Scouting Split on Gay Rights

In 2010 the Boy Scouts of America celebrated their 100th anniversary of scouting. Just four years later, they are in the public limelight about the fact that the scouting community has been split with regards to gay rights. The BSA recently voted to maintain a ban disallowing gay leaders within the century-old organization. In response, the Walt Disney Company, always a symbol of the future and possibility, has said they will pull all funding to the organization in 2015 if the ban is not overturned. Also unhappy with the recent vote are some former scouting parents who by their own account are upstanding Christians. These particular Christian parents were so unhappy with the vote, which banned gay leaders but for the first time allowed gay youth into the organization, that they have pulled their sons from the time-honored BSA.

Fox news reports on a father named Ron Orr who is one that has supported his son in changing to the new Christian-based Trail Life USA, which bans openly gay youth from becoming members. Orr and others cite being disappointed in the BSA, whose scout oath includes a command to be “morally straight.” In 1911 when the oath was written, “straight” to a community that had no knowledge of homosexual vernacular meant upstanding, a quality echoed in other words within the boy scout oath: “To help other people at all times.” That phrase does not include the word “some” before “other people.” Scout law, also written in 1911, says scouts should be: “…helpful, friendly, courteous [and] kind….”

As regards kindness and Christian kindness specifically, the Gospel according to Luke, 6. 37-40, says not to judge others if one does not want to be judged, nor condemn if wishing not to be condemned. It adds that those who forgive are forgiven, and that the same amount of “good measure” one gives out will be received. Most importantly, perhaps, is a brief note on arrogance that stipulates “the disciple is not above his master.”

Disney has been among several companies unwilling to condone discrimination against any group of persons. There is no split among those who feel that scouting is for all boys and men, regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation: this includes the right to be openly gay. Companies that have gone before Disney in their decision not to tolerate intolerance reportedly include Alcoa, AT&T, Lockheed Martin, Major League Soccer, Caterpillar, Intel, Merck and UPS. These companies have all ended their relationships with the Boy Scouts of America, at least for the moment. Disney has not given money from its own coffers to the BSA, but rather allows staff to trade volunteer hours for cash donated directly to a charity of their choice. In 2010, that meant a figure of $4.8 million for their causes.

Orr and all those who have joined his unit in Trail Life home-school their boys. Leaders like John Stemberger, a Florida lawyer who led the opposition against the BSA vote, say they are hopeful membership in the newly split Trail Life group will increase when the Boy Scouts of America gives openly gay leaders the right to join the organization. They feel this decision is imminent. Stemberger told Fox he believes when that changes, a lot of scouts will defect and Trail Life will then be in a position to “see real growth.”

Opinion by Julie Mahfood


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