I got caught flat-footed. Just after I posted my tribute to the Boy Scouts of America (and National Geographic as well) for not caving to GLAAD, the BSA put out word that they might renege on their stance.
I had failed in the Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared.” I have told people through the years that that little phrase helped make me who I am -- that it taught me from youth up to be agile and adaptable, and to expect, even welcome, danger and challenges with confidence. Because I was always prepared. Yet I was not prepared for this announcement.
As the traditional foundations of our society have crumbled around us, it had been a source of great satisfaction to me to see scouting hold on to the old formula: God, self, others. Those three things are what the three fingers of the Scout salute stand for. But the way things are going, the “God” part may soon fall, and soon I would expect the emphasis on “others,” including country, to diminish. That would make it an organization about “self,” much like oh-so-many others in our day (even some churches). With an accompanying one-finger salute. Ironically, “self” is the middle finger.
You may be saying, “Get scouting caught up with the times!” Make it relevant and cool! But when was scouting ever supposed to be cool? Even a long time ago, when I was a kid, Scouts were the “uncool.” That is where the “morally straight” part comes in. So it fit that scouting would take a stand against homosexual activity in its ranks. It took a stand against sexual immorality of any stripe. It took a stand FOR God, at least in the USA. We were not supposed to be cool in the worldly sense.
Add to that the trust factor. It was hard enough for parents to trust others to take their sons out for training, for weekends or even weeks of camping and wilderness hikes. I remember a case where a church had to deal with rumors that one of the Scout leaders was secretly gay and that he had made moves on some of the boys. There was an explosion that almost tore the sponsoring church apart. The troop was demolished. What parents would want this to happen to their sons? One of the reasons they had SUPPORTED scouting so much was the simple fact that, in contrast to the “cool kids” parties and clubs and outings, this group was all about morality and self-discipline.
There was a time when to be an Eagle Scout meant that you had an automatic job at many companies. Some branches of the service at one time granted an officer’s commission. I was in a scout troop with a kid who has since become one of the true leaders in American business. His net worth is now in the billions. Yes, you would probably know his name. He built his company from scratch. I have been told that, once his company grew large, he would not hire senior executives unless they had been Eagle Scouts. That is what he thought of it.
If the Boy Scouts of America make this move, it is reported that they will still leave the option of keeping the ban on gay leaders and members to the local sponsors. What does that do? It removes liability for potential lawsuits and opens up thousands of churches and other organizations to legal targeting by groups that simply are there to pound a point.
Even worse, it removes a code of honor and decency regarding morality OF ALL KINDS from the entire movement. To many, that will be a death knell. To those of us who grew up in Scouts when times were different – we will always be Scouts, as founder Robert Baden-Powell himself expressed in his final letter (see below). To those who have not known such a movement or such a code yet, it may be time for someone else to rise up with a new movement and set a standard and retain it with a stronger spine. We hope and pray that the Boys Scouts of America reconsider.
Try and leave this world a little better than you found it and when your turn comes to die, you can die happy in feeling that at any rate you have not wasted your time but have done your best. 'Be Prepared' in this way, to live happy and to die happy — stick to your Scout Promise always — even after you have ceased to be a boy — and God help you to do it. (From Baden-Powell’s Final Letter to the Scouts. )