Lydia Kay ’13
Boy Scouts of America (BSA) prides itself on providing “the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training.” There is no doubt that the BSA program is highly accredited and has developed a handful of our nation’s most influential leaders; notable alumni include four former presidents such as Presidents Bush, Clinton, and Ford. The organization has existed for over a century and promotes a traditional way of life deeply rooted in American culture. Scouts are trained to “do their best, do their duty to God and our country, to help others, and to prepare themselves physically, mentally, and morally.” However, the organization has also endured a great amount of public scrutiny within the past few years due to its discrimination policy against homosexuals. In July, BSA came out again after a confidential two-year review saying that they reaffirmed their views and would continue to practice discrimination of gays and lesbians within the program.
My question is this: how can an organization that preaches kindness to others and in its oath urges scouts to “help other people at all times,” also be sending the message that differences in sexual orientation are grounds for blatant exclusion and intolerance? BSA members who support this policy say that it is a matter of sexuality—they strive to create a neutral and nonsexual environment for the young boys that enter into their program, and are adamant about staying far away from any type of sexual discussion so as not to “corrupt” their young members. They seem to be missing the point entirely. True, it is not a question about whether or not sex education should be included in the program. It is simply a question about the fundamental rights of individuals. BSA is sending a jarring message regarding the humane treatment of people and is essentially saying that one’s sexual orientation determines whether or not he or she are fit to be a positive role model. Even the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that has been a source of conflict for years was finally dropped by the government, and same-sex marriage continues to be legalized in states across the country. How can an organization that still has a profound impact on our nations youth (there are 2.7 million members to-date), be so openly against the basic right to express oneself regardless of sexual orientation? Furthermore, what does being gay or straight, a husband or wife, or someone’s boyfriend or girlfriend have to do with instilling character development or value lessons? On paper, Jerry Sandusky appears to be the quintessential American family man; he is a loving husband, father and was a coach at a top football program in the nation, and he faces a lifetime in prison for 45 counts of sexual abuse involving ten boys.
The Scouts’ intolerance towards homosexuals is now creating lasting financial consequences. Intel, which was the BSA’s biggest corporate donor in 2010, recently announced that they will no longer fund any Boy Scout troop that discriminates. Troops that endorse nondiscrimination and choose to accept leaders regardless of sexual orientation will still be eligible for sponsorship despite disapproval from the national headquarters. Hopefully the combined efforts of big-time corporations as well as organizations such as Scouts for Equality and LGBT protest groups will finally open up BSA’s eyes and help them see where our country is already moving—equal rights and inclusion for all, regardless of sexual preference.