In Theory: Should Boy Scouts end ban on gays?

The Boy Scouts of America has sent its members a survey as part of its ongoing debate over whether to repeal or continue its ban on gay members. Instead of asking for a simple yes or no, the questionnaire goes into depth on several topics, for example sleeping arrangements and the place of faith in Scout groups' decisions.

It's this question of faith that is provoking the most comments about the survey. Scouts must take an oath "to do my duty to God" and many groups are sponsored by religious organizations. There are concerns that if the survey tends toward lifting the ban on gay members, there will be a split within the Scouts that could lead to an exodus of thousands of those who put their religious beliefs above their membership of the Scouts.

Writing in British newspaper The Guardian, American journalist Katherine Stewart says that the organization's biases lie "as much with its promotion of religious conviction as they do with its anti-gay sentiments," and that some of the questions reveal that "[there are] people who continue to see same-sex attractions as a moral failure and who are evidently entitled to use their religion as a cover for their bigotry."

Boy Scouts of America's gay-exclusion policy has led to several ACLU lawsuits, with the argument being that the preferential treatment of Scouting groups by the federal government in terms of facilities and land usage is unconstitutional. Some service groups have ended their financial support for the Scouts because of the organization's perceived biases.

Q: Do you think Boy Scouts of America should end its ban on gay members, regardless of what it might mean for the organization's future?


Adults' utmost duty to youth is to protect them. This dovetails neatly with the Boy Scouts oath to "To help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight." A strong path toward keeping young people safe, and helping them remain mentally awake, is exposing them to a good education. Young people must learn to understand those who live around them.

One of the things that young people can be taught is that there is a difference between sexual orientation and a sexual predator. No matter how charismatic the leader, there is never an excuse for inappropriate touching. However, to assume that every potential Scout leader or Scout applicant who is gay is a predator is to perpetrate a huge prejudice. Sexuality is a combination of many factors about which most of science can only speculate. Sexual orientation seems to be as mysterious as being left-handed.

Predatory behavior is learned. Usually, the predator was at one time the prey. Clinical psychologist Anna C. Salter, Ph.D., in her book, "Pedophiles, Rapists, and other Sex Offenders," subscribes to the prevailing opinion that most sexual offenders seem to be heterosexual.

Regardless of sexual orientation, Scout leaders, and all adults, should be carefully screened and vetted to insure the safety of the children. Once that is successfully accomplished, they can be considered role models for all children because they will protect the children as the children learn and grow.

Churches and other institutions are beginning to understand right morals as a caring responsibility for our sisters and brothers. What a blessing the Boy Scouts could be if they became safe harbors for young boys who have been taunted and bullied because of their perceived sexual orientation. This would take a lot of internal work and refocusing. But if the Boy Scouts organization became "a strong tower where the righteous run in and they are safe," like the image of the name of the Lord described in Proverbs 18: 10, the Boy Scouts would have succeeded in reinventing it self as a vital group, ready for the 21st century.

The Rev. Dr. William Thomas Jr.
Little White Chapel


Jesus told his disciples, "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men" (Matthew 5:13).

The Boy Scouts of America should not change its membership policies. Helping young men know and follow a standard of biblically-based morality is a good thing, even as salt is good for both preservation and flavor. The Boy Scouts of America should not allow those who oppose morality to "leach out" their convictions based on godliness, virtue and purity. If they do, their organization will only become just another once-wholesome but now washed-out, worldly and compromised organization, like so many churches that have abandoned the Bible's clear teaching on the nature of marriage and sexuality.

At this point there are two possibilities for the future of the Boy Scouts of America. Becoming "good for nothing" and "trampled under foot by men" will be the consequence if they cave in. Being honored by God before men will be the consequence if they remain steadfast in the face of the wicked pressure against them.

Pastor Jon Barta
Valley Baptist Church


Very definitely yes, yes, end the ban on gays in Scouting and then let the chips fall where they may. The Boy Scouts are like lots of institutions in America, including churches. And Christianity, like America itself, is split on what to do about gays and lesbians.

Some denominations, including my own, the United Church of Christ, have ordained gays and lesbians, so it goes without saying that gays and lesbians are welcome in our churches. I'm not saying that we're all singing, "Kumbaya" just yet, but we are having the conversation.

Some of my own church members say that gays are welcome in our church, but they shouldn't practice their homosexuality; those members, I believe, are in a minority. More, I expect, think it isn't anyone else's business how two people decide to make love, so practicing gays are welcome as they are, as God made them. Again, we're only just now having the conversation about whether we should have the conversation.

But to me it's clear that it's a civil rights issue, just as whether we should associate with members of other races was the issue a generation ago. More Americans are in favor of gay rights than are against them, and the Supreme Court is being made to wrestle with this very issue.

The church — and the Boy Scouts of America — had better get with the times and recognize that these new Samaritans in our midst, the gays and lesbians, are people, too, and deserve every bit as much respect, and the same rights, as the rest of us. Could the Holy Spirit of God actually be moving out ahead of the church? It wouldn't be the first time. Come on, Boy Scouts, change or die. And the same is true for you, too, church.

The Rev. Skip Lindeman
La Cañada Congregational Church
La Cañada Flintridge


Scouting is a private organization created in part to foster faith in God, a goal expressed in the South Oath and Scout Pledge. No doubt this focus on shared values had much to do with the LDS church's decision long ago to incorporate Scouting in its youth programs.

The church hasn't taken a public position on whether Scouting ought to accept gays, nor do we know how LDS leaders will respond if they do.

Personally, I think it's quite possible Scouting will change, given the recent shifts we've seen in public opinion. But should the ban end? Only if this is what Scouts, their parents and leaders want. The Supreme Court has upheld Scouting's 1st Amendment right to set criteria for membership. To try to force change from the outside would be counterproductive and, in itself, discriminatory.

LDS leaders are making a sincere effort to let those with same-sex attraction know that they are welcome in the church. They are encouraged to fully participate by attending meetings, taking the sacrament and accepting "callings," or positions, in church organizations. I hope that more will accept this invitation.

Press reports indicate that questions in the survey suggest that religious groups involved in Scouting believe that homosexuality is "wrong." We do not believe that same-sex attraction is wrong, any more than heterosexual feelings are wrong. The issue is not how we feel, but how we behave.

Stewart criticizes BSA for using a survey in its decision-making process. Given the strong feelings that exist on both sides, I believe the survey is a good idea. It allows those involved in Scouting to express their views and to carefully consider specific circumstances they are likely to if changes are adopted. I don't think that is unreasonable.

Michael White
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
La Crescenta


Let's be clear: This is a question of honesty, not a question of membership or admission. There are already gay Boy Scouts. There always have been. This is not an issue of "letting them in" or not; it's a question of whether those who are already in are allowed to be honest about who they are.

And you'd think that honesty would be prominent on the list of Boy Scout values, a vital component of the integrity of character that the Scouts are famous for instilling and upholding.

And in the face of today's epidemic of teen bullying, which often targets the most tender kids, those beginning to discover their sexuality, you'd think that the Scouts would be the first people to stand up and say no; to protect, and teach their boys to protect, those whom their crueler peers might attack.

If the Scouts are concerned with forming boys into men, then aren't the best concerns about forming, whether gay or straight, men of honesty and courage, with the strength and security to accept and defend those who are different?

Actually, my guess is that the best among Scouts already have all the right integrity regarding their gay brothers. The younger generations don't even see it as an issue; they blink and shrug and move on with their lives.

It's high time the adults caught up with their kids' better values.

The Rev. Amy Pringle
St. George's Episcopal Church
La Cañada Flintridge


Currently the Boy Scouts of America is in the middle of a decision-making process of re-examining its long-standing policy of excluding gays from both leadership and membership.

The constitutionality of the rights of the Boy Scouts of America to exclude gays was determined in 2000 by the Supreme Court. In a 5-4 decision the court determined that as a private organization, the Boy Scouts could decide and enforce their own membership criteria. This led to numerous charitable organizations (for example United Way) pulling their funding from the Boy Scouts organization.

Earlier this year, the national organization considered allowing the exclusion decision to be made at the local troop level, but then decided to defer making a decision until after its annual national meeting this May. Currently they are conducting a major poll of past and present members and leaders to get input regarding attitudes toward inclusion of gays. A major purpose of the poll is to assess the possible impact of changing or continuing with the present exclusion policy.

While not a religiously affiliated organization, more than 70% of Boy Scout troops are chartered by a broad spectrum of faith-based organizations, so their subsequent policy decision will have significant impact regardless of which choice they make.

I hope that the Boy Scouts will not allow this potential impact to be the major influence in their policy decision. I pray that they will have the integrity to define and assert what their values and standards are, and to exercise their freedom and right to determine the qualifications of any young man for membership or leadership. And whatever their decision, the rest of us should respect their right for self-determination.

Pastor Ché Ahn
HRock Church


I do not think the Boy Scouts should end its ban. I recognize that there is a small percentage of people in this country who identify as homosexual, and a vastly smaller number who would have any concern regarding participation in this private, masculinity-development organization, but there are no sexuality badges to earn, and I think that homosexuality should not even enter into the conversation with regard to the Boy Scout boys. Given that they are kids, sexuality is barely a consideration until puberty is reached, and that's precisely when it needs to be cultivated toward normal heterosexual sensibilities. Heterosexuality should be presumed, and boys should be taught how to be men as they transition from Cub Scouts all the way through to Eagle Scouts.

Every Scout pledges to be "morally straight," and to do their "duty to God." If something is to be morally straight, it is to be as defined by God, who determines the morality of everything. Homosexuality is condemned as a terrible sin according to God, and anyone who worships God cannot encourage the acceptance of something God has clearly forbidden. To cater to a noisy minority rather than to obey almighty God is self-destructive. If the BSA abandons its oaths and pledges, votes away its safeties, and simply does camping and crafts, then it might as well merge with the Girl Scouts and just forget its unique mission.

Homosexuality seems, to me, more of an issue pertaining to Scout leaders than to the boys, however. Since homosexuality is defined by a person's sexual attraction to others of the same gender, wouldn't it be unwise to put such people into leadership positions where the whole rank constitutes objects of their desire?

I, my father, and my son were all Scouts. Let the ban stand.

The Rev. Bryan Griem
Montrose Community Church


I believe that the ban should be lifted and that eventually it will be. As society's (and religion's) acceptance of homosexuality evolves, so inevitably must the Boy Scouts of America. It is hypocritical of the Scouts to argue that their private status makes banning gays OK without even bothering to deny that they discriminate.

I wonder if the BSA has seen the writing on the wall in time, or has its long history of exclusion irreparably harmed its reputation?

The group claims that many fewer young boys are joining Cub Scouts even though that age group of boys has grown in number.

The survey results will be revealing, but fair treatment can't be left up to public opinion and our tax dollars should never subsidize discrimination.

Roberta Medford


Although the Boy Scouts may have the right to restrict their membership by not accepting gay Scouts or leaders, I do not believe that they should do so, particularly on moral grounds. There is now overwhelming scientific evidence to support the assertion that being gay or straight is not a moral decision but a physically determined one, existing throughout the entire animal kingdom. That being the case, would it be all right to limit membership in the Boy Scouts on the basis of race, nationality, or other inherited characteristics? I doubt that most thinking people today would agree to that.

The reasons for the banning of gay members from their ranks seems to be from the conflation of the beliefs of some religious traditions with the infrastructure of the Boy Scouts organization, not based on behaviors but on stereotypes. However, BSA is not a religious institution, limited to only the most restrictive beliefs among their members. It is an organization that encourages Scouts to be "trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent" — not fundamentalist.

Coming from a religious denomination that welcomes gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people into both membership and ministry, I cannot condone the exclusion of gay youth and leaders from the Boy Scouts. I can understand their fear that they may lose some people from their ranks by lifting the ban. But that possibility does not make continuing with the status quo kind, brave, or reverent. If the Boy Scouts are to live the values they profess with integrity, I believe their path is clear.

The Rev. Dr. Betty Stapleford
Unitarian Universalist Church of the Verdugo Hills
La Crescenta


We make statements by our actions and our inactions. When an organization like the Boy Scouts has a policy that attempts to isolate and exclude a segment of our population, it is sending a loud-and-clear message to America and the world. One message it seems to be sending is that homosexuals are a stigmatized group of Americans that are so beyond normal that the Scouts must have rules against association with them. The Scouts are wise to be reconsidering their policy this year.

As a valuable part of society and leadership in our country, it is time for Boy Scouts to accept the changes in society. There was controversy in the Scouts near the beginning over including African American youth in Scout troops. Segregated troops existed until the 1940s. The Scouts changed as society changed on issues of color and segregation. The Boy Scouts can play a leadership role again in demonstrating the benefit to all of society in embracing all of our people.

The Scouts can also take the courageous step of refusing to hide the truth of the presence of homosexual individuals in all parts of Scouting today. As the United States Army ends don't ask, don't tell, it is not finally admitting homosexuals into the army for the first time. It is instead being honest about the presence that has always been there. The Boy Scouts of America should honestly face the future and end the ban and accept the consequences, both positive and negative, that the change in policy will bring.

Steven Gibson


I have never fully understood how an organization filled with good men committed to raising more good men could feel right and moral about a decision to exclude any boy or any male mentor who could help him negotiate the wilderness of adolescence.

If the Boy Scouts had not been so successful in becoming a readily recognized, ubiquitous element of American culture, I suppose their exclusive policies would not ultimately matter. People looking for such an experience would simply shop elsewhere. But because the BSA is so large, and traditionally intertwined with churches and patriotism, a rejection by the BSA must feel less like the rejection of a private club and more like a rejection by God, church and country. And since the denial happens at a local troop level, one is also rejected by neighbors and peers. My heart hurts for the child who goes in search of friends and camping and finds multiple layers of rejection.

Different movements rise up when existing institutions are not sufficiently flexible to meet current needs. New organizations are already springing up to attract the families and leaders who have a different vision. The Boys Scouts worry that becoming more inclusive will mean that they lose members, but I wonder if they are counting how many families go elsewhere because the Scouts are exclusive.

The United Methodist Church continues to struggle with the same question, and I have not left it. Nor have thousands of GLBT members and clergy. We stay in the organization because we love it and therefore want to keep the question alive. We want to come around the rejected people with affirmation; push for human rights and dignity; and keep the concept of God's will and God's truth from calcifying around old prejudices and traditional assumptions of who and what is good and holy. I know people love the Scouts in the same way, and so will keep doing the same hard work, not for a principle, but for the child who needs friends, self-confidence, and camping.

The Rev. Paige Eaves
Crescenta Valley United Methodist Church

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