday January 28, 2013 the national, executive board of the Boy Scouts of America released a media statement that said they were discussing dropping the long standing membership policy which precludes homosexuals from participating in Scouting. If the policy is dropped, then the suggested replacement would be a “local option” policy, with each Charter setting the policy for their units. Just six months prior (July 2012) the BSA conducted a study on this issue and the end result was a unanimous decision that “this policy is absolutely the best policy for the Boy Scouts.”
Fortunately, the Board listened to all voices and decided it was not prudent for them to make a decision on it and called on you, the National Council to listen to the membership and decide the issue. What happened? What caused this proposed course change? Why?
The news stories point to outside pressure and the threat of losing corporate sponsors. “…Scouts Chief Executive Wayne Brock said the proposal to end the ban came about as outside forces put pressure on the Scouts to address its policy on gays.” “…Mr. Brock offered one main reason for the change: corporate sponsors who had threatened to pull away support” (From the Wall Street Journal, February 6, 2013).
As much as I respect the men and women who serve at the top of BSA, I must state the obvious: for the BSA to set or change policy based on “corporate funding” or “corporate pressure” is completely unacceptable and it runs counter to everything for which Scouting stands.
A Moral Issue
The core issue is this: are homosexual actions immoral and therefore is leading an openly homosexual lifestyle (in front of the youth) inappropriate for Scouting?
The policy restrictions have never been about persecuting, condemning, demeaning, or attacking people. The restrictions are so that Scouting can maintain control and sovereignty over who is and who is not able to be a leader in their units. Throughout Scouting we require that volunteers: “possess the moral, educational, and emotional qualities that the Boy Scouts of America deems necessary” and Scouting also requires volunteers to follow the Scout Oath and the Scout Law.
I believe the current BSA policy is indeed a moral stand and is not bigoted, ignorant, or wrong. I believe that it is a correct moral position. I do not believe that the BSA policy should ever be used as a tool for persecuting, demeaning, or attacking people. The policy should be used to uphold the Scout Oath and Scout Law.
Ethics and Morals
Morality is a description of what is accepted. It is the customs that govern the behavior of a group of people. Ethics concerns itself with what should be or ought to be. It is how people should behave as measured against a higher standard of right and wrong. Scouting has held from its very beginning that there is a higher power and a higher standard. We cannot simply “make up” our morals or attempt to match our morals to cultural fashion.
When we reject the higher standard we confuse morals with ethics. Ethics then disappear as a higher standard and become mere statistic. This kind of “ethic” says that what is normal is right and therefore behavior is judged against popular opinion and not a higher standard. That is a recipe for moral disaster.
Because we are losing our ethics, we are losing the strong moral consensus we once had on this issue. Other moral “goods” like love, kindness, understanding, etc… have been used to justify acceptance of the behavior. It is no stretch at all to point out that we accept a lot of things that we should not and thereby make them “moral” by passivity. Once something is “normalized” we begin to lose the moral argument. This is where we stand today. Our culture is losing moral clarity on the issue. Even with this wave of pressure and loss of moral convictions, parents and leaders of Boy Scouts still believe there is an ethical line on this issue that should not be crossed.
National Council Members have been asked to examine and vote on whether certain actions are moral and acceptable in front of our youth. They are not voting on feelings or opinions, and not on mere consensus or desire. And it is not about condemning or mistreating anyone. The key question is not whether it is moral to have feelings of attraction toward members of the same sex but rather whether it is moral to act on those feelings; to be “open and avowed” to those actions in front of our youth.
Our moral rules should tell us when we cannot do something even when we genuinely feel a strong desire to do it. If we did not desire to do it, then we would not need morality to tell us not to do it. We would not have any desire to do it in the first place. This is also true of the Scout Law. If no youth had the desire to act contrary to Scout Law, there would be no need for the Scout Law.
Even assuming that people have a sincere biological attraction to members of the same sex that does not resolve the moral question of whether or not it is right to act on that attraction. Scout morals, based on a higher power, should not accept, okay or normalize homosexual behavior.
All the adult Scouters I know are unanimous in believing that no person, especially a child, should be subjected to verbal or physical harassment or violence, whether because of their sexuality, their religious beliefs, or for any other reason. Such bullying violates the Scout Oath and the Scout Law. The current policy should not be used for this purpose. Moral standards should be upheld not relaxed and we should remain as a unified shield around our youth.
This issue cuts to the very heart of our mission: “The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.”
Morals and Youth
This is mainly about adult leadership, but there is also the issue of youth who may be homosexual or think they are homosexual. The standard for adults should be high. Adults are expected to be adults. The youth should be and are treated to a youthful standard under the current policy. The current policy provides a united and protective front for all units, while leaving room for each unit to deal with the particulars of any given situation with their youth.
A 12 year old isn’t the same as a 17 year old and the unit’s adult leaders are mindful of the difference. All Scouts are less than 18 years of age and should not be engaging in any sexual activities. We have a duty to shield our Scouts from adult sexual issues and we should direct sexual questions and issues towards their parents. Scouts should never be sexualized or used as “policy pawns.”
The teenage years are a period of coming of age and sexual questions and sometimes sexual confusion. It is rare that a youth is asked to leave scouting over sexual orientation. When it does happen it is usually due to one of three reasons, either the situation was mishandled by the unit, or the youth’s parent(s) created the situation, or the youth was an older teen who knew what he was doing and chose to cross the moral line.
It is wrong to think that sexual behaviors are off-limits for moral judgment. Once sexual behavior is removed from moral scrutiny, what will be declared off-limits next? Our society appears to be on the verge of exchanging moral concern about sex for moral concern about what we eat. What does it teach our youth when we say that moral judgments should not be made when it comes to sexual behaviors, but when it comes to super-sized sodas, fatty fries, and Big-Macs, the moral categories kick in?
Unsafe, Unhealthy and Unwise
Allowing “open and avowed” homosexual behavior in Scouting is unsafe, unhealthy, and unwise for our youth. Based on surveys and research into homosexual, bisexual and other “alternative lifestyles,” we know that committing homosexual acts and/or living an active homosexual lifestyle has strong negative associations.
Studies find that children exposed to homosexual behavior are more likely to experiment sexually, experience sexual confusion, and engage in homosexual and bisexual behavior themselves. This is not to say that introducing a homosexual adult leader into a scout unit would cause these problems, but it does show that the behavior that adult Scout leaders should model is that of a traditional heterosexual dad or mom.
Current statistics on HIV infection from the CDC reveal disturbing trends concerning homosexual males or, in CDC terminology, “men who have sex with men” (MSM). In recent data the CDC estimated that 61 percent of the 48,079 HIV infections diagnosed in 2010 occurred through male to male sexual contact. The CDC stated that the rate of primary and secondary syphilis among MSM is “more than 46 times that of other men and more than 71 times that of women.” Studies have shown that MSM are at higher risk of alcohol and drug abuse, anxiety, major depression, and thoughts of suicide.
Instead of discouraging the sexual behavior that leads to these health problems, elements of our society have been promoting homosexuality as safe and seeking its normalization. This is a harmful, even deadly, attitude for us to take. The result has been increased sexually transmitted diseases in young males identifying as homosexual. The CDC stated that the incidence of HIV has increased dramatically in adolescent males and young men.
Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, a child and adult psychiatrist in practice for more than 27 years, said, “Compared to controls who had no homosexual experience in the 12 months prior to the interviews, males who had any homosexual contact within that time period were much more likely to experience major depression, bipolar disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia and obsessive compulsive disorder.” In conclusion, Dr. Fitzgibbons stated, “Men and women with a history of homosexual contact had a higher prevalence of nearly all psychiatric disorders measured in the study.”
It has become “politically incorrect” to talk about the behaviors behind these statistics. This is fast becoming a cultural and health crisis. Knowing this, even if there was no moral argument, we simply cannot okay or normalize an adult demonstrating homosexual behavior within a scout unit. It does no good to tell people that dangerous things are not really dangerous. Units that do condone and normalize homosexual behavior are increasing sexual confusion and putting their youth at risk. (References and Sources listed below.)
Division, Political Pressures, and Unintended Consequences
The New York Times editorial on January 30, 2013 says that the new proposal “falls far short of the clear and strong renunciation of anti-gay bigotry that is called for.” And they go on to say that this is “an unprincipled position” and that it will not satisfy those who demand their ideal of full inclusion at every level and every unit. They are right on this. And they go on to say “The new policy would, however, undermine the rationale the Supreme Court voiced in 2000 when it affirmed the right of the Scouts…” to select their own membership.
If BSA does change to a local option policy, it will inevitably invite more lawsuits. There will no longer be a unified, consistent policy that is part of our core principles. Local charters will either be attacked over it or the BSA will continue to be pressured to remove organizations that keep their own moral policies. Forces are already lining up to tear down the local option.
Many are saying that this is no big deal and that the Chartered Organizations will be able to set their own policy and since many Charter Organizations are churches they will be protected by religious freedoms. That is nonsense. The units are joint ventures between BSA and the Charters. There are plenty of openings for Charters (even churches) to be attacked. It only took the New York Times two days to state this obvious fact.
Without the unified national policy, units that take a moral stand of not allowing “open and avowed” homosexuals will have to write new policies, instruct and observe those policies, watch out for direct challenges (which will surely come) and will be forever cast as the “bad” and “intolerant” people.
Units that allow “open and avowed” homosexuals will discover that they too will have to write new policies and will have to deal with many sexual situations that they have not previously considered. Some will be operating on the belief that moving this moral line will lead to “love and tolerance” only to find that the line will be pressed and crossed even its new location and because the core principle will be gone along with the ethical connection, there will be no sound basis to limit other sexual behaviors.
The local option approach will cause massive problems simply because we don’t operate alone. Every unit is involved in at least some joint activities. Units participate in Camporees, Summer Camps, High Adventure Camps, Council Camps, Merit Badge Colleges, and many other activities. Whose policy will prevail at joint activities and at local and national bases? What do we tell parents when they wonder about what will happen at Summer Camp when many units are present? We will have to tell them the truth, there is no unified policy and their child may very well be exposed to things they do not condone.
It’s a safe bet that the “open” policy will trump the moral one. The parents that don’t want to expose their child to sexual influences they consider immoral will have no choice except to withdraw or limit their activity to certain functions only. The local option approach simply will not work in practice. One view will prevail and it is self-evident that it will be the okay, normal, not immoral view. We cannot be a house divided on a moral issue.
The Canadian Scouts (Scouts Canada) opened its doors to homosexuals in 1999. Their membership numbers fell like a stone. They dropped 50% in five years and they are still hovering around 50% as of their 2012 numbers. Scouts Canada has been forced to sell camps, close offices and lay off staff. Scouts Canada has not recovered and does not appear likely to do so. Many will tout their “inclusive” policies, but the reality is they now serve far fewer youth than they did before.
The political and cultural forces in Canada drove them to care more about promoting a sexual lifestyle than in caring for the youth. Scouts Canada now serves less than 75 thousand youth (75,000). The BSA serves over 2.5 MILLION youth (+2,500,000). As a percentage of the respective countries’ youth populations, the BSA serves many more youth than does Scouts Canada (+300% more). When Scouting becomes merely a part of the culture instead of the moral guide that it should be, people leave, in mass. The “open and inclusive” scouts end up serving very few.
Follow up: I have done more research on Scouts Canada. The facts are absolutely clear that they lost 50% of their membership after changing policies. Scouts Canada understandably does not admit that they made a mistake or that the loss of membership was due to the policy changes. The official response is that they lost membership over time due to the usual pressures and factors that have seen membership drops in all Scouting organizations. That alone of course does not explain the massive losses so the current line of reasoning from Scouts Canada is that it “might be” the “low birth rate” in Canada. I looked at the birthrate data and found that argument completely unbelievable. It simply is not supported by the data. Scouts UK also suffered large losses that are not explained away by general attrition factors.
The State, Politics and Principles
The political activist’s version of “equality” has become a tool for the hostile takeover of entities by the State. This is a fact proven by lawsuit after lawsuit to force acceptance of sexual behaviors without moral reservation and with a complete disregard of the freedoms of faith, belief, and association.
This will directly impact other principles as well. When this principle, which we have long held as a core principle, is removed, other principles will fall. The “Duty to God” in the Scout Oath is already under attack as well the requirement to believe in a higher power. Dropping the sexual orientation policy will open the door for “Duty to God” to fall next.
Ending this core principle at the national level and shifting it to the Charters will force the Charters to reevaluate BSA in general and their units in particular. Knowing that they will be attacked and sued, not have a unified core principle to stand upon and no National backing, the Charters will not merely have to decide what their policy is, but whether or not they even want to continue. Many will not continue under these conditions.
Large corporations may bully us, but we are not here for them. We should not bow to the pressure of the corporate board room. This is about parents and children and not “big corporate” decisions. We may have lost membership in recent years, but that is due to other pressures and forces, not our moral positions.
People still seek us out for our beliefs and morals. How many organizations last for a HUNDRED YEARS? While other organizations are dying we continue to serve more than 2.5 million youth and have over 1 million adult volunteers. How did we get here, still strong after 103 years? The answer is in our mission: “ethical and moral choices.”
Objection: “We need to have love and inclusiveness, not hate!”
This objection is very strong in its emotional appeal. People do not want to be cast as hateful or unloving (among other names that are cast). But this objection is hollow and manipulative. Love is truthful, sacrificial and willing to say “no” when it should and is protective of what is right and good. If something is immoral, then it is very unloving to let it pass as moral. This holds for more than just the issue of homosexuality.
Objection: “You let divorced people be Scout leaders!”
True. But that is an “apples to oranges” comparison. Divorce is not always immoral. The reasons of adultery, abandonment, and abuse are typically accepted as ethical and moral. No one is happy that their marriage failed. No one chooses to lead a lifestyle of divorce. Divorce is not seen as good, but regrettable and something to be avoided. This is a straw-man argument designed to avoid the issue and expose an imagined “hypocrisy” between standards. To argue for a lower moral standard in one area because we might not have a strong enough standard in another is simply a bad and desperate argument. Moral standards for heterosexual men and women do matter and those adults could be denied membership too. And, perhaps most importantly, don’t lose sight of the fact that adults are not denied membership because we are condemning them, but rather due to visible actions that we chose to shield from our youth, hence the “open and avowed” policy.
Objection: “It’s the heterosexuals who are committing pedophilia!”
Even if this is true, it would not matter. The issue is the immorality of homosexual actions and of leading an open homosexual lifestyle in front of the youth, not pedophilia. If an adult male has sex or pursues sex with a boy, then he is by definition not a heterosexual. He may be bisexual, but he is definitely homosexual. He may go home to his wife at night and he may attend church on Sunday, but that behavior should be condemned regardless. It may be more about “power and control” and the person doing it may otherwise be considered a heterosexual, but again, that’s not the core issue. Homosexuals are not by default pedophiles; the two issues should not be confused. (However, we also cannot ignore research that shows, on a per capita basis, that persons who identify themselves as homosexual are more likely to commit or seek sexual acts with youth under the age of 18, or among youth under 18.)
Objection: “This policy means that you will kick 10 year olds out!”
No, it does not. It does not mean any such thing at all. This is primarily an adult issue. This argument is nothing more than an empty emotional appeal.
Objection: “The health issues associated with homosexuals only occur because of “homophobia,” bullying, rejection and other mistreatment.”
This is patently false. Studies coming out of places like the Netherlands and New Zealand, where homosexual behavior is broadly accepted and affirmed, show the exact same health risks as in other countries. There is no empirical evidence to link these problems with society’s general disapproval of homosexual conduct. The evidence from the Netherlands would seem to suggest the opposite. Even in that most homosexual friendly country on earth, the research has shown homosexuals to have higher mental and physical health problems.
Objection: “Scouting is good. We want everyone to be able to get in!” The President of the United States put it this way: “”Gays and lesbians should have access and opportunity. … The Scouts are a great institution that are promoting young people and exposing them to, you know, opportunities and leadership that will serve people for the rest of their lives. … I think nobody should be barred.”
Why? Why is the Boy Scouts such a great institution? Are not “opportunities” and “leadership” available in many other institutions? I suggest that it is specifically because the Scouts have held on to morals and values. We have held on to a mission that is more than “opportunities and leadership.” Youth can get that in a lot of places.
Scouting is unique because it has the “mission of preparing young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetime by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Scout Law.” When you begin taking out the “ethical and moral choices” you ruin what it is that makes Scouting great. “The Boy Scouts of America remains the foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training in America.” We didn’t get there by abandoning moral issues.
Badin-Powell said if we called Scouting what it was specifically intended to be it would have been called the “Society for the Propagation of Moral Attributes” (from his auto-biography). But of course, young men would not be lining up for that so it was named Scouting.
Since I have mentioned Badin-Powell I will cover one more objection:
Objection: “Badin-Powell was a homosexual. Everyone knows this!”
This comes from a biographer who guessed that Badin-Powell was a “closeted” homosexual based primarily on two factors; that Badin-Powell had a sleep disorder problem after he got married and the fact that he had a close male friend.
Is it possible that Badin-Powell was a “closeted” homosexual? Yes, it’s possible. This is the subtle prejudice of claiming to know what is in someone’s heart and mind. Is it likely? No, it’s not likely. There is zero evidence that this is true and the claim is nothing more than a wild guess. The evidence is that Badin-Powell was not, but people will claim this as a fact and use it against the BSA in this battle.
We should keep this policy, because we love our youth. We should not change it. To allow open and avowed homosexual actions in front of our youth would be immoral, unsafe, unhealthy, unwise, coercive, damaging to the freedoms of faith, belief, and association, and it will have other negative consequences.
Scout morals should hold our adults to a high standard of conduct, sexual and otherwise. For our youth, scout morals require abstinence from homosexual and sexual conduct. We adults have a duty to shield our youth.
Scouting is a private, voluntarily association and no one has a right to be a Scout leader simply because they desire it. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in 2000, in the case Boy Scouts of American et al. v. Dale, that the Scouts, as a “values-based” organization, have a constitutional right to maintain their convictions regarding moral standards, including standards of sexual conduct. If we begin cutting the foundation from our values, it’s a safe bet we will not win the next court battle and we will be crushed from without. When we can no longer make and demonstrate to our youth “ethical and moral choices” we will die from within.
This moral principle is right. We should not give it up for any reason. Not for political pressure, not for getting in line with fashionable morals, and not for money. Our task is not to follow the mainstream, but to follow the higher standard. Our task is to stand by our mission even when that means saying no and going against popular opinion. Our world does not need us to “get in line.” Our world needs to hear our voice…
On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.
References and Sources:
CDC = Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
CDC “HIV Surveillance – Epidemiology of HIV Infection (through 2010).” http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/surveillance/resources/slides/general/index.htm
CDC “HIV Surveillance – Epidemiology of HIV Infection (through 2010).” http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/surveillance/resources/slides/general/index.htm (The CDC did not explicitly give the number of diagnosed HIV infections for male heterosexuals linked to sexual contact with women. It did give the total number of male HIV diagnoses at 37,910 and state that the percentage of HIV infection from heterosexual contact was 12 percent, which yields an approximate figure of 4,550.)
CDC “Basic Information about HIV and AIDS.” http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/basic/index.htm
CDC “CDC Analysis Provides New Look at Disproportionate Impact of HIV and Syphilis Among U.S. Gay and Bisexual Men.” http://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom/msmpressrelease.html
Phelan, James E., Neil Whitehead, and Philip M. Sutton (2009). “Response to APA Claim: There Is No Greater Pathology in the Homosexual Population Than in the General Population.” Journal of Human Sexuality, Volume 1, 53-88. http://www.unav.es/icf/main/top/diciembre09/Narth_What-research-shows-homosexuality.pdf
CDC “CDC Analysis Provides New Look at Disproportionate Impact of HIV and Syphilis Among U.S. Gay and Bisexual Men.”
CDC “HIV among Gay and Bisexual Men.” Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/msm/index.htm
Ronald Bayer, Homosexuality and American Psychiatry: The Politics of Diagnosis (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1981).
Ron Stall, Thomas C. Mills, John Williamson, Trevor Hart, Greg Greenwood, Jay Paul, Lance Pollack, Diane Binson, Dennis Osmond, Joseph A. Catania, “Association of Co-Occurring Psychosocial Health Problems and Increased Vulnerability to HIV/AIDS Among Urban Men Who Have Sex With Men,” American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 93, No. 6 (June 2003), p. 941.
Michael King, Joanna Semlyen, Sharon See Tai, Helen Killaspy, David Osborn, Dmitri Popelyukand Irwin Nazareth, “A systematic review of mental disorder, suicide, and deliberate self harm in lesbian, gay and bisexual people,” BMC Psychiatry 2008, 8:70 (August 18, 2008); http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1471-244X-8-70.pdf
Theo G. M. Sandfort, Ron de Graaf, Rob V. Bijl, Paul Schnabel, “Same-Sex Sexual Behavior and Psychiatric Disorders: Findings From the Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study (NEMESIS),” Archives of General Psychiatry (January 2001), pp. 88-89.
CDC HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report, 2007. Vol. 19. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2009; p. 19. http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/surveillance/resources/reports/
CDC “Viral Hepatitis And Men Who Have Sex With Men” http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/Populations/msm.htm
H. L. Kazal, N. Sohn, J. I. Carrasco, J. G. Robilotti, and W. E. Delaney, “The gay bowel syndrome: clinico-pathologic correlation in 260 cases,” Annals of Clinical and Laboratory Science 1976, Vol 6, Issue 2, 184-192; http://www.annclinlabsci.org/cgi/content/abstract/6/2/184
Amy L. Evans, Andrew J. Scally, Sarah J. Wellard, Janet D. Wilson, “Prevalence of bacterial vaginosis in lesbians and heterosexual women in a community setting,” Sexually Transmitted Infections 2007; 83:470-475; abstract; http://sti.bmj.com/content/83/6/470.abstract
Health risks of the homosexual lifestyle: http://catholiceducation.org/articles/homosexuality/ho0088.html;
Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence,” U.S. Department of Justice: Office of Justice Programs: 30;
“Intimate Partner Violence,” Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report:11.