Is opposition to gay Boy Scout leaders discrimination or prudence?

Opposition to gay men serving as Boy Scout leaders shouldn’t be as controversial as it has been.  Unfortunately, people have emotional reactions to issues such as this, where they believe a person (or “class” of people) is being discriminated against.  This really isn’t about the individual homosexuals themselves as much as it is about sexuality in general.

The Boy Scouts (BSA) may very well, as an organization, have moral objections to homosexual sexual relationships.  But regardless of this or any other moral stance on homosexuality, preventing gay men from serving in the position of scout leader is one of prudence, not hate.

For starters, I don’t believe that the BSA thinks gay men cannot earnestly teach their scouts the BSA Law:

  • A Scout is Trustworthy. A Scout tells the truth. He is honest, and he keeps his promises. People can depend on him.
  • A Scout is Loyal. A Scout is true to his family, friends, Scout leaders, school, and nation.
  • A Scout is Helpful. A Scout cares about other people. He willingly volunteers to help others without expecting payment or reward.
  • A Scout is Friendly. A Scout is a friend to all. He is a brother to other Scouts. He offers his friendship to people of all races and nations, and respects them even if their beliefs and customs are different from his own.
  • A Scout is Courteous. A Scout is polite to everyone regardless of age or position. He knows that using good manners makes it easier for people to get along
  • .A Scout is Kind. A Scout knows there is strength in being gentle. He treats others as he wants to be treated. Without good reason, he does not harm or kill any living thing.
  • A Scout is Obedient. A Scout follows the rules of his family, school, and troop. He obeys the laws of his community and country. If he thinks these rules and laws are unfair, he tries to have them changed in an orderly manner rather than disobeying them.
  • A Scout is Cheerful. A Scout looks for the bright side of life. He cheerfully does tasks that come his way. He tries to make others happy.
  • A Scout is Thrifty. A Scout works to pay his own way and to help others. He saves for the future. He protects and conserves natural resources. He carefully uses time and property.
  • A Scout is Brave. A Scout can face danger although he is afraid. He has the courage to stand for what he thinks is right even if others laugh at him or threaten him.
  • A Scout is Clean. A Scout keeps his body and mind fit and clean. He chooses the company of those who live by high standards. He helps keep his home and community clean.
  • A Scout is Reverent. A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others.

Or that a gay scout leader cannot uphold and teach the BSA OathOn my honor, I will do my best, to do my duty to God and my country. To help other people at all times, to obey the Scout Law, and to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.

No, as I said, I think objections to gay men serving as scout leaders has to do with sexuality.  Based on what I’ve been reading, it seems most people have a mental image of a young child when they think of a Boy Scout.  And it is this mental image which causes critics of the BSA’s opposition to gay men in scouting to challenge that opposition: “Homosexuals are not sexual predators who lust after children”.  I don’t disagree.  Gay men aren’t inherently pedophiles.  However, a good number of Boy Scouts are teenagers, who are sexually developed.  This is why I believe the prohibition to be one of prudence, not hateful backwoods discrimination.

Currently men are permitted to be Girl Scout leaders, but with strict conditions.  For events such as overnight camping trips or week-long camping events, they are prohibited from the girls sleeping quarters, shower and locker rooms, bathrooms, etc., any place where they might be in a position to witness one of their female scouts in any state of undress.  They are required to utilize separate facilities.  Why is this?  Not because straight men are inherently pedophiles who lust after children.  No, it’s because heterosexual males are sexually attracted to females by their nature and women and girls (as well as men and boys) have a reasonable expectation of sexual privacy.  For this reason, gay men should not be in a position to witness other male children (or teens) in various states of undress.

Essentially, if we find it reasonable to keep men out of girls changing rooms, bathrooms, and sleeping quarters, then we should also find it reasonable to keep gay men out of boys changing rooms, bathrooms, and sleeping quarters.  To date, I have not heard any advocates of lifting the ban on gay men from the BSA suggest they be required to use separate facilities like male Girl Scout leaders.  I suppose “separate but equal” is a-ok for male Girl Scout leaders, but would be backwoods hateful bigoted discrimination if suggested for homosexual BSA leaders.  Do I have that right?


  1. Short answer to title question – PRUDENCE!

  2. ” any place where they might be in a position to witness one of their female scouts in any state of undress.”

    I think this should also be the rule for heterosexual male scout leaders and boy scouts.

    • Why is that?

      • Because it’s gross? Adults shouldn’t be around undressed children that aren’t their kids. Regardless of gender.

        • What’s gross about it if there’s no chance of sexual attraction?

          • “What’s gross about it if there’s no chance of sexual attraction?”

            Who says there’s no chance? There’s a small chance that adults are pedophiles, be they gay or straight or male or female. And pedophiles traditionally don’t differentiate between male and female children when they abuse them.

            Better safe than sorry. Adults, if they aren’t your kids, there is no good reason to be around them when they’re in a state of undress.

            • Actually, boys are far more likely to be targets for molestation and sexual abuse.

              But why isn’t it gross for a parent to see their own kid? After all, a parent could be a pedophile, right?

              You’re kind of making an argument to disband orgs like the BSA and GSA. Also sports teams where a coach has access to a locker room.

  3. “But why isn’t it gross for a parent to see their own kid? After all, a parent could be a pedophile, right?”

    Sure, it’s a possibility. But an adult also has to do things like bathe their own children and change diapers. So it is reasonable that a parent would have to, on occasion, see their child in a state of undress.

    “You’re kind of making an argument to disband orgs like the BSA and GSA.”

    No. I’m making an argument that adults shouldn’t see children in states of undress. Are you saying that the BSA and GSA couldn’t exist unless the adults in charge could see naked children?

  4. Your argument doesn’t logically lead to banning homosexuals, it leads to having private restrooms for everyone.

  5. “Your argument doesn’t logically lead to banning homosexuals, it leads to having private restrooms for everyone.”

    Would that be a bad thing?

  6. John,

    On the surface, your argument sounds fine and dandy. But what about Jennifer Tyrrell? As a lesbian, she wouldn’t have any special interest in the boy scouts she was leading, so why was she fired?

    Furthermore, if the concern is sexual attraction, why are women allowed to be troop leaders in the Boy Scouts? From Wikipedia:

    In the Boy Scouts of America, in all Scouting units above the Cub Scout pack, units serving adolescent Scouts, leadership of the unit comprises both adult leaders (Scouters) and youth leaders (Scouts). In fact, this is a critical component of the program. In order to learn leadership, the youth must actually serve in leadership roles. Adult leaders may be either men or women in all positions.

    I don’t care about this issue one way or the other, but unless you’re going to argue that homosexuals are more prone to pedophilia (NAMBLA), then I don’t see the validity of your argument.

  7. John,

    Have you ever been involved with the Boy Scouts? There’s not a whole lot of group interaction going on in bathrooms or changing rooms…

    Regardless, how do you feel about Jennifer Tyrell? She was fired for being a lesbian. She wasn’t using the same bathrooms or changing rooms as the boys she was leading, so was she wrongfully terminated?

    • I was a boy scout. Maybe its different in different areas, but the week long camping trips the scout masters were in it with us, we all used the same bathrooms, showers, etc.

    • Terrance,
      Here’s the BIG issue. What is part of the Boy Scout oath? (and I was a Boy Scout)
      “To keep myself…morally straight.” This means a Scout leader also must be “morally straight” – it’s an OATH! And one who is openly homosexual has violated that oath, and sets a bad moral example. ERGO, the lesbian was NOT wrongfully terminated.

  8. I’m a Cub Scout leader, and to be honest, I’m torn on this issue for reasons entirely different from everyone else here.
    Scouts continues to be a religious organization, and as such it has every right to assert religious beliefs. My problem with the no-gay rule is actually centred around the fact that not every religion considers homosexuality to be morally wrong- and therefor some religions are claiming priority over others in the BSA.
    Of course, all this could be solved if they made BSA a secular organization or one that exists only under specific religious banners.
    Honestly, I don’t care if they disallow gays for religious reasons- they ought to be able to compete in the marketplace of ideas with everyone else. I just find it inconsistent to promote Unitarianism, for example, and discriminate against homosexuals.

  9. Glenn,

    I understand your argument. But if John’s only concern is same-sex attraction in dressing rooms, then how does he feel about Jennifer Tyrrell? She was a lesbian Boy Scout leader. There would have been no same-sex attraction.

  10. The thing that bothers me about the whole thing is the notion that one must be accepted everywhere. Why doesn’t someone suggest a new scout-like organization and start the thing?

    Make your own code. Don’t mention God, if you don’t want to. Those who are in BSA who don’t agree with the no gay rule might just jump ship and go along with you.

    It would require a lot of work. But, if you care about creating something inclusive of everyone, it will be worth it.

    Look at AARP.There are organizations popping up that promise not to go along with Obamacare, like AARP did. They might fail. But they’re trying. And they’re not trying to change AARP.

    Just leave private organizations to do what they will.

  11. George,

    You said:

    “My problem with the no-gay rule is actually centred around the fact that not every religion considers homosexuality to be morally wrong…”

    Which would religions would those be, exactly? I only ask because some will offer, as an example, the United Church of Christ, while forgetting that “denomination” does not mean “religion”. The religion of Jesus Christ would not be among those that does not consider homosexual behavior to be morally wrong. But there are denominations of that religion which have “drifted”, for lack of a better or more accurate term, from the truth regarding the morality of that behavior.

Any Thoughts?

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