Defending the Boy Scouts

I am sure some of the things that I will write in this post will offend certain people. It will ruffle feathers at certain meetings I go to, but these are just my opinions about an organization that I feel very close to and always will.

For the past thirty-ish years (27 to be exact) I have been going down to a facility at St.Matthias Church on Friday nights for Troop 327’s weekly meetings. Some meetings have been wonderfully run, some have been complete disasters, but it is what I do. Its what I always have done. And now more than ever the Boy Scouts come under scrutiny for both their actions and inaction. Words from the Scout Oath being twisted to fit the agendas of large sponsors of the scouting movement.

For many years the national council of the Boy Scouts formerly located here in New York but now located in Irving Texas, has kept files of scout leaders who have abused Scouts over the years and who were no longer eligible to remain within the program. Most of this abuse was reported to police in a timely manner and those people (mostly men) were not allowed back. Unlike clergy members who were allowed to simply change parishes, these guys were done for good.

I imagine that these files were not released previously because they would have been embarrassing to the organization, damaging to recruitment and fundraising. Even the Boy Scouts are conscious of their brand. I am not sure if there was a court order to release these files (which ended back in 1985) or if a statute of limitations had expired. I don’t know but its a good thing this information is out there. It shows that while the BSA did not want to air its dirty laundry it was not just sweeping the filth away.

One of my old leaders while I was a scout and a current colleague of mine has read the report and spoke about how so much of the damning evidence in the report describes homosexual acts taking place between men and boys. And this normally level headed man, goes to the conclusion that this is justification for keeping homosexuals out of the ranks of leaders for scouts. This could not be any further from the truth.

These were acts of violence and abuse of power. Even though sex was involved, these were not sexual acts. Pedophiles even though they are engaging in sexual activities with children, its not about the sex, its about power and control. I would wager that the vast majority of the pedophiles (that is what they are) named in the BSA file would describe themselves as heterosexual. Many of whom probably have wives and and kids, and you would never suspect a thing.  

The fact that most of the abuse took place between men and boys is only coincidental, since the organization is mostly men and boys. If the BSA was co-ed there is a pretty good chance that many girls would have been targeted by these monsters.

The powers that be, use the cases of abuse and a line in the Scout Oath “Morally Straight” as justification to keeping gays out of scouting as both adult leaders and as scouts. Those words were written roughly 100 years ago and “straight” didn't have the same connotations that it does now. The first scout handbook also describes how a scout should bathe. The world is different in 2012.

When I speak to my friends about this subject, particularly ones who don’t agree with me on the subject, I use this analogy: “If you want to ban gay men as scout leaders then women need to be banned as well. Gay men are attracted to men, and boys are just small men they must be attracted to them sexually, that means since straight women are attracted to men, and boys are just small men they too must be attracted to them sexually.” People say that is ridiculous, but its not, its logic.

In polite society, there is no homosexual subculture. Gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered and self described queers are part of the mainstream culture. They are people just like everyone else. People who think otherwise are idiots frankly. People will say, yes they are a subculture they have the Gay Pride parade, are the Irish a freakish subculture because they have a parade? Or the West Indians, or any other group who has a common interest who choose to celebrate what they have in common in a public way.  

Just like with the gay marriage debate, just because it is legal doesn't mean you are legally obligated to marry someone of the same sex. there was a time in the country (Within the last 100 years) where black people and white people couldn't get married, and when that was no longer banned  it didn't mean you had to have an interracial marriage. It just meant that consenting adults who wanted to, could. So lifting the ban on gays in the BSA doesn’t mean all scout leaders or scouts are required to be gay, but its ok if they are.

In my experience I don’t know of any scouts or scouters who were out of the closet. But in nearly thirty years in the program I am sure that I have met and befriended some who are gay. I’m OK with that.

Small minded parents may have an issue with having gay leaders in the troop with their sons. But the current regulations of scouting are so stringent, with background checks and some of the best training available that there is nothing to fear. If you are so scared go on some trips with your son. It is a great way to bond with your child and get to know better the people who you are entrusting them to. Also scout leaders always need extra drivers.

The scouting program is wonderful. It has taught me so many great lessons over the years, lessons I may have never learned without scouting. I credit my love of cooking, the outdoors and huge (though contained) fires to being a scout. Many of my closest friends are guys who shared the scouting experience with me. I hate travelling to weddings but I have gone to Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, Rhode Island and Virginia for the weddings of guys who were in Troop 327 with me at some point.

I look at our leadership team in our troop, the Troop Committee Chairman, the Scoutmaster, and all but two of the assistant scoutmasters were Boy Scouts (all but one in our troop) and the two who were not scouts joined the troop with their sons who have all aged out but they remain. And those two guys and the rest of us remain because the program gave us something. And we feel responsible to keep giving back. We all try to live our lives as closely to the Scout Oath and Law as we can, and I know when I am acting “morally straight” it has nothing to do with sex.

Often I take a step back and wonder if I am the odd one. When there are so many other, seemingly normal and accepting people hold these bigoted and small minded ideas. I think If the BSA plans on staying around for another 100 years it needs to take a look at itself and then look outside its walls and realize that lots of people out there don’t think that bigotry is cool, and will find other places to send their kids.

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