Boy Scouts’ policies on gay members must be changed

Boy Scouts’ policies on gay members must be changed. (credit: Adelaide Cole/Art Editor) Boy Scouts’ policies on gay members must be changed. (credit: Adelaide Cole/Art Editor)
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Intel announced that it would no longer be sponsoring the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) last week, costing the BSA its largest corporate donor and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Intel’s move to drop support for the BSA was inspired in large part by Eagle Scout Zach Wahls’ actions against his own organization.

Why is an Eagle Scout attempting to undermine the funding for an organization in which he clearly has invested much time and energy? Raised by two women, Wahls is a noted advocate for gay rights and just one of many to denounce the BSA’s anti-gay policies in recent years.

The single most important partner organization for the BSA, however, remains the the Mormon Church, since it enrolls its male youth and pays their dues. As a result, the BSA often adopts stances that put it in line with the wishes of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other major religious organizations.

While receiving financial support from the federal government and simultaneously barring atheists and promoting religion is a major point of contention, the BSA’s stance on gay rights is on even flimsier ground. The BSA’s has corrupted its mission statement “to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.”

The current claim that homosexuality somehow breaks this clause is nothing short of medieval. Many Eagle Scouts have renounced their ranks and returned their medals in a concerted campaign after the BSA decided to uphold its ban on homosexual scouts and leaders, and some troops have openly declared nonobservance of the policy.

While Freedom of Association gives the BSA the legal right to ban gay scouts, I believe that this should be superseded by a moral imperative.

Having attended a magnet elementary school, transitioning to middle school was similar to moving to a new town. I knew almost nobody, and this made being 13 years old even less fun. The bright spot of every week through those years was my weekly troop meeting. There, in addition to the fun activities involving knives, fire, and dirt, I met the people who would become my closest friends, and a few people I was forced to learn how to tolerate.

The BSA played a huge part in defining who I am, but it was also one of the main reasons I never had to deal with truly severe depression beyond the typical teen angst.

Columbia University researchers released a report in the journal Pediatrics last year that gay teenagers are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. To restrict scouting from a group of teens who would benefit so much from community and acceptance is both callous and malicious.

The BSA stands alone amongst American scouting organizations on this issue. The Girl Scouts of America accepts LGBT members and leaders, as do the official scouting organizations of most every other nation in the Western world. The BSA frequently asserts its independence in upholding these antiquated and harmful policies, when in reality it is just affirming its entanglement to policies out of step with the rest of the country.