Hello Randy and Bill,
I know that you and all our friends in senior leadership positions with the BSA (locally and nationally) are hard at work with serious and weighty national policy decisions. I have read with great care the “Membership Standards Resolution” (http://www.bsaseabase.org/licensing/sitecore/content/MembershipStandards/Resolution/Resolution.aspx) and the “Membership Standards Executive Summary” (http://www.bsaseabase.org/licensing/sitecore/content/MembershipStandards/Resolution/Summary.aspx) on the BSA web site. The issue has been and remains to crucial to me. My brother and I shared an Eagle Court of Honor in 1971 and two of my sons also shared an Eagle Court of Honor about 10 years ago. But as I said years ago in an opinion column in “The Orlando Sentinel,” my brother embraced a homosexual lifestyle and eventually died of AIDS in 1999. I said then and repeat now that though my brother earned Eagle Scout and was a proven leader (and even an ordained pastor), I would not be able to endorse his being a model, mentor, or leader in Scouting.
So, allow me to share with you several thoughts (which you are free to circulate or dismiss as you like). Thank you in advance for your patience to consider this.
First, as I read the executive summaries, my eye stopped short on a phrase early in text (and repeated in the FAQ section): “This [‘homosexuality’ from the context] remains among the most complex and challenging issues facing the BSA and society today.” With all due respect to the National leadership and writers of the summaries, such an issue is only “complex and challenging” for people who are confused about simple realities and millennia-old culturally tested and universally accepted (until the last 40 years) truths about human nature and social structures.
Over the past couple of decades, our nation has witnessed a massive public relations campaign aimed at approving and normalizing homosexual practice. The overwhelmingly successful arguments and rhetoric are consistently based on emotion and personal experience, lacking any semblance of logical (not to mention anatomical) coherence or historical support. I realize that such a statement today is deemed grossly offensive by many (again, an emotional reaction without logical support), but this is only because as a culture we look beyond the obvious to the popular. But as I have said many time to others, even if 99.5% of Frenchmen decide that 2+2 = 4.5 because they like it that way, such overwhelming popular and cultural opinion does not change simple truth.
Second, I was alarmed in reading the Executive Summary by the strong presence of politically-correct language. This may serve to mollify cultural anger and condemnation; but in many ways, it denies Scouting’s history (along with the last 4,000 years of Judeo-Christian Western culture). In reviewing how the new policy proposal was researched, I note that Scouting sought to “listen” to national voices. Again, it is clear that the culture is experiencing a tectonic change on this issue. But this does not mean this cultural shift is right or beneficial to our nation. We may not see the cultural upheaval and damage for decades. In fact, in my opinion, if we listen to the cultural voice and adopt the proposed policy change, such a change delivers a foregone conclusion that a wholesale change in Scouting is inevitable and the organization’s roots are all but gone. If recent cultural history is a judge, consider the numerous major religious organizations and church denominations which have embraced “new progressive policies” regarding homosexuality. Every single one is in a free fall with respect to membership numbers (while remaining quite proud of their “diversity”). I fear so too will the Scouting movement shrivel and become irrelevant in America should we adopt such a radical change.
Third, one “voice” that I did not see in the conversation (did I miss it?) is international Scouting. Will a BSA change alienate us from the world-wide movement (as has happened with so many other organizations)? But again, even if the whole world were to say “We are changing so should you,” this would not determine the truth of such a change. But I am interested how the rest of Scouting will respond.
Finally, though the military recently rescinded (at a growing cost to national security) their “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding homosexuality, I think such a policy would benefit the BSA youth membership qualification as well. From my 45+ years associated with Scouting, sexual expression has never been (nor should it be) a part of Scouting values. And I gladly saw this affirmed in the FAQs. When one chooses, in an open fashion, to identify one’s selfhood primarily on a sexual orientation, this should automatically be problematic for membership in Scouting – whether youth or adult.
If Scouting officially allows homosexual orientation in its youth, make no mistake, the issue will not be solved. The Gay movement’s history tells us it will not rests with unspoken or partial acceptance – it will demand total approval and embrace. But if Scouting passes the proposed change, then in my opinion, the camel’s nose is in the tent and it is only a matter of time before adult orientation and behavior will also be acceptable.
In closing, cultures change, technologies change, merit badges change. But when “character” changes, and “values” changes, the essence of a movement will have changed. I for one hope that does not happen. I hope Scouting remains constant, even if as such it incurs the wrath of the cultural elite but remains a safe haven for kids, a place of stability in a cultural sea of confusion and incoherence.
Michael S. Beates
Eagle Scout, Greater New York Council, 1971
Troop Committee and ASM, CFC Troop 234, Longwood, 1996-2003
ASM, CFC National Jamboree Contingent 2001
CFC Seminole Springs Troop Commissioner, 2005-2012
Unassigned Adult, 2012-