By David L.
Yesterday, the National Council for the Boy Scouts of America announced that they would postpone a decision to revise a long-standing policy excluding openly gay boys from being Scouts. As an Eagle Scout, I think this was a sensible decision on their part.
When I learned a few days ago that the BSA was considering changing the policy, I was surprised. Last year, the BSA convened an 11-person committee to determine whether to continue their policy. The committee unanimously advised that the BSA keep the policy as it was. I thought that would be the end of the discussion, at least for a few years. However, several members of the National Council have been publicly critical of the policy, and I suppose this criticism was sufficient to bring the issue back up at this meeting.
Many conservatives are upset about the policy being questioned. It’s been my experience that people will point to the BSA as an organization not afraid to stick to its principles, and that gives them hope for the resilience of traditional principles. They are also worried about whether Scouting will remain a safe environment for their children. While I sympathize, I am somewhat hopeful about how questioning the policy might turn out. I think the policy needs certain nuances. If a Scoutmaster followed the current policy, it seems that he would be required to kick a scout out of his troop if the scout publicly came out of the closet. This seems neither properly sensitive nor prudent. Even if the Scoutmaster displayed great sensitivity in carrying out this directive, the Scout would almost certainly feel alienated, hurt, and rejected. He would be in an incredibly vulnerable state. Where might he go to seek some form of acceptance? Further along in his life, he would almost certainly have bitter feelings for Scouting, and would likely also be embittered towards traditional social values as well. In not having a more welcoming policy, we may have seriously alienated young men already in a vulnerable position.
However, I share fears that amending this policy could go horribly wrong. For instance, Eagle Scouts are required to earn the Family Life merit badge. This can foster a good understanding of the importance of the family; however, if it is amended to reflect modern understandings of alternative family structures, it could have the opposite effect. If scout troops became yet another place for pushing progressive social values, where can Catholic parents send their children? Catholic parishes are one of the most common sponsors for scout troops. If the BSA started pushing an ideology incompatible with Catholic social teaching, what are these parishes to do? That’s not even taking the Mormon scout troops into account; I can’t see them reacting well to this.
I hope that a more nuanced policy might be adopted- one that might uphold the BSA’s commitment to traditional social norms while also allowing greater sensitivity to young men with same-sex attraction. Naturally, such nuances could only be worked out at a major meeting, and with proper time and deliberation. Postponing the decision to a larger meeting in the spring, then, seems like the best way this could have played out. Hopefully, the result of this meeting will be a policy that includes both sensitivity and promoting the value of the family. I don’t mean to suggest that the specifics of such a policy will be easy to figure out; however, I am hopeful that this meeting might be able to come to a solution.