Boy Scouts of America accepting new orientations

Madeline Cretu, translated by Josephine Coqblin
23 Août 2013

On May 23 2013, Boy Scouts of America (BSA) voted a significant change due to start next year: the acceptance of young homosexuals within its ranks. This decision is opening a new debate.

Credits : Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
Credits : Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
Equality, diversity and open-mindedness are trendy topics in our societies. We like to see ourselves as “liberal” people who can easily adapt to any situation. However this ideal scenario changes as soon as more fundamental issues requiring in-depth personal analysis are involved. Accepting homosexual people remains one of these issues. Often considered as a usual topic to which people are accustomed, homosexuality still triggers controversies regularly.
One may say that we live in a free world in which we can do whatever we want as long as no one else is hurt. But is that really true?

Once an Eagle, always an Eagle

For the BSA it is time to repel a law introduced 22 years ago. So far, young homosexuals were not allowed to get in the BSA. An extremely penalizing decision which prevented many teenagers from joining due to their sexual orientations.
Not to mention that this measure was particularly discriminatory against teenagers and young adults more than younger children.
The ones that have been scouts for many years all dream of getting some distinctions - such as becoming an Eagle Scout, the highest rank attainable - as a proof of their commitment to scouting. But because of this restrictive law, the dream of several generations was crushed. Why would that be? Are we not all equals? The BSA should accept every kid and every teenager the way they are.
David Knapp, an 86 year-old former scout forced to leave the organization when two scout leaders noticed his homosexuality testifies how this decision affected his life. Scouts always represented his values and lifestyle. Making him leave the organization did not change him; he always remained a scout in his mind.

Give him an inch and he’ll take a yard

Since the adoption of the measure, numerous American families usually committed into scouting decided to remove their children from the BSA. They feel threatened and consider that this change goes against the fundamental principles of scouting. These families think that if this law about young scouts was adopted, then scouting representatives could go further and could ask for the acceptance of gay scout leaders. Although the youngest will be able to join the BSA even if they are homosexual starting from 2014, the chiefs, leaders and people supervising them still cannot reach such positions if they are gay.
Alison Mackey is a worried mother. One of her five children has already received the Eagle Scout distinction. She declared that her sons would leave scouting without any reluctance from the moment this law is adopted. The BSA is facing a double-edge situation. On the one hand, scouts such as the sons of Mrs. Mackey will not accept this change easily and will rather leave a movement in which they take pride participating. On the other hand, what about younger gay scouts who can’t indulge in the pleasures of scout life because of the remaining homophobic prejudice? People need to evolve and realize that living in a democratic society implies advantages and inconveniences. Anyhow, banning someone from his right to express himself freely remains an unacceptable behavior.

Each to his own

We have been wondering if French scouts have the same opinion on the matter during the General Assembly of French Scouts and Guides that took place in Jambville on June 1 and 2 2013. The Assembly alluded to the possible differences existing within a same scouting group or between various tribes to aim at promoting diversity. We tried to understand if French scouts agreed or disagreed with the law that is troubling the BSA during the time dedicated to sharing experiences and discussions. “In French scouting we don’t even ask ourselves the question. We can all love whoever we want. We don’t have to show it in front of everyone. I don’t want to make any comment regarding the BSA but in my opinion scouting is about learning to accept the others”, sincerely declared a scout leader.
All other leaders we interviewed had a similar reaction. Manuel, a French blue leader, went further by admitting: “I know that if I told the parents of the children that I’m gay, half of them would probably remove them from our group. Homosexuality can still be shocking but it is just a matter of habit.”
Morality and tolerance are two necessary but difficult values to promote if we want to encourage open-mindedness in our societies. Efforts are necessary on both sides. Although some American parishes just decided not to accept any scout because of this new law, scouting is still a movement made by and for the youth. One should keep in mind the teachings of scouting: friendship, sharing and help are among their core values.
Adaptation to a more liberal mentality is necessary to keep the true scout spirit. Evolution therefore cannot and should not be ignored.