BSA proposal not helpful in addressing equal rights


Photo by Emily Franke

Jake Alden

Photo by Emily Franke
Photo by Emily Franke
Maryland rung in the New Year with the legalization of gay marriage, the ninth state to do so in the United States. It’s following the trend started by Massachusetts nine years ago, in 2004.
Seeing the news segments and photo galleries on some of the first gay marriages in the United States, it was hard to understand why anybody wouldn’t want the legalization of gay marriage; whether the couples were tearily sharing vows, or finally, finally, getting to kiss the bride/groom or raising their proud fists in the air as the crowd of strangers that had gathered to support them cheered, gay marriage has been nothing but filled to bursting with happiness and love.
With every new state legalization of gay marriage, it’s been clear that change is coming to our nation.
The largest recent step toward change we’ve seen is the Boy Scouts of America’s proposed policy that would allow the charter organization (a civic, faith-based or educational organization that owns and operates an individual Scouting unit) of individual troops to determine whether to allow open gays to join that troop or not.
This means that the many religiously-sponsored troops around the nation will be able to stay consistent with their religious beliefs and continue the exclusion of gay members, and that discrimination will continue in the BSA.
While the proposed policy of relaxing the ban on gay members is a step in the right direction, it’s not enough.
The BSA needs a blanket statement at the national level that repeals the ban on gay members once and for all. As our nation has begun to prove with the gradual allowance of gay marriage, gay rights are no longer an issue of, “oh, it’s cool if you believe in it.” It’s an issue of morality, of equality, of love and compassion toward everyone, with the word everyone finally holding its all-inclusive definition.
In a recent speech to hundreds of Scouts, Texas Governor Rick Perry said that “to have popular culture impact 100 years of [BSA’s] standards is inappropriate.” This is the problem with the American mentality against allowing gay members into the BSA. Being gay is not “pop culture.” It is a fundamental way of being and to call it “pop culture” is the most degrading of insults.
If the BSA were to exclude black members on a religious basis, there would be an uproar. Forbidding gays on a religious basis is no different, no less appalling.
Sure, forcing the repeal on the ban on gay members might cause several sponsors to pull out, putting the BSA in a shaky financial situation, but the history of abuses toward the nation’s LGBTQ community is a long and dirty one, and it’s time we put morality over money for once.
Furthermore, banning gay members on a “religious basis” is questionable. Part of being a Boy Scout is being “reverent toward [the Christian] God,” marking BSA as a religiously-affiliated organization.
In spite of this, however, BSA still allows, even strives to include, multicultural members who inevitably have beliefs other than Christianity, such as Islam, Judaism and Hinduism.
If beliefs as different as other religions are accepted in the BSA, why not the belief in homosexuality? Many Christians even embrace homosexuals, with a recent poll showing that 41 percent of Christians believe same-sex relations are morally acceptable. The issue of homosexuality is only mentioned in a few Bible passages, many of them in the Old Testament (which also approves polygamy and condemns eating pork), while acceptance is preached throughout the Bible. The fundamental belief of Christianity is the message to love and accept everyone, not the incredibly divisive belief of condemning homosexuality. The principle of love and compassion is the one the BSA should be adopting, not the one of hate and intolerance.
When BSA was founded in 1910, it held a policy similar to the one being proposed now, one that let troops decide individually whether or not to allow black members into the troop. It wasn’t until 1974 that the last segregated troop, Old Hickory Council, desegregated.
It took 64 years — 64 years of discrimination — to fix racial inequality in the BSA; 64 years is a long time, and now we’re set on the same path when it comes to sexuality equality: the path of repeating familiar mistakes. They say history repeats itself, but we don’t have to be a part of that devastating cycle.
There’s honor in being a Boy Scout, but the honor is being tarnished as the organization denies members their pride, as it continues to build its infrastructure on hate and intolerance rather than love and acceptance. We, as a nation, need to use the hindsight we have to avoid past mistakes and repeal — at a national level — the ban on gay members in the BSA.
The best way we can do this is from within. Boy Scouts of RBHS, of Columbia, I urge you to do the honorable thing and lobby from within. Make a change wherever you can and treat the gay members of your proud organization — current or prospective — with the respect and compassion they deserve.