Let me be clear: I don’t speak Scout. I have one brother who wasn’t involved in Scouts, and as a child/youth I didn’t have too many friends who were actively involved in BSA. That being said, my husband is very involved in Scouting. He received his Eagle (do you receive your Eagle or become an Eagle? Is Eagle capitalized? I don’t even know) at age 13, and throughout our marriage has been an active Friend of Scouting, even dressing in his uniform to attend meetings. He once attended a training (or something) in Southern Utah, and a few years ago spent a week at Philmont (BSA Scout Ranch in New Mexico). It’s a program which has enriched his life, which he enjoys, and I support him in that.
I should also maybe confess that we have donated financially to the Scouting program. And I should maybe also tell you that the only way I’ve felt justified in making this donation is to also make an equal donation to our ward’s Young Women program.
Last year’s clarification from the BSA that having gay leaders in the organization wasn’t in the best interest of the scouts left me more disinterested in the Scouting organization than I had been before. As my son gets older I’ve realized that I have to take an interest in this conversation because he’s almost old enough to join Scouts. And where we live, and as a member of an active LDS family, there is an expectation that he will join Scouts. Not that he couldn’t, but if he didn’t, how would that affect him socially amongst his fellow Young Men? How many Young Men activities are Scout-centric? Most? All? If he didn’t participate would he be considered inactive?
Earlier this week the BSA announced that their ban on gay leaders and scouts is in line for elimination. What does this mean for the LDS church? I had a conversation about this yesterday with a close friend who is very conservative. We’ll call him CF (Conservative Friend). CF wonders if the church will continue to align itself with an organization which doesn’t take a firmer stand on where the line is drawn with homosexuality. I mention that Scouting is beloved by many, not the least of whom is our dear prophet, President Monson. We agree that this has potential to be a storm, the substance of which is not pleasant.
CF takes the position that he wouldn’t want gay leaders attending to the scouts. He says there are reasons we have leaders of the same gender with the youth, and he would not be comfortable with a male leader who is attracted to males taking his sons on any overnight campouts. CF clarifies that he isn’t saying that gay men are pedophiles. He simply doesn’t think it’s a good idea for men who are attracted to males to be alone with young men.
I say that my understanding is that being gay doesn’t mean that one is engaging in homosexual behaviors and in fact, if one is engaging in such, one is ineligible to hold a calling and so one wouldn’t be called to be a scout leader, so maybe the point is moot. CF points out that scout leader is only a calling in our church; elsewhere it’s volunteer work.
I also point out to CF that in one ward I attended, a scout leader – a married man with a family – was arrested for exactly what you think he was arrested for. All the youth in that ward (young women, too) were questioned by the police. From the outside, that man was a ‘perfect candidate’ to be a scout leader; in reality, he acted as the worst kind of monster, and I know plenty of gay men who would never do that to a child.
So what do you think? When the BSA comes out with an official statement, I can only guess we will all look to the LDS Newsroom to learn about how the church will move forward with the Scouting program. What are your thoughts on this situation?