By Jeffrey Page
The Boy Scout pledge requires its adherents to obey the Scout Law. The Scout Law dictates that they will be all of these: trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.
I tried, but one summer at Ten Mile River Scout Camp in Sullivan County I stood on the dock of Crystal Lake trying to work up the nerve to jump into water over my head. I couldn’t do it. I was a lousy swimmer and deep water terrified me. For this, I was unceremoniously booted out of a prestigious senior unit by staff and friends. It was one of the more humiliating moments of my boyhood. They said I was not brave.
I may have run afoul of the bravery law when I was 12 years old, but I did far better than the adults who control the scout show now. When it comes to the question of letting gay boys be Boy Scouts, they are not loyal, not helpful, not friendly, not kind, and, God knows, not brave. In fact, in continuing to refuse to allow gay boys to join and serve, and gay adults to lead, the Boy Scouts of America define gutlessness.
Not to mention a world view right out of the Dark Ages, one that rejects the idea that a gay kid could be interested in learning to tie a square knot, applying a bandage, going on a hike, earning a merit badge in environmental science or public speaking, and maybe becoming an Eagle Scout.
The Boy Scouts of America – chartered by the Congress that represents us all – have had 103 years to do something about their anti-gay bias but have spent the 20th century ignoring the matter. It is now the 21st century, and they can’t disregard it any longer.
Will the organization change? Or will it maintain its cruel justification for banning gay kids by referring critics to another part of the Scout Pledge, which requires a boy to swear he will be “morally straight.”
As if to suggest that sexual orientation is a moral issue, when it is no such thing.
And as if to suggest that regulations cannot be amended. Of course the scouts should maintain trustworthiness, cheerfulness and the other 10 laws, but should add such traits as generosity and fairness.
Recently, when word got out that the matter of gay members was under discussion at the executive levels of the organization, the Scouts punked out and announced that they need another three months to conclude discussions on their membership requirements. Three months more after 103 years. This is no demonstration of bravery or of friendliness. In fact it would be comical if the victims of the Scouts’ 10th century ignorance were not children.
Surely the Boy Scouts of America understand that no matter how they decide, they will be attacked. End the ban and they alienate people who believe it’s still 1953, that the earth is a happy straight world where Ike is president, where the sky is always blue, and where all is well except for those nasty Russians.
If they maintain the ban the Scouts continue to incur the enmity of people who understand that the Scout Law ought not be a means of exclusion.
Now’s the time for the Scouts to be brave.
They might even consider expanding the law so that scouts would be required to be open-minded, respectful, honest, thoughtful, compassionate, and fair in addition to trustworthy, loyal, helpful, etc.