14 March 2013

I loved being a member of the Boy Scouts of America as a young man. I built friendships that have lasted a lifetime. I first became interested in law, economics, electronics and computers while working on merit badges and participating in scout activities. With my troop, I backpacked across some of the most beautiful wilderness in the inter-mountain west. I served on staff at regular scout camps, as a trainer at Junior Leader Training camps, and attended the 1985 National Jamboree as a staff member.

I have been registered as leader for most of my adult life, and currently serve on the scout committee of the troop chartered to my LDS Ward.

But my relationship with scouting has been dysfunctional for years. Some time ago I began to feel uncomfortable with the BSA policy of excluding homosexuals (and atheists as well, but that’s a different blog post…). I believe (and I am confident that scientific research clearly shows) that the range of human sexuality is not a binary state, but that it exists upon a continuum; and that same sex attraction qualifies as an innate and unchangeable characteristic no different from hair or skin color. I’m sure most people have heard this example before, but I know that there was no point in my life at which I said to myself “hmmm, I think I will be sexually attracted to women and not men.” I no more made the choice to be heterosexual than I made the choice to have a second toe longer than the first.

It is on this basis, that gender identity and attraction is innate and no different from race, that I find that I cannot support laws and institutions that treat homosexuals differently than their heterosexual counterparts.

With the recent announcement that the BSA is considering changing it’s policy of excluding homosexuals, I was asked to complete a survey by my local BSA council. The following is my response in the “other comment” section of that survey.

I am an Eagle Scout, Vigil Honor Member and District Award of Merit holder. I am also an active member of the LDS Church. Over the last several years however, I have been reducing both my financial support and my time invested in the BSA over precisely this issue. The following example presupposes an understanding of youth programs in the LDS church, but should still be easily understandable to those outside that circle.

Imagine a Mormon boy between 12 and 18. This young man also happens to be a homosexual. He has been interviewed and found worthy to hold a priesthood office and fulfill responsibilities in a quorum (openly homosexual males can have the priesthood in the LDS church). He attends the temple regularly with his young men’s group (temple recommends are allowed for chaste homosexuals). With the recent change in mission age eligibility he plans to serve a 2-year proselytizing mission as soon as he graduates high school (allowed as well).

Yet, during these formative years, when he should be building character, relationships and skills that will last him a lifetime, he is excluded from camp-outs and activities. He can’t experience the fun and learning of working on merit badges, or the pride of receiving awards his friends and fellow Mormons receive. This, solely because the BSA won’t allow him to be a Boy Scout. How can this be just? How can it qualify as being Kind, or Friendly?

While the courts may continue to rule that there is sound legal basis for such an exclusionary policy as is currently in place, not a single person has been able to state to me a rational, ethical or moral argument for continuing what is clearly offensive discrimination and unfortunate exclusion on an unjust basis.

It’s time that we moved on and caught up with most of the rest of the civilized world on this issue.

(Note: My response was inspired by this post.)



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