I am an Eagle Scout.
Eagle’s a rank you’re supposed to carry with you into life. That’s why even though it has been ten years since I earned the rank, and many since I have been active in scouting, it is still part of who I am. It’s an honor that takes a lot of hard work, a lot of investment of your time and others, and something only 2% of people in Boy Scouts achieve.
And you can’t earn that rank if you’re gay.
I’ll be honest with you. It’s taken me a little while to come around on whether or not the Boy Scouts should allow gay members. They are a private organization after all and have the right to make their own decisions (they’ve defended and won that right in court). There are a set of values that are part of being a scout, and you don’t raise very high in the ranks without embodying those values in some way.
Scouts memorize an oath, a law, and a motto (“Be prepared”):
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.
A Scout is:
- and Reverent.
While the law and oath both mention good moral behavior, the Boy Scouts is not a “Christian” organization. The God mentioned here is the same God on our money, the one who blesses our country. In our troop we had people of all faiths, and even people who questioned their faith. Yet all were allowed to participate and rise in the ranks.
For a while I’ve looked at this question of excluding gay scouts from the perspective of my teenage self. I’ve felt that the Boy Scouts was being picked on, that it had a right to believe what it wanted, and it was not the business of the outside world to try to change it. If you weren’t a scout, I wasn’t interested in your opinion on scouting. I don’t know what I was defending exactly. I’d cloak it in being pragmatic, that it might make campouts more awkward, or would increase the amount of bullying.
There are real concerns, but a well run troop with good adult and scout leadership is equipped to handle them. Bullying happens at that age for all kinds of reasons, and is not something that scouts tolerate for long. Neither is hazing. And I doubt that a scout who is gay would have the gumption to thrust himself upon his fellow straight scouts. This is a teenage worry, one not informed by experience but by fear.
I don’t think the government should force the Boy Scouts to accept gay members, and allow them to earn Eagle. That would create an embattled Boy Scouts which would be no more friendly to gays. But I think the Boy Scouts should make the change themselves. The kid who’s prominent in the news this last week was in scouting for over a decade. This is someone who loves the scouts, and if he is close to earning Eagle, then he has given of himself at a time in his life when there are a myriad of other distractions. You can’t earn Eagle after you turn 18, there isn’t all the time in the world.
I encourage present and former members of Troop 332 and the Simon Kenton council (my neck of the Boy Scout woods) to write the Boy Scout Leadership and express their view on what they want their organization to be. This is part of what it means to carry this rank into life.