Thursday, January 31, 2013

Boy Scouts, gays and God

With the elimination of the ban on homosexual conduct by scout leaders and scouts the author of a piece on the Boy Scouts wonders, seemingly not disapprovingly, when they'll left their ban on atheists.
Can't imagine it's too far a leap to do that given the Scouts willingness to compromise their principles.

But then there are the conservative values that aren't nearly so universal, many of which are rooted in the historical twining of the Boy Scouts and religion. As the Boy Scout oath puts it right up front:

"On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country..."

Atheists and agnostics need not apply.

American conservatism has always had the libertarian "leave me alone and I'll do the same to you" strain and the "God has told me what's right so I need to carry that to the world" strain. The religion-linked conservatism has had the loudest megaphone in American culture for a while. But I'd suggest that the Boy Scouts' latest announcement is evidence that the libertarian strain, at least as supported by some of the organization's largest donors and supporters, is now in the ascendency.

The local options being discussed wouldn't require any scouting troop to take any particular position on homosexuality. What that means is that there will be troops that are known to be open and those not, so parents will have the ability to choose what they want for their boys. (I can imagine diversity creating some real issues at the Jamborees, however.)

But what about parents and kids whose attitude toward religion is not doctrinaire? I sent an email to the Boy Scouts' national spokesman, Deron Smith. Will there be a "local option" offered for atheists or agnostics?

From his answer, it appears that religious conservatism still holds the line there.

"It is the position of the Boy Scouts of America that the ideals and principles of 'Duty to God' and 'reverence' set forth in the Scout Oath and Law are central to teaching young people to make better choices over their lifetimes."

It's certainly the right of the Boy Scouts to take that position, and maybe history has made it impossible to extract religious faith from the Boy Scout mission.

Of course, the organization was just as unequivocal not so long ago about sexual orientation. So maybe the non-religious still do have a prayer of becoming Boy Scouts one day.
Once the compromise of principles begins, it's hard to stop.  The demise of another character building organization.

UPDATE:  I incorrectly stated that the Boy Scouts had changed their policy on prohibiting persons engaged in homosexual conduct from being Scout leaders.  They're expected to make a decision this week, e.g. February 4th - 8th.

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