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My Thoughts on the Boy Scout Gay Ban

Thomas Whitley

Boy Scouts of America Keeps Gay Ban | BBC: The Boy Scouts of America will not change its policy of excluding gay scouts and scout leaders, following a secret two-year review, the group says.... Announcing their conclusion, the Boy Scouts cited support from parents as a major reason for keeping the policy.

"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," Boy Scouts chief executive Bob Mazzuca said.

"We fully understand that no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society."

The panel was unanimous in its decision and a Boy Scouts of America spokesman told the Associated Press it was "absolutely the best policy" for the group.

I've waited some time to comment on this two-year ordeal because I'm torn. On the one hand, I respect the BSA's right as a private organization to make and implement policies of this nature, but on the other hand I see it as a step in the wrong direction.

I grew up in scouting. I started as a Tiger Cub and went until I earned my Eagle (with much prodding from my parents and scout leaders). I learned things like how to start a fire with no matches, how to survive in the wilderness for days with only the supplies on my person, how to climb and rappel, how to shoot, and how to save lives. I also learned other less publicized skills from scouting like how to sew, how to be a good citizen (at the local, state, and national levels). I learned about water conservation and personal financial management. I was taught and given opportunity to exercise leadership and public speaking skills that still influence me today. And beyond all of this I learned to embody the words of the Scout Oath:

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.

and the Scout Law:

A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.

I fully believe I am a better person because of my time in scouting.

But there's another thing that scouting taught me and that was acceptance and inclusion. I wasn't always in the popular group in scouting, but I was included then. And then, when I was in the popular group, I was encouraged (sometimes strongly) to include others. A lot of different types of boys came through my troop. I was friends with many of them, but just as many weren't "my type." Regardless, we learned how to get along, how to trust each other in situations where trust was important, and how to be mutually responsible.

My scout leader (who is still a dear family friend and was also my baseball and basketball coach growing up) taught us that everyone was welcome with us, whether they looked like us, talked like us, acted like us, or did none of the above. When we recited the Scout Law it meant something to us and today as I think back on those years I'm brought back to the Scout Law and the Scout Oath.

We pledge as scouts to do our best to keep ourselves "morally straight" and I can think of no better way to do that than to continue the inclusiveness that I was taught as a scout and let openly gay scouts and leaders stay in the ranks, learn life skills, and make lifetime friends.

I've spoken with my scoutmaster about this recently and recognize the many complexities involved with allowing openly gay scouts and leaders in troops, but the benefits far outweigh these (mostly logistical) concerns for me. I have no doubt that some of the thousands of scouts I encountered over my years in scouting were gay, but that doesn't define who they are just as being heterosexual doesn't define who I am.

Scouting helped teach how to be a man, it helped me understand that honor and integrity actually mean something. I can only hope that if I have a son one day that the Boy Scouts will have reversed its policy so that it can do the same for him.