Minister to Scouts: Take a Hike

By Jeffrey Page

The Boy Scout brain trust looked fairly ridiculous last year when, faced with growing mockery about its refusal to admit gay kids, it announced a revised membership position. It still does. Gay boys? Finally, they could join.

But gay Scout leaders? Not a chance. Doesn’t matter if a gay man from the neighborhood actually knows how to build a cooking fire in the woods or can explain the differences between a bowline knot, a sheepshank, and a square knot, there would continue to be no place for him in scouting.

And now, at last, an organization that hosted a Scout troop in Seattle has told the Boy Scouts – as it is said – to take a hike. And with that, Troop 98 is history.

It seems that the national Scout organization took exception to the gay Geoffrey McGrath’s serving as a leader of Troop 98, which was based at the Rainier Beach (Wash.) United Methodist Church. The national office issued an ouster order to church officials: They could fire McGrath or they could be unceremoniously kicked out of the Scouting movement.

The church stuck with McGrath. The New York Times quoted the pastor, the Rev. Dr. Monica K. Corsaro, as saying, “We’re going to stand firm. Geoffrey attends our church and this is a way to support our youth in the neighborhood.”

She went on to describe the no-gay-leaders position as “a policy of discrimination.”

It is also a policy of dazzling hypocrisy.

When a boy joins the Scouts, he is required to memorize, understand and live by the 12 parts of the Scout Law, which declares that a Scout must be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. Each part of the law includes a brief elaboration. More on that in a moment.

When I was a member of Troop 393 in Queens many years ago, we were told that everyone connected with scouting had to know the Scout Law and live by it. But in chasing down Geoffrey McGrath the national leaders failed nine of the 12 parts of the Scout law. Here’s the law in some detail with a look at how national scout leaders fared in abiding by it in the matter of Troop 98.

Are national leaders trustworthy? “People can depend on Scouts,” the law says. And the obvious question: Can people depend on Scouting’s brass hats to allow local people to establish the rules of membership? What, after all, is it that national is afraid of?

Are the leaders loyal? The Scouts demand that a boy display his loyalty to, among others, “Scout leaders.” McGrath was a scout leader who was dissed out of the movement on dubious grounds by national leaders.   

Helpful? “A Scout is concerned about other people,” the law says.

Friendly? “A Scout is a friend to all,” Moreover, “he seeks to understand others,” and “he respects those with ideas and customs other than his own.”

Courteous? “A Scout is polite to everyone regardless of age or position,” the law says.

Kind? “[A Scout] treats others as he wants to be treated.”

Obedient? I guess the leaders are obedient.

Cheerful? “He tries to make others happy,” the law says.

Thrifty? I guess the leaders are thrifty.

Brave? “A scout has the courage to stand for what he thinks is right.” (Compare the bravery of national scout officials with that of the Rev. Corsaro. In this, she defines bravery.)

Clean? I guess the leaders are clean.   

Reverent? “He respects the beliefs of others.”

Speaking of respecting the views of others, consider Corsaro’s response in an interview with the BBC: “I would really like them to honor their own bylaws to respect the religious beliefs of their chartering partners. Our religious beliefs include being accepting of all people.”

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2 Responses to “Minister to Scouts: Take a Hike”

  1. Ken Says:

    Right on, but what about refusing to admit atheists?

  2. MichaelKaufman Says:

    The idiocy involved in the decision by the national leaders is mind boggling. When was the last time a Boy Scout was molested by an openly gay scout leader?

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