“Ross E. Armstrong has satisfactorily completed the requirements and is hereby certified as an Eagle Scout by the Boy Scouts of America” Boy Scouts of America July 20, 2000. (Eagle Scout)
“Ross E. Armstrong is awarded the Vigil Honor in recognition of distinguished contributions to Scouting and the Order, through exceptional service, personal commitment, and unselfish interest in the welfare of others, beyond immediate responsibilities in the Order of the Arrow, as a member of Tannu Lodge of the Nevada Area Council.” Boy Scouts of America June 20, 2002. (Vigil Honor)
“Order of the Arrow, Boy Scouts of America present Ross E. Armstrong its highest award for distinguished service” Boy Scouts of America July 30, 2006. (Distinguished Service Award)
“Ross E. Armstrong has moral beliefs and values are, in at least on important respect, contradictory to those of Scouting” and “Ross E. Armstrong does not posses the moral…qualities deemed necessary…for leadership.” Boy Scouts of America February 28, 2000. (BSA v. Dale)
As you have probably already realized. One of the above is different from the others. However, there is another difference between the first three and last one. The first three statements are based on the other individuals observing my character, leadership, and basic commitment to the ideals of the Boy Scouts of America; the last statement is based on my genetic pre-disposition to fall in love with men rather than women. You would be hard pressed to find an individual who knows me through Scouting to agree with the last set of statements; if there is one out there, I would like to hear from you. I think my influence on Scouts both older and younger was positive.
Let’s quickly establish that the argument that homosexuality has nothing to do with Scouting’s values. In the famous case the Boy Scouts argued gays weren’t “morally straight” or “clean”. According to the Boy Scout Handbook I used to get all the way to Eagle (10th Edition):
“and morally straight. To be a person of strong character, guide your life with honesty, purity, and justice. Respect and defend the rights of all people. Your relationships with others should be honest and open. Be clean in your speech and actions, and faithful in your religious beliefs. The values you follow as a Scout will help you become virtuous and self-reliant” p.551
“A Scout is Clean. A Scout keeps his body and mind fit and clean. He chooses the company of those who live by these same ideals. He helps keep his home and community clean.” p.561
I don’t see anything that says “you must be straight”. Do you? The lack of honesty on the BSA’s part in BSA v. Dale can be argued about over and over again. The Supreme Court made its decision and that is that. But just because the Supreme Court says the policy is legal doesn’t mean it is healthy for the organization. For a number of reasons, I argue it is not.
The BSA’s policy not allowing homosexuals to be members is the largest weight pulling down on the future progress of the Boy Scouts of America. In order to avoid lawsuits, the Boy Scouts have decided to move its National Jamborees from military bases near Washington DC to a private property. All across the country, the BSA struggles to find meeting places in public places due to ever increases non-discrimination laws. Avoiding lawsuits is one thing, but when America is moving in a direction of more comprehensive equal rights to the point that the Boy Scouts are classified as an organization that embraces discrimination and therefore should not be able to use facilities paid for by the taxpayers, the organization is in real danger of being left behind. Segments of the population view the BSA in such a negative light because of their policy on homosexuals that they would rather not allow their children to be exposed to the program. Loss of public presence and loss of potential membership will greatly hinder the future of the Boy Scouts of America.
The United States Military in now committed to repealing the ban on allowing openly gay Americans to serve in the armed forces. Looking to the future, is the Boy Scouts of America truly prepared to tell Generals and Admirals that they are unfit to serve as Scoutmasters because of who they are biologically designed to fall in love with? Do we really soon want to say that the U.S. Military is not “good enough” for the Boy Scouts of America?
The policy will also lead the BSA into picking favored religions. There are plenty of religions that actually believe we are all God’s children and therefore gays are ok in the eyes of the lord. The trend is in the direction of more and more religions embracing humanity over discriminating based on sexuality. The inability of the BSA to guarantee that charter partners can select the leaders for their Units is a barrier to an increased number of Scouting Units across the country. The BSA doesn’t have to force gay leaders into each troop, it should simply allow charter partners to decide for themselves if a gay man or woman can by “morally straight” and “clean”.
Finally, the purging of qualified leaders can not do any organization well. There are many men who have the same qualifications that I quoted at the beginning of this article who are no longer involved because of who they are wired to love. Expertise in Scouting skills and leadership and in-depth understanding of where the program has been and how it can continue into the future is lost because of the BSA’s policy. That’s why I’d like to ask anyone who reads this who has been a Scout and who happens to be gay to list the honors and awards, the badges of moral straightness and cleanliness that have been bestowed upon you by the Boy Scouts of America and then list the date you came to terms (if you have) with the thought of no longer being involved simply because you wanted to be who you are.
I’ll go first…