On Friday, July 10, 2015, the Boys Scouts of America Executive Committee adopted a resolution amending the adult leadership standards policy, ending a ban on homosexuals as Scout Leaders. The change was not unexpected given a gradual shift in attitude in the organization and its leaders. It won’t become completely official until ratified by the Executive Board on July 27, but the change is all but done.
Some who have known my story have suggested to me that this is the day I’ve been waiting for. To be honest, I haven’t thought much about it and I’m not necessarily all that impressed. I do believe it is the right thing to do, but it really doesn’t solve the cultural problems around the issues.
I know I’ve explained it before, but people don’t really tend to listen to me on this subject. They figure I’m a disgruntled person who is angry that he didn’t get to stay a Scoutmaster and no matter how many times I spell it out, that’s what they think. Nevertheless, I think I’ll try again.
The first thing you should know about my point of view is that I completely believe in the right of any organization to choose their own membership standards. I’ve never believed the BSA should be forced to accept homosexuals as leaders. I don’t think they have been right-minded on the subject, but I support their right to freely choose with whom to associate. I also support the idea that they also choose the social and financial consequences of their policies. If people don’t want to give them money because they choose to ostracize a segment of the population, people also have that right.
No, “morally straight” was not a play on words. They believe in morality, as I do. Their ideals are to build a sense of morality in youth and help them become the leaders of the future. These are lofty aims and I support them.
Just to get it out of the way, although you can read about it in detail in some things I have written before, I’ll give you the abridged version of my departure from Scouting approximately 20 years ago.
- I served in various capacities having over ten years experience as a Scout leader, Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, Troop Committee Chairman, and district trainer.
- With my growing reconciliation with myself as someone who was still, after years of trying to hide it, a person who experiences same-sex attraction, I realized I was out of compliance with the leadership policies of the Boy Scouts of America. I chose to exit and asked my bishop for a release, which he gave me.
- I moved to another part of the country for work and, even with him knowing about my same-sex attraction, was asked by a new bishop to be a Varsity Coach.
- Because I was already prolifically writing online about my life, it came to the attention of a general authority of the Church that I was serving in a Scouting calling and he demanded that I be released.
- The Scout district where I lived needed someone with experience as a trainer and asked me to consider joining the district training team. They knew my situation and still wanted me. Yet, upon consultation with the national legal committee, the district leaders were told they couldn’t use me.
- My choice to leave in the first place was based on my own support of the rights of the BSA to free association along with a sense of integrity that would not allow me to continue to be a member of a group that said I was ineligible.
I didn’t leave with fanfare or complaint. I didn’t sue or contact the newspapers. I left because it seemed to me at the time to be the right thing to do, and it still does.
I want you to understand something about me. I learned a long time ago that you don’t get self-esteem from other people. I didn’t care if anyone running the Boy Scouts nationally or locally thought I was worthwhile as a leader of youth. I didn’t really even care if the leaders of the Church, generally or locally, thought I was a good influence. I know the influence I had on the youth I served. I know the influence they had on me. I am grateful for the lifelong friendships in Scouting. No policy, notion, or prejudice can take that from me.
The second thing to keep in mind is that my main disagreement with them has long been that their policy was hypocritical and not based on what they thought of as standing up for morality.
On my honor, I will do my best,
To do my duty to God and my country,
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
Mentally awake, and morally straight.
One thing that really started to wear on me before I even considered my own situation as a man who dealt with homosexual feelings was what I witnessed in Scouting units not operated by the Church. At Scouting events, I met men who were living with women without the benefit of marriage. I even met an adulterer or two and it was known by leaders at a district and council level.
I know this is a modern world. Things like sex outside of marriage are in and old-fashioned morality is out. That’s the way a lot of people think these days.
Imagine, if you can, what I felt to realize that a man like myself who was faithful to his wife was less suitable as a role model for boys than men who were promiscuous and adulterous. As far as I know, the Boy Scouts of America never had a policy that a straight man who can’t control his sexual appetites was not a good leader for youth.
After decades of being on their high horse about homosexuality, I don’t feel very triumphant when I realize that with this week’s news, they’ve not effectively done anything that promotes what I would define as “morally straight.” At least they are consistent now. “Morally straight” is not about sexuality.
I don’t want to be a Scout leader. My joints agree with me. I’m not going to be running to my church leaders on the 27th and ask to be a Scoutmaster again. This change in policy doesn’t affect me much.
Someday, a Scoutmaster will be judged on how well he leads boys, whether he embodied the principles of Scouting, and how his personal behavior matched his beliefs. That’s the day I’m waiting for.