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Redefinition of Scouting to cause concern for some

For those connected with Boy Scouting, the recent decision by the national organization to allow as leaders those men who openly engage in homosexual lives to serve in leadership positions challenges whether we should continue to support the organization.

Last week, the Boy Scouts of America reversed a ban on that in all situations, after a couple of years ago allowing boy members who view themselves as homosexually-inclined to join the organization. However, even without a ban imposed from above, individual troops may do so (states are divided into councils, which oversee troops that are sponsored by organizations, the majority by religious organizations) at their own discretions. As a point of reference, within 20 miles of the Shreveport or Monroe areas there are 32 troops, of which 27 are sponsored by a religious organization, of which 7 are sponsored by two sects – Baptists and Latter Day Saints – which initially have indicated their troops may no longer participate in Scouting, and several others are affiliated with Roman Catholicism that at the very least would not allow lifting of the ban.

Compatibility between a desire to engage in and advocate homosexual behavior and with Scouting is difficult. Two important components of the Scouting way of life, the Scout Oath (“On my honor, I will do my best to … keep myself … morally straight”) and Scout Law (“A Scout is … clean and reverent), traditionally have implied that demonstrating or advocating a homosexual lifestyle conflicts with behavior expected of Scouts and their leaders. Generally not understood by those unfamiliar with Scouting is that it has deep religious roots, to the point that a belief in a divine being is necessary for membership and is reflected in the Scout Oath, and as the national group in essence has blessed the participation of individuals who lead lives contrary the traditional understanding of “morally straight” and “clean and reverent,” this declaration changes the definition of these terms.

That makes very uncomfortable those families who feel the advocacy and practice of homosexuality is immoral, as they do not want their boys in an environment that presents as a model men who do that. There is the alternative of having their boys join troops that ban such leaders, but that does entirely insulate boys from this influence. For example, when out camping, at competitions, or at jamborees, different troops interact with each other and/or different leaders are encountered.

There also are politically incorrect and inconvenient facts involved. Simply, statistics are that sexual abuse by adults is much likelier to occur from the community of males who identify as homosexual than from their heterosexual-focused counterparts, with homosexual-oriented pedophiles vastly overrepresented relative to their proportion in the general population concerning child sex abuse cases. One hopes Scouting never allows into a leader position regardless of his public behavioral choices someone who ever molests a boy, but from the point of view of odds and cause and effect, families may be apprehensive for safety reasons with the outright ban lifted.

Scouting generally provides an excellent guide to live life, and specific skills learned are a bonus. I am an Eagle Scout and the precepts of the Scout Oath and Scout Law (and Scout Motto and Scout Slogan) continue to resonate with me. Globally, leadership and problem-solving skills that I gathered from Scouting I still employ, and even some of the more specific skills come in handy (my wife makes me tie all knots for all purposes and occasions). Especially today, where too many boys see wildlife only of the human variety in inner city jungles, it can serve a valuable purpose to expose them to a moral code and an outdoor environment and set of skills that they otherwise never would encounter and that are so alien to the impoverished spiritual lives they are forced to have surround them.

As such, families concerned about this change should weigh carefully whether their boys should remain in their current troop if it does not continue the ban. Those who wish to have their boys enter Scouting should know this policy of the troops they are considering. Parents also may wish to get details of and review any activities outside of typical troop-based functions to assess whether these would present inappropriate situations for their boys. Leaders should consider troop policy on this account in where they donate their time. Perhaps the trickiest area to navigate will be in donating, as these funds typically go to the council which could use the proceeds on activities of a troop with leaders who orient themselves as homosexuals.

Ultimately, a decision to support Scouting rests upon whether the redefinition of its Oath and Law moots in one’s view the utility of the organization.

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