Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Boy Scouts and Gays Membership

I've been thinking about writing this for a long while. Sometimes I guess you just need time till an idea settles enough and your feelings are balanced enough to where writing things like this are ok.
To be clear up front, I mean no ill intent or insult or offense to anyone with what I write here. This is simply my thoughts on a difficult subject. Also, those who know me best will know that nothing I write nor any opinion that I hold sways my love for other people, regardless of how they believe or act. All people are God’s children to me and my brothers and sisters. Some are harder to love than others at times, but I do love them all. This said, let’s talk…

I grew up in the Boy Scouts of America. I participated in Scouting beginning at age 8 as a Cub Scout and continued on, rank by rank, year by year, till I achieved the rank of Eagle in 1991. Eagle is the highest rank you can achieve as a Boy Scout and it is a difficult thing to earn. I was 16 when I earned mine. Although my progression in Scouting ranks ended then, I continue to be proud to be a Boy Scout and have served since as an assistant Scout master and as a Scout Master and as a merit badge counselor for other Scouts.
Scouts is one of the sweetest experiences and most influential activities I participated in and continues to influence and guide me. 

There is no wonder why every young man would want to participate equally with others and why every father wouldn't want to also share that experience with their sons. In fact, that sentiment hits very close to home for me. My father spent a full week of his limited time off one summer to go on a 50 mile backpacking trip in Lassen national Park when I was 15. It was one of the best experiences I’ve had with my father and I am very grateful for his sacrifice and personal attention to me during that week.

So, when the issue of Gays as members of Scouts began to arise and swell as a controversy, I thought long and hard about the different arguments about it, and reached some conclusions that I think are not being addressed enough – especially by those for allowing gays in the Boy Scouts.

First, The Boy Scouts of America is a private organization and the US Supreme court has upheld their right to not allow gays into their organization. I agree with that ruling. Our constitution and our Country’s whole foundation is built on rights of ownership, privacy, and separation of church and state. It is a foundation built on allowing people to have their own beliefs and organizations. I think it very important that we preserve those rights and that a private organization such as BSA should be able to restrict membership in this way.

Second, I do not believe this is a gay rights issue. There is no right where there is no right – and the Supreme court has already upheld that there is no “right” to join a private organization. If there were, then they could force a church, for example, to baptize a person into their church who clearly was not obeying the conditions of what the baptism requires, etc.

Third, I DO believe this is an issue of appropriateness, safety, and attraction. Stick with me here…
It seems to me that gay advocates sometimes tend to act as if gays do not suffer from the same human frailties as heterosexuals and that somehow because they are gay, they are perhaps “harmless”, or above the terrible things heterosexuals do. It is a subtle thing, but I think if you take time to think about it, you will see in media and in the argument for gay rights, that there is a certain “righteousness” assigned to gays.

The fact is, however, that gays are still (obviously) sexual beings. And, if they truly want equal treatment, then they should have to adhere to equal reasoning with their sexuality. What do I mean? Well, take your school gym classes, for instance. Would you want your male gym teacher hanging around in the girls’ locker room? Of course not. The idea is a scary one, right? Well, WHY is that scary and wrong? Because you know that men who are heterosexual, have attractions to females and female bodies. Those attractions are very strong and can influence even some good men to do terrible things – meaning that there is a chance that they will act on that attraction and cause harm to your young female child.

So tell me…are gay people immune to such powerful attractions?  Are they immune to making such mistakes? No. Of course not. But I think sometimes our media and the gay community attempt to paint themselves as such. They would never claim Jerry Sandusky and others like him to be part of their “gay community”. No, they are just predators. Yes, they are predators and bad people. However, they obviously had gay attractions that they could not resist and control.

When a heterosexual man abuses a young girl, I also want to separate myself from the idea that I could be the same as he is. And in some ways I am the same – I surely have physical attractions and impulses. However, I have trained my mind and body and emotions over many years to control those impulses and even put them quickly away or even never consider them. How do I do this? I protect myself by preparing structure/habits in my life that teach me to think differently, to have control over my flesh, and to spiritually fill myself with light that does not allow in troubling thoughts and feelings. I have trained with scriptures, experience, repentance, and other important tools that help me be now very different from those men who do such bad things.

But how do we protect our children when they are away from us? How do we protect our “community”? In the same way. We create structures and rules and habits that prevent situations from occurring where such terrible things could occur. We create ways where such events could never even happen (at least that is the hope).

The Boy Scouts of America just happens to be one organization that has unfortunately experienced some terrible things within its ranks. The Boy Scouts did not make those things happen. Our whole nation, for many years has been ignorant and slow to act against crimes against children and women – especially cases of abuse and such. We see tragedy in many places – schools, churches, and sports teams. These are very visible organizations and places, so they tend to be publicized and prosecuted heavily for not protecting their members, their players, their students. It is unfortunate when the acts of individuals betray the very values and mission of the organization and cause such harm to the direct victims and the indirect victims (other members, etc).

So we see these organizations react and work to protect. Trust me, I have witnessed the many, many changes in the Boy Scouts to help both protect the Scouts and the organization. Not so they stay out of trouble (although it helps), but because they want to preserve something valuable for those who still want to participate. They have seen the benefit of what they provide to people just like me and they want to continue providing that for others – because it does make a difference.

So now the gay community wants to participate in Scouting. I understand. I really do. Scouts is awesome. But, if we consider the reasoning of what it means to be gay, then I would say it should not and cannot be allowed to happen. Being gay means to have same-sex attraction. Just like a heterosexual man is attracted to a woman, a gay man is attracted to a man. Just like a heterosexual man could be a sexual predator in a girls’ locker room, a gay man is then also a potential predator in a men’s locker room. It is an issue of attraction. I don’t want my young sons in a locker room with young women. NO WAY. Why? Is it because they are girls? Well, yes. But anatomy is not the problem – attraction, and the weakness of flesh IS!

The fact is, we never know WHO is going to be a predator, who is going to simply make a terrible choice and be susceptible to strong sexual impulses. So we put rules in place. We separate by attraction – not by anatomy – that’s just been the normal argument. Let’s face it, Adam and Eve did not even know they were naked in the Garden of Eden (for those here who are religious) until they were allowed to fall and could be tempted by their flesh and such.

Anyway, regardless of religion/beliefs, this issue is about safety of our children. It is about creating buffers between the weakness of men (all men) and our children. If we allow gays to participate in scouts, mixing with other boys, then you are essentially mixing them with young women, which would be inappropriate at those ages.

So, if the argument is about equality, then lets argue true equality based on the truth of the matter. This is NOT about sexual preference as if that were simply a skin color or heritage. It is a sexual attraction issue. Period.

I get that the argument could be made that the same rules that keep boys safe now would keep them safe with gays in the organization, but it would certainly greatly raise the likelihood of an issue – just like mixing a girl or two into a troop would.

Ultimately, I think BSA will allow each chartered group to decide for themselves what they will allow, but I would not be in favor of it – and not because I don’t want gays to participate in Scouts, but because I want to protect my own sons and the Scouting program that I know. I am afraid that the raised risk would eventually be too costly to manage.

I am sure that there are more complex issues at work here and other arguments that could be made, but for me, it is simple.

My stance is not because I am homophobic. Not at all. I am afraid – or rather concerned and aware of the power of sexual attraction – of any orientation. And to pretend that a gay person is not as sexually motivated or influenced as someone else is to tell a lie, and I am a Scout, And Scouts are honest.