Report: Scouts to Lift Ban on Homosexual Youth

Reuters reports that the Boy Scouts of America will soon consider a proposed new policy, one that will admit homosexual youth to the organization.  The Scouts have long considered homosexuality to be inconsistent with their values, and have thus excluded homosexuals from membership; but they have come under pressure in recent years to change their policy.

The revision is presented as a kind of compromise, since it continues a policy of not admitting homosexual adults into the Scouts.  The organization apparently conducted a long study of the opinions of parents of scouts, and found that their primary concern (or at least the primary concern of a majority of them) was not with homosexual youth being members but with homosexual adults.  Homosexual rights advocates are praising the decision as far as it goes, but also criticizing the Scouts for not proposing to go futher.


The policy, which has not yet been adopted but which will be put to a vote in May, raises some interesting problems to ponder.  It is defensible in principle, even from the standpoint of the traditional morality for which the Scouts have stood, but it also presents some obvious practical problems.

I seems defensible in principle, even from the standpoint of traditional religious morality, because a homosexual orientation is not itself immoral or sinful.  In excluding homosexuals, the Scouts have in the past suggested that homosexuality is inconsistent with the Scouting value of being a morally upright person.  But even people who consider homosexual acts to be immoral or sinful need not — and usually do not — regard a homosexual orientation as immoral or a sin.  And as it is framed in the Reuters article, the new policy is apparently careful to state that sexual orientation or preference alone would not be grounds on which to exclude a boy from scouting.  Such a policy would evidently permit somebody to be excluded for inappropriate sexual conversation or for being sexually active, and would not involve a discrimination against homosexual youth because presumably heterosexuals who behaved the same way would be likewise excluded or expelled.

On the other hand, it is not hard to think of the practical problems that the Scouts could encounter with such a policy.

In the first place, irrespective of the merits of the policy a lot of social conservatives whose boys are involved in scouting will probably dislike the new policy.  They will either think it goes too far in itself, or fear that it is just a step toward a total lifting of the ban, or will be irritated because they feel the Scouts have been bullied into changing their principles and policies, or will hold all of these views.  And they may think that in practice it will be impossible to sustain the conduct-disposition distinction mentioned above, so that the new policy implicitly means that their sons will be socialized in an organization that is indifferent in matters of sexual morality. Some of these people may pull out of scouting or break off and form their own organizations.

Moreover, having openly homosexual youth in the Scouts will create the danger of bullying of them by other boys.  This is a danger among any group of boys.  To prevent this, or to deal with it when it happens, there might need to be programs or presentations on the issue of bullying homosexual members.  And of course they should not be bullied, and it would be right to teach the others not to bully them.  But a lot of parents probably send their boys to scouting hoping for an environment innocent of all such problems.

Finally, even the limited new policy creates an issue that the Scouts would not have had to worry about before: the possibility of sexual attraction and even sexual activity among the youth members themselves.  That issue is likely to be in the back of some parents’ minds, and maybe even in the front, whether or not they choose to voice it openly.




8 thoughts on “Report: Scouts to Lift Ban on Homosexual Youth

  1. Dan says:

    I believe that this proposal; should it pass, will be the begining of the end for the Boy Scouts of America. I joined this organization for it belief and practice of higher morals and values. I am after 13 years of involvement, a Scoutmaster of a local Troop and the Proud father of both an Eagle Scout and current Life Scout. I believe the BSA is a valuable organization the teaches boy Leadership, disipline and values. If the BSA had had this policy in place when my sons were of age to join Cub Scouts, I would not have considered allowing them to join. As I am sure we all realize the “Gay & Lesbian” communities would like us to accept the immoral and sinful lifestyles they want to openly live. The current buzz word “inclusion” should be replaced with “acceptance”. Don’t be fooled by the wording in this prposal, this is a step closer to acceptance of the openly homosexual lifestyle.

  2. Madeline says:

    The BSA is scheduled to have 1400 delegates vote on whether or not to allow homosexual Scouts on May 23. If the new policy passes it would take effect January 1 2014. If it passes, then yes, there is a good chance that people will split off and form their own organizations. (How does the Boy Scouts of Texas sound?) Now the best thing we can do is pray.

  3. TM says:

    This post addresses a critical point in the matter of homosexuality and morality: orientation or inclination vs. action. It’s a difficult point to teach effectively, and one that is most often left out of the discourse on this topic completely. The Church is challenged in communicating this teaching and helping people understand how the how and why of accepting and abiding by it. I do wonder how the Scouts as a secular organization, would be able to address it any more effectively.

    1. Paul Sadek says:

      I’m with you, TM, except that the point of “orientation or inclination vs. action” is NOT a difficult point to teach to those capable of understanding the difference between WANTING to do something and DOING it. Unfortunately, our society is rampant with willful ignorance.

  4. JohnE says:

    My initial reaction was that this was good news — my main concern was with openly homosexual adult leaders. Boys are in a time of formation and so we should expect there to be a certain degree of formation that still needs to take place, such as a healthy and ordered view of sex. Sexual activity, whether heterosexual or homosexual, is not something that the Scouts feel is appropriate, so someone could still be kicked out for that. I’m not sure exactly sure what it would look like in a troop for a youth to be openly homosexually-oriented, but not homosexually active. It seems as though this policy should be nearly the same as the existing don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy, but many gay-advocacy groups seem to be applauding the proposed change, albeit as a “positive step in the right direction”, which has me worried that maybe I’m not seeing the picture clearly.

  5. Donna Vacek says:

    As the proud parent of an Eagle Scout, I think all that BSA has ever stood for should remain. It is a slippery edge to change words…especially in a time when future meanings and definitions will probably be manipulated.

  6. John says:

    This article articulates well the dilemma my family is facing as a practicing Catholic and Scouting family given this pending policy vote. We understand the Catholic teachings concerning homosexuality and their delineation between ideations vs. behaviors. We see this proposed policy change as something that is possibly still consistent with Catholic teachings. However, as the article notes, the full proposed resolution seems to be missing specifics that would need clarification, and possibly open the door to things not consistent with Catholic teachings–therefore, likely forcing Catholics to leave Scouting.

    Pray for the Scouting families as we now may face a decision we thought we were safe from ever having to make in an organization that for over 100 years was consistent with Catholic values and beliefs.

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