Last week, The Boy Scouts of America made a landmark decision to officially allow gay youths into their organization. Unofficially, gay youths have been in the Scouts since its start. Gay men and women have always been a part of every organization in America. But they knew they had to hide in order to be included. Now, these individuals are starting to feel comfortable saying, "We don't want to hide a part of who we are anymore, in order to belong."
The 1,400 voting members of the Boy Scouts of America's National Council agreed that those young men who are gay no longer have to hide that part of themselves in order to become a member.
Not everyone agrees with their decision.
This organization that has stood the test of time will probably be destroyed now that they have decided to admit openly gay boys as Scouts... the new policy forces every chartered Scouting unit, irrespective of religious convictions, to facilitate open homosexuality among boys in their program...
Most important, the new policy robs parents of Boy Scouts, like me, of the sole authority to raise issues of sex and sexuality with their kids.
Like many conservative Christians, Mr. Stemberger is afraid. He is afraid for his beloved organization, his country and his family. And he is letting this fear rob his children of a future in the Scouts. I feel bad for him, because he has no idea that there is nothing to be afraid of.
This decision is not going to destroy The Boy Scouts.
If allowing gay youths into the scouts was a threat to the survival of the organization, it would have been destroyed a long time ago. One of the gayest men I know (who I don't think would be offended by me bestowing that title upon him) is an Eagle scout. This man, in addition to being gay, is also friendly, kind, intelligent, hard working and creative.
Traits that any Scout should have. Traits that might have even been cultivated during his many years in the scouts.
But that is not Mr. Stemberger's issue. His issue, that he fears will jeopardize the Scouts, is that, "Sex and politics have no place in the Boy Scouts, and allowing open homosexuality will lead to myriad bad consequences."
I agree with him on the first point. Sex and politics should have no place in the Boy Scouts. But this ruling is not the result of a politicized minority out with an "agenda" to make everyone accept them. It's the result of a group of people who were tired of being excluded because of their sexuality, when that was never the reason they wanted to join in the first place.
Parents of 8-, 9- and 10-year-old boys who have expressed their orientation don't want their kids to be accepted into The Boy Scouts to advance an agenda. They want their kids accepted because they love them, and want them treated fairly. Sex and politics should have no place in the Boy Scouts. But by creating a policy that excluded gays in the first place, the Boy Scouts made sex and politics a focus.
However, the biggest reason parents like Mr. Stemberger are scared and angry enough to pull their kids out of the scouts is stated clearly in his letter above. They are horrified at the idea of the Scouts, "facilitat[ing] open homosexuality among boys in their program..."
This is simply not true. Just as the Scouts do not "facilitate open heterosexuality" among the boys in their program, they will not do the same for homosexuality. There has never been condoned, organized sexual activity in the Scouts. Allowing gay kids in will not change that. They are kids. Not miniature sex addicted caricatures of what some people think gay men are.
But I think there's a deeper issue here, driving this fear of "open homosexuality." It's the fear of the unknown. The fear that comes from not knowing anyone who's gay, and never realizing that gay people are not consumed with sex anymore than the average straight person. This fear is what blinds good people from realizing that a gay kid is still a kid, one who is not defined by his sexuality. A kid that probably knows he's different, but doesn't need an entire government funded organization telling him that this difference means he's not good enough to be a Scout.
These kids just want to belong, like all kids do. And if parents like Mr. Stemberger really cared about what The Scouts stands for -- Duty to God, Duty to Others and Duty to Self -- then they should realize that bringing up all kids, gay or straight, to follow the principles he upholds can only be a good thing.
I'm glad The Scouts made this decision, although I think they have a long way to come, as far as accepting adult leaders who are gay. And I hope that this leads to better treatment of kids who, for far too long, have been told their orientation excludes them from the things their peers can enjoy.
As far as Mr. Stemberger, and the parents like him, I have this to say: Gay kids are not the enemy. And when they grow up to be gay men and women, they are still not people that you should hate, fear and wish to protect your children from. They are people who just want to be given the chance to live a life with the same freedoms that you and I share. That is not an agenda. It's not something that, if given, will take anything away from you or your family.
If you, your friends, your church and your family quit The Scouts over this resolution, you're sending a very clear message -- one of fear, anger and bitterness.
Three things that no good Boy Scout would ever stand for or represent.