“A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.” Boy Scout Law “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.” Boy Scout Oath
Well, it seems that the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) requires not merely moral straightness, but sexual and gender straightness as well, for no gay, bisexual, or transgender scouts (youth members) or scouters (adult leaders) have the right and privilege of membership in the organization. According to their position on homosexuality: “Boy Scouts of America believes that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the obligations in the Scout Oath and Scout Law to be morally straight and clean in thought, word, and deed.” Actually, no atheist or agnostic need apply either since the Boy Scouts of America “Anthem” proclaims that “The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God.The recognition of God as the ruling and leading power in the universe and the grateful acknowledgment of His favors and blessings are necessary to the best type of citizenship and are wholesome precepts in the education of the growing members.”
The United States Supreme Court in 2000 affirmed BSA’s right as a private organization to bar anyone, including gay, bisexual, and transgender scouts and scouters from membership under the First Amendment’s “freedom of association” clause when “the presence of that person affects in a significant way the group’s ability to advocate public or private viewpoints.” The justices ruled that since BSA opposes homosexuality as part of its “expressive message,” allowing homosexuals into the organization would interfere with that message. The case involved an assistant scoutmaster, James Dale, a student at Rutgers University and co-president of the Lesbian and Gay Student Alliance, who attended a forum in 1990 on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender health issues. He was interviewed for a local newspaper in which he came out as gay. Boy Scouts officials read the article, and notified Dale that he had been terminated from his position. Dale won his case in the New Jersey Supreme Court, but the U.S. high court overturned the lower decision in favor of the defendants: the BSA. Now we hear that the BSA has asked Jennifer Tyrrill, lesbian mom and scout leader of her son Cruz’s den, to leave her post because as reported, she did not “meet the high standards of membership that the Boy Scouts of America seek.” What “high standards” has Tyrrill not met? Over the past year, while serving as den leader, the cubs in her den volunteered at a local soup kitchen, collected canned goods for neighboring churches to distribute in food baskets, and performed a conservation project at a state park. The Girl Scouts of American and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America organizations proudly welcome and appreciate members and leaders of all sexual and gender identities. The Girl Scouts, for example, has, indeed, fulfilled its own written promises and laws “to be Honest and Fair, Friendly and Helpful, Considerate and Caring, Courageous and Strong, and Responsible.” But how can a boy scout or scout leader truly adhere to the Boy Scout Law of being “trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent” when the BSA clings to its blatantly prejudicial, discriminatory, and quite frankly, offensive “expressive message” on issues of sexual identity? I have made a commitment since the Boys Scouts of America v. Dale Supreme Court decision to refrain from donating money to the United Way until and unless it stops funding the BSA and directs pressure on the organization to change its policies. I would welcome a national response opposing BSA’s current policy in the form of a letter writing campaign, boycott of funds, and for those so inclined, abandonment of the organization as scouts and as leaders until BSA joins with other youth organizations to honor and cherish diversity of the human experience and of the human spirit.
Former Associate Professor at the School of Education at Iowa State University and currently in the College of Education, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of “The What, The So What, and The Now What of Social Justice Education”, and “Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice”, co-editor of “Readings for Diversity and Social Justice”, editor of “Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price”, co-editor of “Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States”, and co-author of “Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life”.