Family Research Council

Boy Scouts Should Stand on Principle, Not Bow to Pressure

By Rob Schwarzwalder


Rob Schwarzwalder is Senior Vice President at Family Research Council. This article appeared in The Christian Post on February 5, 2013.


The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) may be on the brink of eliminating their historic policy of not permitting openly homosexual leaders or Scouts. Although the new policy reportedly would still allow local Scout sponsors to maintain the traditional policy, homosexual activists will claim partial victory in their ongoing, and ironic, exercise of intolerance in the name of "tolerance" and forced uniformity in the name of "diversity."

Many people who view the Boy Scout policy on homosexuality as "discriminatory" or "exclusionary" actually misunderstand the nature of the policy. Contrary to the claims of the anti-Scout forces, the Boy Scouts do not exclude anyone based on "who they are." The text of the Boy Scouts' policy reads as follows: "While the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not 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."

Only six months ago, on July 17, 2012, the Boy Scouts announced that the policy would remain in place, adding this explanation: "The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers, and at the appropriate time and in the right setting."

In other words, the issues are appropriate sexual conduct and appropriate topics of discussion within Scouting. Throughout history, sexual conduct has been subject to constraints within systems of moral values. It has always been clear from the Boy Scouts' mission statement that their purpose is to "instill values in young people and ... prepare them to make ethical choices," and the Scout Oath includes a pledge "to keep myself ... morally straight." Scouts were founded in the context of a Judeo-Christian moral structure; to this day, Boys Life magazine features a Bible story in every issue. The source of the values the Scouts have sought to instill has never been in question.

While some people may disagree with the view that values, ethics, or morals require abstinence from homosexual conduct, it is hardly unusual that parents and leaders of Boy Scouts believe this. In fact, it remains a majority viewpoint even in the general public. The American Values Survey, taken in September 2012, found that 52 percent of Americans believe "sex between two adults of the same gender" is "morally wrong," while only 42 percent consider it "morally acceptable." By the same 52 percent to 42 percent margin, a majority of all Americans (not just those involved with Scouting) told a December 2012 Gallup Poll that they oppose any change to the Boy Scouts' policy. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in 2000, in the case Boy Scouts of American et al. v. Dale, that the Scouts, as a "values-based" organization, have a constitutional right to maintain their convictions regarding moral standards, including standards of sexual conduct.

The policy barring homosexual Scoutmasters is a key part of Scouting's efforts to reduce the risk of sexual abuse of Scouts - a risk that is already, tragically, well known. If it is reasonable to bar adult men who are sexually attracted to females from leading overnight camping expeditions with Girl Scouts - as I believe it is - then it is equally reasonable to bar men who are sexually attracted to other males from leading such activities within the Boy Scouts.

Those who are unhappy with the Boy Scouts' policy are free to form their own, new youth development organization - call it the "Diversity Scouts." What they should not do is demand that millions of young people and adult volunteers be forced to abandon the principles for which the Boy Scouts have always stood.

Parents, Scouts, and leaders are likely to abandon the Boy Scouts of America in droves if the organization abandons them.