The United Church of Christ spoke out as the newest detractor of the Boy Scouts of America. The official website of the fast-declining mainline church published an article critiquing the BSA’s reaffirmation to exclude homosexual leaders and members. This decision resulted from a thoughtful two-year process; the policy had first been established in 1999. LGBT activist groups had been putting pressure on the Boy Scouts to not only allow for openly gay Scoutmasters, but also teach sex education with an “open and inclusive” perspective. Scout leaders, on the other hand, are encouraged to avoid sexual instruction, leaving this responsibility in the hands of parents. This issue gained massive media exposure thanks to the Supreme Court case Boy Scouts of America vs. Dale.
Now an old Protestant denomination has leant its voice to the pansexual outcry. The article extensively quotes Pilgrim United Church of Christ lay member Brooke Willis, an active member of the LGBT community. “This whole situation is extremely unfortunate,” he proclaimed, “Kids are kids –– they need guidance, and leadership, and adventure, and activities. Who cares if they are gay or straight? The Boy Scouts should accept everyone.” He also stated, “Gay scout leaders are not interested in sexual orientation…They are interested in providing direction and leadership and giving kids something to do year-round. So many kids have no other role models –– why would you turn away volunteers who are trying to make a difference?” Eagle Scout Jonathan Helmick of First Grace UCC had a more even keel: “The BSA is an organization whose grand design is to give young men and boys a place to go, a place to learn essential skills, and to be better people and leaders…To close your doors to a cross-section of the population is a disservice to the intent of the organization and to future scouts.” Despite the blatant vilification of the organization in the pansexual community, Helmick still found the BSA commendable. “I still believe in the organization with my whole heart,” he confessed to UCC News, “Regardless of their decision, they are still doing good in the world. Everyone makes mistakes, and sometimes you have to love unconditionally. When the Boy Scouts are ready to welcome us back, we’re ready to welcome them back.”
The article also included some interesting UCC policy facts: The UCC issued a statement at General Synod in July 2003 opposing the BSA’s policy, stating that “discrimination against anyone based on sexual orientation is contrary to our understanding of the teachings of Christ.” The UCC continues to offer full support to congregations who wish to sever their ties with the BSA, as well as those who wish to remain connected to the organization. There currently are 1,200 UCC-sponsored Boy Scout troops throughout the United States. Interestingly, UCC leadership decided it unwise to expell the BSA from church property. No doubt many members would have expressed outrage at such a measure.
As an Eagle Scout myself, I consistently resent revisionist attacks against this wonderful institution and its prudent decision. An overwhelming majority of parents wanted the BSA to persevere in its stance. They had problems with their sons going on long camping trips in the woods with openly-gay men. No, homosexuality is not the same as pederasty, nor does this policy prevent all abuse. But in the post-priest scandal and post-Sandusky age, concerned fathers and mothers are wary as ever when it comes to potentialities. And there are stronger potentialities. A comparable situation would be for straight men to go on camping trips with Girl Scouts (whose standards, one must admit, are much more progressive). A man may mean well and never cause trouble, but the potentiality would be enough for parents to worry.
Furthermore, as has been established by SCOTUS and many other thoughtful articles, the Boy Scouts has every right to enforce this position. It is a free, non-governmental entity. Leadership on the lower levels is entirely dependent on volunteers who must exhibit a life and character that is consistent with the Scouting way. And it is that way—so succinctly presented in the Scout Oath and Law, Slogan and Motto—that I swore to uphold for life eight years ago.