WASHINGTON, DC, July 18, 2012 — As an Eagle Scout, Order of the Arrow member and National Eagle Scout Association member, I find the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) decision to continue to exclude gays from its membership extremely disappointing. It sends the message that gay youth are not fit to serve God and country, solely because of who they are. This is absolutely the wrong policy for the BSA, one of the most prominent youth development organizations in the United States.
Generations of American men, including the Cooper family, have cherished the Boy Scouts as a place for building character, learning the responsibilities of American citizenship, and developing personal fitness. My younger brother, also an Eagle Scout, and I began our scouting careers by following in the footsteps of our father, who was a Boy Scout in his youth and later a commissioner for our area BSA council. The Cooper men have benefited from and invested in American Scouting since the organization’s founding in 1910, and we would very much like to introduce it to the next generation.
Unfortunately, the BSA is doing all it can to drive me and anyone else who may be gay (or gay-friendly) out of the organization. It is a tragedy that today many Americans associate the Boy Scouts first with the anti-gay policies the organization went to the United States Supreme Court to protect, rather than with its core mission of providing a unique space where boys can grow and develop into honorable men willing to serve their country.
For over a century, the BSA helped build the future leaders of this country by combining educational activities and lifelong values with fun. In the early days of scouting, founder Lord Robert Baden-Powell’s intent was to prepare boys to serve the army in an auxiliary capacity and train them to eventually serve in the army. Even in modern scouting, there remains an historic paramilitary connection with the uniforms and the organizational structure of troops and leadership.
Remember the classic Cold War film, “Red Dawn,” where the Soviet Union invades and occupies the United States? In the film, Boy Scouts are rounded up and hunted down because they were deemed part of the insurgency and a threat to the Communist invaders. After seeing that film, my buddies and I were convinced the Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared!” extended beyond civic duty and woodland prowess. We were prepared to do our duty for national defense. Today, patriotic gays and lesbians are openly serving in the military, and their fitness for duty is not contingent upon sexual orientation. The Boy Scouts should follow suit, or risk being seen as glaringly out of step, not only with modern America, but with its own history.
Today, the BSA often states that “helping youth is a key to building a more conscientious, responsible, and productive society.” I believe this to be true, which is why I strongly disagree with any policy which deprives gay youth of the opportunity to join the Boy Scouts. The confidence and friendships I gained from scouting were vital to my development as an adult, and I can think of no group who would stand to gain more from this organization than gay youth, too many of whom suffer today from depression stemming from their “outsider” status. Scouting could go a long way toward making the world better for these kids.
Hopefully by the time I have children, the BSA will have found its moral compass and corrected course. Many BSA leaders already oppose the policy of exclusion, including two members of our national executive board, Ernst & Young Chief Executive James S. Turley and AT&T Chief Executive Randall Stephenson. It is no surprise these BSA board members also run major companies that have LGBT inclusive personnel policies. The BSA would do well to look to the United States military and corporate America for how to remain relevant while maintaining standards and merit.
Until then, I regret that in the eyes of the organization my BSA credentials and pedigree are invalidated by my God-given orientation. It is time for the BSA to heed the Boy Scout Oath by awakening to the reality that being “morally straight” has nothing to do with sexual orientation, and everything to do with judging others only by the content of their character.
This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.