“…if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.” –Karl Popper, in An Open Society and its Enemies, Vol. 1
I read the news of the Boy Scouts of America’s imminent lifting of their ban on openly gay leaders as I sat in a coffee shop while wearing my Class-A Boy Scout uniform. I was on my way to work. As a staff member at a large metropolitan council of the BSA, I was proud to see forward progress within the organization that I’d now come to work for more than five years after achieving Eagle Scout. But change is never without its critics. Gay Rights can be a polarizing topic, and in an organization known for its conservative values and ties to religion, critics of the decision were swift and merciless in their condemnation of the move toward inclusion.
Boy Scouts of America is the largest private youth organization in the U.S., and as a private organization it is entitled to cultivate its leadership as it pleases. The BSA is not required to do anything regarding gay leaders, but that’s not to say that there aren’t things that it should do. If the organization wishes to remain relevant in our ever-progressing culture, it will modernize appropriately, lest it be the hand of its own demise.
I have heard a variety of arguments in opposition of the allowance of gay leaders, none of which are remotely legitimate, but all of which seem to have alarmingly avowed supporters, especially amongst current scouts and leaders.
I’ve heard the argument that “morally straight,” a part of the Scout Oath, automatically excludes homosexuality. Incidentally, the word “straight” had no sexual connotation when the Scout Oath with written in the early 20th century and did not morph into a synonym for “heterosexual” until decades later (The first known usage of “straight” with sexual connotation was in 1948 by George W. Henry in his study, “Sex Variants: A Study of Homosexual Patterns,” and widespread use followed in the decades later). I would further argue that exclusion and discrimination are not morally straight by any standard.
I’ve also heard, since “a scout is reverent,” the 12th point of the Scout Law, that he must be heterosexual because fundamental Christianity considers homosexuality a sin. But the BSA does not require scouts to adhere to any specific faith. Scouts must simply hold a belief in a higher power, whatever it may be. There is no requirement that a scout follow a belief system opposed to homosexuality. Interestingly, reverence was not included in Lord Baden-Powell’s original Scout Law when he founded the Boy Scouts. “A Scout is Reverent” was added to the original Scout Law by the Boy Scouts of America during their formative period.
I’ve heard arguments that gay men are pedophiles and their presence would put children at risk. This is a myth and simple facts of reality repeatedly disprove it. The American Psychological Association asserts that “[child] abusers are equally likely to be heterosexual or gay men – a perception that most perpetrators are gay men is a myth and harmful stereotype.” Characterizations of any male who perpetrates a sexual crime against a minor as being a gay man are incorrect. Fixated pedophiles have an attraction to children, not toward adults of either gender, and are equally likely to live openly as either heterosexual or homosexual while not truly being psychologically or sexually representative of either orientation. But if someone wants to play the game of which orientation has the most pedophiles, openly straight men take the cake: according to The Abel and Harlow Child Molestation Prevention Study, 77% of male child molesters are or were married to women. Only 8% identified as being solely or openly homosexual.
“The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children In the U. S., Canada and Mexico,” a study by Richard J. Estes and Neil Alan Weiner, has been misinterpreted by anti-gay organizations and activists because of the finding that “At least 95% of all the commercial sex engaged in by boys is provided to adult males,” however, Estes and Weiner were careful to note that, “Many of the adult male sexual exploiters of boys are married men with children,” indicating that it is openly heterosexual men who pose the greater risk to boys.
Studies performed by the illegitimate researcher Paul Cameron commonly serve as touchstones for those harboring anti-gay beliefs and have been brought up as counterarguments to the inclusion of gay leaders in the BSA. Although he is technically still published, it is through the American College of Pediatricians, an ill-named spin-off of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which requires members to affirm a belief in the supremacy of heterosexuality. Mr. Cameron has been discredited by and barred from numerous internationally accepted societies of psychology and sociology for his intentional distortion of research to further his anti-gay agenda. The American Sociological Association said in 1985, “Dr. Paul Cameron has consistently misinterpreted and misrepresented sociological research on sexuality, homosexuality, and lesbianism” and further pointed out that, “Dr. Paul Cameron has repeatedly campaigned for the abrogation of the civil rights of lesbians and gay men, substantiating his call on the basis of his distorted interpretation of this research.” The methodology for his study supposedly determining the average lifespan of gay men was to peruse the obituary section of local newspapers for the ages of recently deceased gay men, resulting in a wildly unrepresentative sample set that was lambasted as “ridiculous,” even by fellow conservative demographer Nicholas Eberstadt. It’s no surprise that Mr. Cameron shares his findings through the Family Research Institute, an ardently anti-gay, agenda-driven organization that he co-founded.
Legitimate studies of the lifespans of gay men, such as “Modelling the impact of HIV disease on mortality in gay and bisexual men,” have been wrangled and warped by anti-gay organizations and individuals to a point at which the original authors felt the need to point out that their finding absolutely did not indicate that homosexuality is unhealthy or dangerous. “It appears that our research is being used by select groups in US and Finland to suggest that gay and bisexual men live an unhealthy lifestyle that is destructive to themselves and to others,” they said, “These homophobic groups appear more interested in restricting the human rights of gay and bisexuals rather than promoting their health and well being.”
So I continue to ask myself, why are people so steadfast in their opposition to the inclusion of gay leaders in the BSA? Gay men are not of a higher predisposition to pedophilia, gay men do not live an unhealthy lifestyle, anti-gay “research” has been discredited, and the Scout Oath and Scout Law are anything but condemnatory, or even relevant, toward homosexuality. In fact, the Oath and Law promote a moral reasoning for what is right – surely that entails equality.
There are no reasons for gay leaders not to be allowed in the Boy Scouts of America. Well, no reasons other than fear, bigotry, discrimination, or hate. But those are very poor reasons that certainly they do not fit into the Scout Spirit.