Only by teaching kids to be inclusive and tolerant will we create worthwhile role models
by David Baker (also posted at Affirmation.org)
28 April 2013
“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.” —The Scout Oath
The Scout Oath has shaped many boys into honorable men who have become pillars in our society. By promoting strong character, the Boy Scouts of America trains leaders in our society with almost half of Congress participating in Scouting. And yet the BSA still discriminates against gay scouts who possess every aspect of a scout’s character and will continue to do so unless they vote to be inclusive at their council on May 22.
I am an Eagle Scout who grew up living the Scout law. I am a Mormon, a group who makes up the single largest percentage of the Boy Scouts. My Eagle Scout project involved rallying more than 50 people to help me collect donations and build over 4500 hygiene kits that were sent overseas after the Tsunami hit Southeast Asia in 2004 to ensure that disadvantaged people around the world would be able to have the basics needed as they started to rebuild their lives. I work on Google’s election team and I volunteer my time to help members of the community here at Affirmation. Oh, and I am gay.
As a Gay Mormon Eagle Scout I find the principles of the Boy Scouts positively influencing my life each day. But if I had been honest and trustworthy as a scout, I would not have received my Eagle Scout award and would have been kicked out of the Boy Scouts because in 1991 the BSA banned LGBT scouts when it declared that: “Homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the requirement in the Scout Oath that a scout should be morally straight … homosexuals do not provide a desirable role model for scouts.”
As you might know, the BSA recently announced that the policy was being reviewed to remove the nationwide ban on LGBT scouts and their leaders. This announcement caused a backlash in conservative circles with several religious groups rallying their members to call BSA headquarters to urge them to keep the ban. Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association tied this change to pedophilia stating that Jerry Sandusky (the Penn State coach convicted on child molestation charges) “is the new poster boy” for the BSA.
This line of thinking is quite simply maliciously false and I am grateful The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has not been involved in this backlash. In fact this last week the Church reinforced their neutral stance on this issue when they stated they have not launched a campaign to “either to effect or prevent a policy change” within the scouts. Their statement has also been interpreted by many as an endorsement of a compromise proposal that allows for LGBT scouts but not LGBT Scout Leaders.
I strongly believe that we should open up scouting to LGBT scouts for the hundreds of thousands of scouts who might come out as gay while in scouting. We should no longer discriminate against them because of their sexuality, but instead teach them to do their best to do their duty to God and country and to obey the Scout law; to help other people at all times; to keep themselves physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight. Only by teaching kids to be inclusive and tolerant will we create worthwhile role models.