On My Honor, I Will Do My Best to Do My Duty...
That’s the start of the Scout Oath.
The Scout Law states, “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.”
My involvement with the Boy Scouts of America was blessedly brief.
I joined a Cub Pack at the age of nine and a year later I was gonzo. In part, I was bored winding confetti streamers into mini-pancakes to serve as coasters after a good shellacking. They were intended as a Mothers’ Day gift but, even as I made them, I knew it was a waste of time. My parents had no need for coasters. On a white enamel top kitchen table, where we ate most of our meals, they’d look ridiculous.
During my scouting year, however, I did earn a merit badge in cooking, decades before I knew I was gay or knew that cooking really was a badge worthy of merit. My accomplishment, however, left me with feelings of guilt that still linger. The requirement for the badge was to cook a meal with two hot dishes and serve it to your family. The meal I selected was breakfast for my parents and the two hot dishes were toast and hot chocolate. Even at age nine or ten I knew that while my effort met the letter of the law, I’d evaded the true intent—that is, to learn something about cooking. Toast and coffee were hardly “hot dishes.”
Now, the news reports just came through that the National Executive Committee of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) voted to allow kids who are gay to be Scouts. Big whoop! After public opinion has shifted in favor of same sex marriage and gay and lesbians are protected by non-discrimination employment practices in most Fortune 500 companies, the BSA has decided to allow gay boys to be Scouts. The BSA execs are either unaware, or don’t care, that they are violating their own mission statement and betraying the trust of millions of Americans who really believe the BSA stands for honesty, loyalty, and moral courage.
On the official BSA web site it states, “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.” The lesson the official BSA organization is modeling for their membership and for the public in general is, simply stated, When you have tough ethical and moral choices to make, put it to a vote of your constituency. That’s a policy that takes real moral courage. Let others make the decision for you. Like our federal government, which is manned by many adult Scouts, if there’s a tough choice, the loudest lobby, or the biggest contributor, wins.
Interestingly, while the Scout Law proclaims that a Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, etc., it
nowhere says a Scout is Honest. So I suppose by Scout logic it’s okay to teach young males that you can be a Scout and be gay, or for that matter a Scout Leader and be gay, as long as you are dishonest and lie about who you are. There have been thousands of gay Scouts and Scout leaders over the decades who have maintained their membership, not with a secret hand-shake, but with a lie. Shades of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
The current vote allows gay kids to join the Scouts but does not allow gay men to be Scout Masters. I suppose the message the BSA wants to send is that it’s okay to be gay until adulthood. After that, it’s a no-no. Does anyone in scouting care about the lack of logic and the moral implications of the policies they are promulgating? If gay Scouts are accepted, why not gay leaders? My den leader was a straight woman. My elementary and secondary school teachers were straight (to my knowledge), but they didn’t turn me into a straight young man or adult. What are the Scouts afraid of—that gayness might ooze from leaders to boys?
To me, and to millions of Americans who lost faith a long time ago in the ability of the BSA to make tough choices and provide the leadership they ballyhoo, the outcome of the BSA Executive Council vote is really not important. By the time they decide that every boy and man has equal value, and that honesty, though absent from their oath, is a value worth cherishing and promoting, the train of equality will be long gone. The equality train left the station years ago and has been picking up speed throughout the Western world ever since. Perhaps, when the BSA realizes that all men are equal a few Scouts will make it onto the caboose.
John Siegfried, a former Rehoboth resident, lives in Ft. Lauderdale. Email John Siegfried