The recent ruling by the Boy Scouts of America on the continued exclusion of “openly or avowed gay” individuals is detrimental to a progressive society in this country and countermands the teachings in the paths required to attain the highest rank within Boy Scouts, Eagle.
During my tenure as an active Boy Scout, each Troop meeting began with a recital of the Boy Scout Oath:
“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.”
Premised by “morals,” arguments from the BSA cite adherence to the exclusionary nature of their policies in what I firmly believe to be a shallow and fallacious manner. I am of the opinion that the means in reaching this decision is devoid of morals. In addition, it does not support the context of “morally straight” in the Boy Scout Oath.
Morals find definition in the courage that ethics lack; conviction makes apparent these distinctions, true, but they only uphold the rationalization of close-mindedness in the face of clear inequity.
For nearly two decades, I have drawn from and passed down leadership skills and knowledge gained from my wonderful experiences in the Boy Scouts. I often ask of an organization or power that deems itself “just” and “moral” how power, rights, duties, opportunity, etc., are distributed among them. If we view the dilemma of “morals” concerning open or avowed gays within the ranks of the BSA, we must also ponder and account for reasoning, as to how and why excluding a group of society is for the alleged better of the remainder (eschewing hypothetical contingencies). This is especially important when in cases such as this; evidence that homosexuality, as a causal or contagious behavior does not exist. Therefore, the continued motion to exclude potential members within a federally protected class, when within the backing churches are also convicted sex offenders (a crime determined to be contagious), is egregiously hypocritical.
I earned 63 merit badges throughout my journey to Eagle Scout, 11 of which are required to attain the Eagle rank. Of the 11 required merit badges, three are Citizenship in the Community, Citizenship in the Nation, and Citizenship in the World.
Citizenship is defined as, “the quality of an individual's response to membership in a community.” The requirement of these badges place an implied importance upon the lessons gained in them, and as Scouts, we are to be active participants, gaining insight to the ever-changing society around us from past struggles within society.
In fact, from the Citizenship in the Community merit badge is a requirement to:
With the approval of your counselor and a parent, watch a movie that shows how the actions of one individual or group of individuals can have a positive effect on a community. Discuss with your counselor what you learned from the movie about what it means to be a valuable and concerned member of the community.
- Follow Me, Boys (G)
- It's a Wonderful Life (G)
- Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (G)
- Remember the Titans (PG)
- October Sky (PG)
- Mr. Holland's Opus (PG)
- Hoosiers (PG)
- Pay It Forward (PG13)
- Braveheart (R)
- The Patriot (R)
The quote below is contained in one of the suggested films above, and poignantly highlights a struggle with inequity, prejudice, and discrimination similar to the fight against the same with-in and with-out the BSA today.
From the speech delivered by Coach Herman Boone, a character portrayed by Denzel Washington in the film Remember the Titans:
Anybody know what this place is? This is Gettysburg. This is where they fought the Battle of Gettysburg. Fifty thousand men died right here on this field, fightin' the same fight that we're still fightin' amongst ourselves today.
This green field right here was painted red, bubblin' with the blood of young boys, smoke and hot lead pourin' right through their bodies. Listen to their souls, men:
'I killed my brother with malice in my heart. Hatred destroyed my family.'
You listen. And you take a lesson from the dead. If we don't come together, right now, on this hallowed ground, we too will be destroyed -- just like they were. I don't care if you like each other or not. But you will respect each other. And maybe -- I don't know -- maybe we'll learn to play this game like men.
Having walked the battlefields of Gettysburg and Antietam as a Boy Scout, the battles fought and won (or lost) were not only decisive, but also promoted divisive behaviors and beliefs on exhibit today.
Perhaps the greatest and most sobering lesson taken from the Civil War is that a personal conviction, irrespective of ethical justifications, may become counter-intuitive to the inalienable rights granted to citizens so they may live freely.
With regard to the BSA decisions, Scout Law dictates a Scout is Reverent - to God and His teachings. Reverence is not the only law of a Scout, however. Other laws of Scouting include Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Trustworthy, and Brave. With the whole of the Scout Law in mind, I am reminded of the disciples Simon and Judas, who denied and betrayed Christ during His time of need. When I reflect on my path to Eagle and adulthood, when I see the proverbial ‘single set of footprints in the sand,’ I know that because of the family and friends who gave support in my times of need, I was able to overcome obstacles and hardship before reaching a point of seeking Divine counsel. Were I to live in accordance with the expressed vision of the BSA and the idea of 'reverence' by their leadership, I would have to deny and betray the homosexual friends and family, as would a coward; this is clearly and equally against the Scout Law.
Still, no higher authority exists then what we accept into our hearts paralleled by our intent and evidenced by our actions.
Until the Boy Scouts of America live up to their numerous mantras, I find myself at an impasse. I respectfully divest myself from them and of them, resigning the rank of Eagle to include all privileges and claims to rights therein.
I am an Eagle no longer.
Shawn K. Gordon