The Boy Scouts Cave In

The Boy Scouts have fought long and hard against being forced to include avowed homosexuals in its ranks as either Scouts or scoutmasters. In the Boy Scouts of America v. Dale (2000), the Supreme Court upheld the Boy Scouts’ First Amendment right of expressive association in removing an assistant scoutmaster who was “an avowed homosexual and gay rights activist.”

In writing for the majority, Chief Justice William Rehnquist said that the “presence [of the avowed homosexual] in the Boy Scouts would, at the very least, force the organization to send a message, both to the youth members and the world, that the Boy Scouts accepts homosexual conduct as a legitimate form of behavior.” Forcing the Scouts to do this would have violated their First Amendment right because, as the Court noted, the Boy Scouts asserts that it “teach[es] that homosexual conduct is not morally straight,” and that it does “not want to promote homosexual conduct as a legitimate form of behavior.”

This just changed. On May 23, 2013, the Boy Scouts of America’s national governing body voted to lift its long-standing ban on openly homosexual youth in the program. Effective January 1, 2014, “No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”

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The organization, as Justice Rehnquist might express it, just sent a message. It’s the same message that the homosexual activist was trying to force the Scouts to send back in 2000—“that the Boy Scouts accepts homosexual conduct as a legitimate form of behavior.” Does this seem too harsh an assessment?

The official position of the Scouts had been to “not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals” (emphasis added). A BSA June 28, 2000 press release stated that “Boy Scouting makes no effort to discover the sexual orientation of any person. Scouting’s message is compromised when prospective leaders present themselves as role models inconsistent with Boy Scouting’s understanding of the Scout Oath and Law.”

In other words, the Scouts had a rule somewhat similar to the “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” policy that the US military entertained and, for the same reason, it was not allowed to stand. It interfered with the rationalization for homosexual behavior. In other words, by announcing their proclivities publicly, “open” homosexuals are not only telling others that they have accepted themselves as active homosexuals; they are insisting that others accept them on that basis, as well. What otherwise would be the reason for openly declaring their sexual proclivities?

On June 7, 2012 the Scouts’ policy had been not to “grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA. Scouting believes same-sex attraction should be introduced and discussed outside of its program with parents, caregivers, or spiritual advisers, at the appropriate time and in the right setting.”

Why, less than a year later, is this no longer true?

By now accepting openly homosexual members, the Boy Scouts are, at the very least, certainly going to be dealing with a major distraction (can homosexual Scouts bunk together?). But what is much worse, it is implicitly accepting the rationalization for homosexual sexual behavior as part of its moral formation. This will make the Scouts complicit in the corruption of youth. It is avoiding doing this explicitly by continuing to insist on chastity from its Scouts in its policy that that “any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting.” However, if it is accepting the homosexual inclination as legitimate, what then could be wrong with the thing toward which it is inclined, meaning homosexual behavior?

“I’ve waited 13 years for this,” said Matt Comer, now 27, who had to leave his scout troop at age 14 after he started a Gay-Straight Alliance at his school. Since the fourth grade, he said Thursday to the New York Times, he had dreamed of becoming an Eagle Scout and was crushed when he was denied the chance. “Today we finally have some justice for me and others,” he said. “But gay youths will still be told they are no longer welcome when they turn 18.”

But what Mr Comer had done by starting his Gay-Straight Alliance was directly to challenge the teachings and regulations of the Boy Scouts. In other words, rather than abide by the rules of the organization he had voluntarily joined, he insisted on his own rules to the extent to which the Boy Scouts must be made to conform to them. That is Mr. Comer’s idea of justice: conforming others to his will.

This is what makes it particularly hilarious to read the cant used by the homosexual movement to celebrate its victory. It’s all now about inclusiveness. Reuters reported that the founder of Scouts for Equality, “Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout raised by two lesbians, said the time had come for change. ‘There is nothing Scout-like about exclusion of other people, and there is nothing Scout-like about putting your own religious beliefs before someone else’s’.”

Apparently, Wahls failed to notice that the new policy will lead to the exclusion of many more people than the policy excluding open homosexuals did. He also neglected to notice that the Scouts have not yet been stripped of their requirement that Scouts must possess a belief in God in order to be a member. Why should the Scouts any longer be allowed to get away with this exclusive requirement? Think of all the atheists who want to go Scouting. Should they be denied this experience simply to uphold a belief in God? Why shouldn’t the Scouts be forced to deny that principle so that the atheist can go camping? Wouldn’t this also be “compassionate, caring and kind,” as Wayne Brock, the paid chief executive of the Boy Scouts, characterized his decision on homosexual Scouts? No, in fact, it would not be those warm and fuzzy things; it would be derelict in denying the fundamental principle of the importance of belief in God in forming manly character—just as this decision was derelict in ineluctably accepting the rationalization for homosexuality.

Now, to the newly excluded by newly included. The New York Times reported that:

Allison Mackey of Hanover, Pa., has five sons—one an Eagle Scout, three now active in scouting and an eight-year-old who had planned to join. The family has discussed the issue and reached a decision, she said: all the sons were willing to abandon the Boy Scouts if openly gay members are allowed. “The Boy Scouts are something we’ve really enjoyed because they celebrate manliness and leadership,” she said. But she added that she and her husband were “looking to encourage our sons in traditional Christian values. To stand by principles would be difficult,” she said. “But we’re going to have to say ‘no.’ The organization is giving up freedom.”

What freedom might that be? Well, certainly the freedom not to be instrumentalized by the homosexual movement to move its agenda through society. The Boy Scout leadership must see that this is what it has allowed to happen. And it is only the beginning.

Under tremendous pressure, the Boy Scouts finally flinched when it allowed its principles to be put up for a vote and now, after the vote, it caved. Alas, it was the last significant private institution in United States standing against the homosexual juggernaut, which only just last year took down the US military. The proposed compromise seems slightly disingenuous since there had never been a sexual orientation litmus test for entering Scouts, and the only thing disallowed was the open promotion of the homosexual cause. Therefore, what does this policy change mean, if not the abandonment of the prohibition of such promotion? If you accept the promotion, you accept what it teaches. No matter how the Boy Scout leadership tries to camouflage it, that is what is so iniquitous about their cave-in.

This decision was like throwing red meat to the wolves. They will want more. And more is already being asked for.

“Today’s vote is a significant victory for gay youth across the nation and a clear indication that the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay adult leaders will also inevitably end,” GLAAD spokesman Rich Ferraro said. “We’ll continue urging corporate donors and public officials to withhold their support,” until the leadership issue is resolved.

How will the Boy Scouts stand in the winds that blow against then? They will have to reap the wild wind and not much will be left standing. Alas, it was a great group and it need not have acceded to its own demise. It could have continued fighting—according to the very principles of courage and leadership that they are supposed to be instilling in the young.

Editor’s note: This essay first appeared Friday, May 24, 2013 on and is reprinted under a Creative Commons license.


  • Robert R. Reilly

    Robert R. Reilly is the author of America on Trial: A Defense of the Founding, forthcoming from Ignatius Press.

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