Friday, July 31, 2015

Morally Straight

Norman Rockwell painting I got when
son Economic Sphere earned his Eagle
The Boy Scouts of America national leadership held a vote this past Monday, deciding to change its policy on leadership, to allow local units to decide on whether to allow openly homosexual adults as scout leaders.

I’ve written several times on the Boy Scouts. Here are a few:

For a little over a century Boy Scouts of America has been a great organization for building boys into men. The values are timeless, and maybe even more in need of being taught today than in 1910, at the founding. They are necessary ingredients for building civilization. In fact, the Scout Oath and Scout Law combine to make a pretty good recipe for a civilized human being:

official BSA logo
The Scout Oath
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.[emphasis mine]

A Scout is:
  • Trustworthy,
  • Loyal,
  • Helpful,
  • Friendly,
  • Courteous,
  • Kind,
  • Obedient,
  • Cheerful,
  • Thrifty,
  • Brave,
  • Clean,
  • and Reverent.

It’s not all about camping. Although outdoor activities can be used, among other things, as a setting for teaching these principles. It’s because of the convergence of principles between BSA and various churches that have led the churches to sponsor troops. Here are some of the numbers:

There are over 100,000 chartered BSA units. A chartering organization provides meeting facilities, leadership, fundraising, and representation at district and higher levels. In other words, they make it possible for a BSA unit to exist. A chartering sponsor can be a civic group (like a Kiwanis, Chamber of Commerce, or other such organization), a church, or a school.

Of the total, 71.5% are churches, 21.3% are civic organizations, and 7.2% are educational. The preponderance of churches shows that any assumption that BSA is a secular camping club is clearly false.

Of the churches, the biggest sponsor is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which sponsors (as of December 31, 2013) 37,933 units, including 437,160 youth. If I understand correctly, an LDS unit is likely to include Cub Scout dens, Webelos, 11-year-old Scouts, a Boy Scout troop, and Varsity teams. There will be the full gamut of possibilities for boys 8 years through 18 in every LDS congregation in the US. Where congregations are small, it might be that nearby congregations combine, so that opportunities are available for every boy.

Leadership comes from within the congregation. Active members of the church—often fathers of the boys, but sometimes younger or older men as well—are sought as leaders. (And of course women help with Cub Scouting and other unit responsibilities.) Sometimes a less active or non-member father will participate in troop leadership, but will not run the organization, because the purpose of scouting is to assist families in teaching the principles taught in the religion. Scouting is not the only tool used for that purpose, but as long as it is useful, it is adapted for that overriding purpose.

All boys have always been welcome to LDS troops. Many, possibly most, troops include non-LDS boys. Boys have never been excluded because of sexual orientation or confusion, not even prior to the 2013 vote that allowed openly homosexual scouts. There is, however, an assumption that a Boy Scout is clean and morally straight—as he takes an oath to be. Morally straight is a term meaning something akin to “on the straight and narrow path,” exactly in keeping with the moral code, which is no sex outside of marriage; this was part of the Scout Oath long before the term straight became slang for heterosexual.

In other words, no scouts, including homosexual scouts, can be sexually active. If a scout messes up, the organization still works with him—as a ministry must. But it does not allow, facilitate, or condone sexual behavior from any scout. And it is also true that no scout leader associated with an LDS troop would be allowed to continue leadership if he/she has sex outside of marriage. This is not a sexual-orientation discrimination; it is the standard for any adult.

The LDS Church came out with a statement following Monday’s vote. It surprised some people, because the outcome of the vote was predicted. And so far the vote made it clear that sponsoring organizations still get to decide on their leadership. So the Church’s disapproval and statement that it would look seriously at continued association with the Boy Scouts appears ominous.

I do not know what the Church will decide. I personally am hoping we will have some years yet with Boy Scouts. I love many things about Scouting. Besides the oath and law, I love the uniforms, the badges, the variety of activities, the Courts of Honor, where young boys watch others being honored and see that as something to strive for. I also know that the President of the Church, Thomas S. Monson, loves Scouting. He is a long-time proponent and supporter. It may be that his love of Scouting has kept the association going as long as it has.

But the Church is a worldwide church. Over half of the membership is outside the US, in many countries that do not have Scouting as an auxiliary program. So the Church has long had a parallel program, called Duty to God, which young men have worked on simultaneously with Scouting where both were available.

In short, Scouting needs the LDS Church much more than the LDS Church needs Scouting. And some other religions also have alternative organizations they can turn to.

The LDS Church sponsors nearly four out of every ten BSA units. In our local Sam Houston Area Council, only about 20% are LDS sponsored, but about 40% of funding comes from LDS units. So even where the numbers aren’t as large, the influence and usefulness is greater than expected. In Utah, 90% of BSA units are LDS sponsored, and it is likely the funding approaches nearly all. If the Church were to leave BSA in Utah, properties couldn’t be maintained, funding sources would dry up, and boys would be hard pressed to find a troop to belong to.

The Church makes up only about 2% of the US population, yet has a huge impact on the Boy Scouts—the largest and best organization for positively affecting the lives of young men. The salt of the earth. The leaven in the loaf.

Why wouldn’t the Church stay with Scouts, if there’s no force insisting they allow homosexual scout leaders? It will be the trajectory. In 2000 the Supreme Court ruled that Boy Scouts and other organizations got to decide who qualifies for membership, which quieted the assault from the pro-homosexual lobby. But by then there were businesses and organizations that refused to deal with the Boy Scouts, or allow them to use facilities—claiming they were discriminatory. Despite the ruling, a decade later the organization voted to change membership requirements (allowing openly gay scouts—which, outside LDS troops, could mean sexually active).

Only two years later Monday’s vote allows homosexuals active in the lifestyle to be troop leaders, at the discretion of local units. For anyone who followed the tragic sexual assault trials of the 80s and 90s, and has been through the safety training since, you might recognize what a sad day this is. [In Defending the Boy Scouts, Part II, I document numbers.] And yet, rather than recognizing the risk to the boys, the pressure is for the Boy Scouts to change their morals. There is huge pressure in the world to normalize homosexual behavior, to condone it and call it wholesome. The pressure continues to include ostracism, refusal to work with and to allow use of facilities, and refusal to support financially.

What happens when units that allow homosexual leaders start insisting that those who don’t are bigoted and should be shunned? What if they refuse to allow them to join in at jamborees and other events? What if the vote in a couple more years requires acceptance of homosexual leaders? It’s still speculation, but not unwarranted.

What is certain is that the pro-homosexual lobby has been successful in wording the situation as a discrimination issue, rather than a moral issue. The world is declaring that tolerance for sexual immorality is a moral imperative, but that standing up for Biblical principles of sexual purity is immoral. Calling evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20).

It is still true that not all really good men can be a good scoutmaster, but a scoutmaster has to be a really good man. It is not possible to be an otherwise good man while being sexually immoral. And it is a fallacy that a person can be sexually immoral while being perfectly good in every other way.

The truth is that people who hate civilization, and hate the Boy Scouts for the values they promote, have never wanted to open up the organization, to make it more inclusive—to make it better. They have always had as an ultimate goal to destroy the organization. They won’t be sad when there is no Boy Scout organization for them to belong to; they will rejoice when there is no Boy Scout organization for any boy to belong to.

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