May 22, 2013

Boy Scouts Forced to Choose Sides in the Culture War

Boy Scouts of America

(Photo credit: First Things)

By Mark Tooley (@MarkDTooley)

A group of mostly Protestant and evangelical church leaders, representing churches with over 20 million members, are asking the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) National Council meeting this week to retain the current BSA stance on sexuality. The May 22-24 meeting will consider a proposal to prohibit “discrimination” based on “sexual orientation or preference,” while leaving in place the current prohibition on openly homosexual Scout leaders.

Signers of the appeal to BSA include Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, Lutheran Church Missouri Synod President Matthew Harrison, Assemblies of God General Superintendent George Wood, Church of God General (Cleveland, TN) Overseer Mark Williams, and Archbishop Robert Duncan of the Anglican Church in North America, as well as theologians like Southern Baptist Albert Mohler, United Methodist Thomas Oden, and Presbyterian Luder Whitlock.

Here is their statement, which attracted about fifty prominent signers:

“We strongly support the Boy Scouts of America current prohibition on open homosexuality and retaining it without revision. Nearly 70 percent of BSA troops are hosted by churches and religious institutions. Upholding traditional morality is vital for sustaining this partnership, for protecting Scout members, and for ensuring BSA has a strong future. A proposal from the BSA board to prohibit “discrimination” based on “sexual orientation or preference” for BSA members potentially would open the Scouts to a wide range of open sexual expressions. In our current culture, it is more important than ever for our churches to protect and provide moral nurture for young people and for the Scouts. We implore members of the upcoming BSA Council to affirm the BSA’s present policy, which the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed, and which has served BSA well.”

In his own preamble to the statement, Rev. Harrison of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod warned the “proposed change will highlight sexuality, which has not been and should not be a matter of focus for Scouts.” And he suspects “it will make it more challenging to care for young people struggling with same-sex attraction and perhaps open our churches to legal action.” He also said the policy would supersede pastoral authority in churches with Scout units and could cause a “crisis of conscience for our church leaders, pastors, parents and congregations.” Harrison noted that “for more than a century, scouting has sought to uphold moral values at a level greater than that of general society,” and the “capitulation now to societal pressures would mar the long and honorable history of the Boy Scouts to honor the natural law of God, which at least for now, is still reflected in the current scouting membership policy.”

Richard Land, in his own separate May 15 letter to the Boy Scout leadership, warned that the proposed new policy would “cause many Southern Baptist churches, as well as many churches from other denominations, to withdraw their sponsorship rather than compromise their convictions.” He also said he was “perplexed” that the BSA “would abandon a century-old membership policy” less than a year after a 2 year study reaffirmed that policy “remains in the best interest of Scouting.”

In their own statement, the National Catholic Committee on Scouting cited Roman Catholicism’s teaching on chastity, and said the Church “reserves the right to seek to place those who live by its teachings in leadership positions that serve our youth, as well as the right to continue to call our young people to live by the teachings of our faith and by moral truth which can be known by all.”

Catholics are the third largest religious group involved in Scouting. Mormons are the most numerous, and their church effectively abstained from a public stance on the proposed new policy. United Methodists are the second most numerous, and their leaders in February asked BSA to defer any shift in policy until participating churches could review in a “thoughtful and prayerful manner.”

If the BSA National Council changes the membership policy, it will almost certainly create tensions between BSA and many of its participating religious congregations. Some may withdraw from BSA altogether and support religiously-based alternatives to Scouting. Meanwhile, many critics will not relent until BSA altogether abandons any restrictions on open sexual expression for members and leaders. The days of BSA as a culturally unifying icon are over, and BSA sadly will have to choose sides in the culture wars.

This blog post originally appeared on the First Things website as an article.

22 Responses to Boy Scouts Forced to Choose Sides in the Culture War

  1. paynehollow says:

    You said…

    If the BSA National Council changes the membership policy, it will almost certainly create tensions between BSA and many of its participating religious congregations.

    …but of course, the flip side is that if the BSA does not change its policy, they will create tensions between the BSA and the rest of the culture – Christians and otherwise – who are increasingly disagreeing with open bias against gay folk. The BSA can see the numbers, siding with those in favor of bias/bigotry will eventually be a losing proposal.

    As it is, most of my church and many others I know, have abandoned the BSA until such time as they change their stance in favor of discrimination. And this is sad. My community is one that loves most of what the BSA stands for, including telling the truth and love of nature. But the position in favor of discrimination is one that tends to be anti-Truth (just look at the awful falsehoods and slurs in some of the letters you quote!) and harmful to human nature, so we separate ourselves from an organization that we would have otherwise supported.

    They will have to choose and I hope they will eventually choose the right way. May God give us all wisdom and grace.

    ~Dan Trabue

  2. gregpaley says:

    Start your own pro-gay youth organization if you are unhappy with the BSA. Show a “can do” spirit. If the BSA is “biased,” prove how horrible they are by starting a group that is “unbiased.” If there are thousands and thousands of parents like yourself, they will eagerly support this new organization.

    I’m not holding my breath on this. I just don’t see some mass movement of parents eager to entrust their sons to go on camping trips with men who are openly gay. But I could be wrong, so take a crack at it.

    • paynehollow says:

      In my faith community, we have no more problem sending our kids off with adults we know who are “openly gay” any more than we do sending them off with adults who are “openly straight.” What you all fail to understand is that being “openly gay” is IN NO WAY comparable to being a pedophile.

      I have other parents who will send their daughters to stay at our house or on a camping trip with me, even though I’m a guy, and it’s not a problem because I’m straight, NOT a pedophile. Similarly, we and others will send our daughters off to a beloved lesbian friend’s house with no worries because she’s a lesbian, NOT a pedophile.

      That is the huge hole in your collective reasoning and why you all have lost this argument at the larger scale and why the BSA has to change or slowly disappear: Because by all appearances, you all are defending evil and spreading slander and people are not accepting of that. Much as it amazes and confounds you all, you’re losing this argument because you are perceived to be on the side of immorality and I know that just blows your minds and you can’t believe it, but it’s so.

      What we have done, in the meantime, is withdraw our support from the BSA until such time as they move to a more moral/less unjust position on gay folk. We do our camping, acts of kindness, care of creation, truth-telling, etc on our own or with church and community friends.

      Seems a reasonable step to me.

      ~Dan Trabue

      • raybnnstr says:

        Two things:
        1) your church is tiny
        2) the types who attend it are by no means typical of American parents at large, thank goodness.

        Stretch yourself and see if you can view the world as non-liberals see it. I sure wouldn’t send MY daughter off to a slumber party supervised only by one male adult, unless I knew him really well. I do know males like that, but since they have a sense of propriety, they wouldn’t put themselves in that position.

        Nothing personal, but if people in your “faith community” are comfortable sending their sons off with a man who is openly gay, or their daughters with a lesbian, they are idiots and pitiful excuses for parents. I know several women whose Girl Scout leaders tried to initiate them into lesbian sex, but that is so widespread among the Girl Scouts that it’s pretty hopeless of changing that situation. The Boy Scouts had the chance to do the manly thing and resist the pressure. Unfortunate, but life goes on.

      • paynehollow says:

        Not sure what the size of my church has to do with the Truth I’m speaking of. And if folk around the world were to emulate the parents at my church, I’d wager the world would be a better place. It seems rather shallow and irrational for you to make assumptions about people you know nothing about.

        Would I send my children off to be supervised by ANY adults I don’t know overnight? No, I have not done that and I’m not recommending that.

        As to this…

        Nothing personal, but if people in your “faith community” are comfortable sending their sons off with a man who is openly gay, or their daughters with a lesbian, they are idiots and pitiful excuses for parents.

        Setting aside the emotional, irrational “idiots/pitiful” ad hom attacks, why WOULDN’T we send our kids off with people we trust, gay or straight? THAT irrational and unjust bias is the problem with your reasoning. You’re irrationally biased against gay folk as a group for no good reason.

        You cite “several” women you “know” who tried to “initiate” girls into lesbianism and, if that is true, I’m sorry for that happening. As it happens, my cub scout leader (straight guy) was eventually kicked out because he made sexual advances on boys (I only found out about it later). Does that mean that because I personally “know” of a situation where there was a heterosexual male predator that I would no longer allow my kids to go with straight guys?

        No, of course not. That would be irrational. You can’t blame the group for the misbehaviors of the individual.

        If you have no reason to blame the whole group for the misdeeds of the few individuals, then you’d be (in your rather rude terms) an “idiot” and “pitiful excuse for a parent” to take the irrational step of blaming the whole.

        Where specifically am I mistaken? Where specifically do you have any evidence to support calling all gay folk “pedophiles” or can you admit that there is no rational, real world reason to do so and that such bias is unjust?

        ~Dan Trabue

  3. At its heart, liberalism is destructive, not constructive. Find an institution or organization, twist it and warp it until it is no longer recognizable. They’re doing it to the churches, to marriage, now the Boy Scouts, who knows what’s next? All that matters to them is that they found something that pleased a lot of people and they take pleasure in ruining it. It’s like a perverse inversion of Genesis – God creates and says “That’s good,” liberals destroy what’s good and put nothing in its place. If you see God as creative and see human beings as made in God’s image and called to be co-creators with God, how can you have any respect for this ideology? It’s like watching a gang of bored junior high kids vandalizing property for fun.

    • paynehollow says:


      At its heart, liberalism is destructive, not constructive. Find an institution or organization, twist it and warp it until it is no longer recognizable.

      Could we agree, brother Noel, that generalized, sweeping attacks on “the Other” is neither rational nor Christian/Godly?

      I am one you would likely call “liberal,” as are many, many of the people at my church and around me, and yet there is not a single one of us who, at our heart, wish to be destructive, to twist or warp. Our desire is to follow God, to do good, to do justice, to delight in right-living.

      Can we agree that it is better to state simply that we disagree rather than suggest that the “Other” is out to destroy the church, the world or anything else?

      I mean, I am sure we disagree, but I have no need to suggest that conservatism is, at its heart, intent on doing evil. We both want to do the good, we just disagree sometimes on how best to do that.

      Would that not be a more rational, respectful and Christian way to handle our disagreements? (And I fully understand emotional “rants” and the need to blow off steam and say things we don’t actually mean, so if that’s all this is – an emotional pressure releasing rant, okay… but still, I’d suggest you label it as such).

      In Christ,

      Dan Trabue

      • No, it wasn’t a rant. I was very calm and rational when I wrote it. Good intentions aren’t enough, God gave us minds, we have to think through the implications of the policies we espouse. If you burn down my house and say, “It was for the good of the community, it was an eyesore,” that may make you feel noble, but it leaves me without a house. I stand by what I said: liberals want to destroy something or at least change it so it’s no longer recognizable. The church has been plagued by people who run around saying Oh, I just LOVE the Bible, and I LOVE God and I LOVE the church, BUT, I’m still going to change the Bible and the church to suit me and my friends. Or, to put it bluntly, they don’t love the Bible or the church, but if they just came out and said that, they wouldn’t get too far. I’ve lived in this world to be put off by that smarmy smile of liberals and their all-purpose excuse of good intentions. That’s why I used the analogy of bored kids engaging in vandalism. That’s what liberals are, except unlike juvenile vandals, they want to get praised for being destructive. The people who are all giddy about the recent Boy Scout decision aren’t nobleminded crusaders for the right, they’re people who enjoy seeing a venerable institution destroyed.

      • paynehollow says:

        Indeed, good intentions can be wrong and we SHOULD use our minds to reason through things. So consider your words…

        All that matters to them is that they found something that pleased a lot of people and they take pleasure in ruining it.

        You are stating a false claim. It does not matter that your intentions might be good, the claim remains false and thou shalt not bear false witness, right? Those who slander are not of the Kingdom of God, right?

        I am sure that there might be some subset of liberals who “only want to destroy and twist” things. But you did not say that. You are speaking of the whole group of liberals and, in that case, this statement is entirely and demonstrably false.

        I and my community, for instance, are NOT amongst those who are only concerned with “ruining” things. Indeed, our motives are to make things better, to please God, to work against injustice.

        So can we agree that, while your motives are no doubt pure, it remains a false and wrong sweeping generalization to suggest that liberals want to destroy and twist? That it is false, sinful and irrational to make these claims as if they apply to the whole group?

        If you truly think that “liberals” are like juvenile vandals, well, isn’t that false claim in itself rather juvenile and vandalizing? Are you not becoming that which you condemn and, in the process, engaging in the sort of hypocrisy Jesus condemned in the Pharisees?

        I pray that you’ll consider and repent, friend Noel.

        ~Dan Trabue

  4. John Erthein says:

    It just seems bizarre to advocate allowing homosexually-oriented men to lead Boy Scout Troops. Do we allow heterosexually-oriented men to lead Girl Scout Troops? Let’s use some common sense folks.

    • paynehollow says:

      We allow straight women to lead Boy Scout/Cub Scout groups. What’s the difference?

      You see, we can see and understand the difference between being a straight or gay adult and being a pedophile. Fellow parents leave their daughters in my heterosexual-orientation care because they know I’m not a pedophile and we all leave our children in the care of gay friends for the same reason.

      This doesn’t seem difficult to comprehend. What’s the problem understanding that good care can be found in both men and women, both gay and straight? The important thing is not orientation, but that the adult in charge is capable, caring and responsible.

      ~Dan Trabue

  5. John Erthein says:

    It is also a mistake, I believe, to allow boys who identify as gay into the Boy Scout program. It’s not meant to be a program that encourages romantic attachments. That is why boys and girls are in separate organizations.

    • paynehollow says:

      I’m sure this is posted in ignorance with no offense intended, but gay boys aren’t out trying to seduce straight boys. Gay boys aren’t trying to encourage romantic attachments with straight boys. Why would they? What good would it do?

      If I was single and approached one of my lesbian friends and tried to convince her to fall for me… well, I wouldn’t do it. Why? Because she wouldn’t be into guys.

      The BSA rightly changed this policy today because there’s no rational reason to not be accepting of ALL boys/young men, as long as they follow directions and take part, which is true for ALL boys/young men. What reason would we have for excluding SOME boys from a group? EVEN IF you believe that gay behavior is sinful, the boys won’t be engaging in gay behavior in scouting trips, or at least, any more so than they might try to engage in other inappropriate behavior.

      Does the BSA disagree with kids smoking? Probably so. But do they ban boys who sneak smokes from the BSA or do they just tell them, “You can’t do that here…”? The latter, I’m sure.

      What someone does on their own time or what orientation they may or may not have is not a reason to ban a whole class of people from your group. Doing that would be wrong, unjust, immoral. And, at least with the boys, the BSA has recognized this and changed their position, NOT to be accommodating to “the world,” but because the old position was morally wrong.

      Good for them.

      ~Dan Trabue

  6. raybnnstr says:

    I have to chuckle at Panehollow’s remark about “tensions between the BSA and the rest of the culture.” I guess anything that doesn’t conform to the free-wheeling sexual ethic of “the rest of the culture” has to change, right? I hear lots of supposed Christians say the same thing about the church – conform the church to fit the culture, which assumes the culture is going in the right direction – a pretty rash assumption, spiritually speaking, especially since the New Testament consistently depicts “the world” in a negative light. If there aren’t some “tensions” between Christians and the culture they live in, rest assured the Christians are doing something wrong. I don’t see Jesus as someone trying to resolve “tensions.” Christians are counter-cultural, or they aren’t Christians.

    I guess Paynhollow and the other other lefties are doing their happy dance over today’s BSA decision. Sad to see the BSA cave in to societal pressure. At least some of us can think fondly of scoutmasters who didn’t feel the compulsion to discuss their sexual habits with us. The scoutmasters connected with my own church are, thankfully, all happily married men – married to women, that is, so no hidden agenda for them.

    Score another one for the barbarians, the power-seekers, and the whiners. Run roughshod over morality, just so some nagging, neurotic pressure group can feel good about itself. Wonder what’s the next organization they’ll target for annihilation?

    • paynehollow says:


      I guess anything that doesn’t conform to the free-wheeling sexual ethic of “the rest of the culture” has to change, right?

      You have misunderstood my point, Ray. No problem, but allow me to clarify so you DO understand:

      We’re not encouraging them to change in order to “conform to the free-wheeling sexual ethics” of popular culture. We’re encouraging them to change in order to not sin, to give up the morally wrong policy it currently has.

      My citing the “rest of the culture” is only to say that the rest of the culture has come/is coming to recognize the sinful/immoral/unjust position of past prejudices against our gay brothers and sisters.

      I hope that helps you understand my/our position better and that you will not repeat the false understanding you had any further.


      Dan Trabue

      • raybnnstr says:

        Not sure what this “false understanding” is, so I probably will keep repeating whatever it is that you found distasteful. I DO understand what this whole issue is about – not about fairness, but about giving exploitive, predatory men sexual access to boys, and indoctrinating them against Christianity in the proces. I don’t consider men like that to be my “brothers” in any sense. You call it “sin” to “exclude” people like that? Sorry, but as a parent, I call it “love.” Children are precious. Their welfare is important. Liberals jabber on endlessly about “the childen,” but issues like abortion and gay scoutmasters prove that all that talk is just propaganda. Children can be disposed of or sexually exploited, and liberals call it “justice.” Pretty hard to communicate across this ideological chasm, with the left side viewing human beings not as precious creatures of God but as supporting cast members in the Big Drama of “I Have a Right Not to be Offended.”

      • paynehollow says:


        Not sure what this “false understanding” is, so I probably will keep repeating whatever it is that you found distasteful.

        Then I’ll make it very clear:

        It is a FALSE understanding to suggest, imply, infer or otherwise outright claim that I or folk like me are advocating that “anything that doesn’t conform to the free-wheeling sexual ethic of “the rest of the culture” has to change, right?”

        It is utterly slanderous and false and as you know, we should not bear false witness, nor slander. Those who do that have no place in the kingdom of God, according to the Bible.

        I did not at any time suggest “conforming to the culture.” It did not happen. Rather, I was advocating conforming to MORALITY, to TRUTH. Now, you may disagree about some of my/our conclusions and that is perfectly okay. But to impugn a whole group of people you don’t know by slandering them by misrepresenting their MOTIVES, that is neither rational nor moral. So, now that you know, you should no longer repeat such false claims.

        Fair enough? Or is there something you’re still failing to understand?


        I DO understand what this whole issue is about – not about fairness, but about giving exploitive, predatory men sexual access to boys, and indoctrinating them against Christianity in the proces.

        I’m sure there may be some pedophiles out there who would like to see this, but I’m not speaking for pedophiles. For people like me, your comment above is utterly false. For us, it is ABSOLUTELY NOT about pedophiles giving sexual access to my/our sons. That is a rather ridiculous claim. Why would I want to any children, including my own, to be sexually abused?

        Before going any further, could you please acknowledge that you can understand that this is a false statement and morally wrong to misrepresent folk like us?

        If you don’t understand how wrong it is to openly and freely bear obvious false witness, then I suppose I shall have to treat you as someone who can’t hold rational, moral adult discussions.

        I humbly pray in the name of Christ our Saviour that you’d humbly re-consider what you’re saying and amend it and find a way to express your actual disagreements with folk like me in rational, adult and factual manner.

        In Christ,

        Dan Trabue

      • raybnnstr says:

        I stick by what I said about conforming to the culture. Christianity is not supposed to be poll-driven. I don’t care if 99.9 percent of the people condone and encourage immoral lifestyles,they’re still wrong. It takes courage to be part of the 0.1 percent. Liberalism is a herd ideology. There’s no courage involved in being part of a herd.

        I would love to hear more sermons preached on Exodus 23:2: “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong.” If that verse were taken to heart, the liberal churches would all shut down. Come to think of it, many of them are.

      • paynehollow says:

        But I’m NOT advocating conforming to the culture, nor are the “liberals” around me. And so, demonstrably, you are holding to a false witness, attempting to slander folk with falsehoods, rather than engage in an adult conversation.

        And your attempts to bully and slander me into following your herd (the herd that accepts spreading falsehoods and slander) is failing. Shame on you for not approaching this in a more adult and Christian manner. This is why you all are losing folk like the BSA – because people can look at these sorts of exchanges and say, “well, I don’t know what to think about accepting gay folk in the BSA, but clearly, Ray is spreading falsehoods and engaging in immoral and irrational behavior, so I don’t want to be part of the herd that is doing that…”

        Something to consider.


      • raybnnstr says:

        Is there anything in your intellectual arsenal besides “shame on you” and “stop spreading falsehood”? I mean, “shame on you” sounds like a 2nd-grader in the sandbox, and “spreading falsehood” apparently applies to anything a non-liberal says, doesn’t it?

        You contradict yourself: you say the Christian side is “losing” (true), but then you say your side, the winning side, is NOT conforming to the culture. You can’t have it both ways. Obviously the winners in the culture wars are the ones going along with the culture. The tiny minority who is making a stand for decency is not conforming. So my words about the liberal herd stand. The religious left consists of conformists and cowards. “What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God.”

      • sandytnaylor says:

        I’m thinking of Scott Peck and his claim that the opposite of love is not hate but laziness. Love takes effort and often involves sacrifice, whereas laziness is the easy way out of any situation. Fidelity to one’s spouse is loving, and it takes effort, but adultery is easy. The mainline churches take the easy way out, they just see which way the wind is blowing and go along. It’s a lot easier to say that “gay is good” and talk about “marriage equality” than to take a moral stand. I can understand why the liberal churches decline, they do not challenge people, they just tell people “whatever is, is right.” That sort of message doesn’t motivate people to get out of bed on Sundays. But I can understand why that message would appeal to some people, they can call themselves Christians without it requiring anything of them. And they call that “loving,” as if it’s loving to pat people on the head and tell them their degenerate lifestyles are just fine. If we love people we owe them more than that. I can only imagine wht sort of horrible parents liberals make, don’t they see in their own homes that you have to do more than just tell their kids “whatever you do is fine with me, so go ahead and burn the house down, or shoot the neighbor’s dog with a BB gun, if it makes you feel good.”

  7. It’s very sad how this played out, but obviously one of the aims is the marginalization of Christians. Instead of mourning, we need to take what steps we can. I hope that all churches that sponsor Scout troops will avail themselves of the Internet and do background checks on all men working with Scouts. Obviously not all predators will have criminal records, but doing the check will at least screen out those who do. In my own state, the “sunshine law” makes this easy to do, just a couple of quick clicks to find criminal records.

    I also hope a lot of concerned Christian dads will step up to the plate and create a viable alternative organization that will continue the standards that the Boy Scouts have now abandoned. It may seem humiliating for a time to be the “splinter” group, but in time it may turn out like the liberal churches, where the “splinters” grow while the parent organizations dwindle. Surely there are still a few churches and parents who want to see their sons mature into men with high standards, who possess both moral and physical courage.

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