Boy Scouts and Gay Ban


DEBORAH POTTER, correspondent: The Boy Scouts of America has long argued that homosexuality is incompatible with its basic principles. As a private organization, its right to exclude gays was upheld by the Supreme Court a decade ago. But the issue has remained divisive.

Pascal Tessier, for one, hopes the scouts will lift the ban.

PASCAL TESSIER: I’ve had wonderful experiences with all the other boys and learning all my life skills and becoming a leader and all that.

POTTER: Pascal is now 16 and just a few steps away from becoming an Eagle Scout, the highest rank in scouting. He’s also openly gay.

TESSIER: Right now I’m on the line. I could get a letter any day saying I’m not part of scouts anymore. I’m kicked out. I would…that’s it, that’s the end of it. That’s the end of ten years of scouting.

POTTER: The policy change proposed by the Boy Scouts of America would affect more than two-and-a-half million boys. Most of them—70 percent—belong to troops that are sponsored by religious organizations. And the reaction from faith-based groups has been mixed. The Mormon Church, the largest single sponsor of scout groups, is on record as saying that homosexual acts are sinful. But it surprised many by giving its blessing to the Boy Scouts’ proposal just weeks before the vote. United Methodist churches, like Metropolitan Memorial in Washington, DC, supported the change from the start. Senior Pastor Charles Parker is a former scout and father of a seven-year-old boy.

CHARLES PARKER (Senior Pastor, Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church): I think the scouts are actually wrestling with the same thing the church is wrestling with in terms of an erosion of membership over the years, and if they really want to communicate to a new generation of folks, my son is not going to understand bigotry towards homosexuals and wouldn’t be part of a group that was bigoted. So if we want a new generation of scouts, we’ve got to do this.

POTTER: Opponents of the proposal to accept gay scouts say it flies in the face of a basic tenet of scouting: the oath boys take to be “morally straight.”

Boy Scouts reciting oath: “To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.

Family Research Council video: “Over 100 million boys have taken the scouts’ oath.”

POTTER: The Christian conservative group Family Research Council produced a national webcast to rally the opposition.

CHRISTIAN SACRA (Eagle Scout) (from “Stand With the Scouts” video): Changing the scout policy on homosexuality really brings up concerns of making sure the scouts live by the scout oath and law, when really we’re supporting an idea that goes against it.

PASTOR ROBERT HALL (Calvary Chapel Rio Rancho, NM) (from “Stand With the Scouts” video): The problem is that we as churches are setting a moral code in people’s lives, as we’re the conscience of the nation. And we have all our scout volunteers sign our statement of faith. And it’s within that environment we’re all in agreement of what we believe, that we’re training our boys and teaching them to honor God and to be, as you say, “morally straight.” And that would be incompatible with this change in scouting. We could not continue our relationship with them.

POTTER: To Pascal Tessier, the concerns makes no sense.

TESSIER: Sexuality does not have a place in scouts. It’s about having good morals and be able to be a good person. So I think that bringing sexuality into it doesn’t have any effect. Your sexuality doesn’t affect your morals.

POTTER: And some supporters of admitting gay scouts say the policy change doesn’t go far enough. The Boy Scouts have drawn the line at 18, still refusing to accept gay adults as scout leaders.

PARKER: I think the issue of trying to intellectually justify that being gay and being a scout is fine, but being gay and being a leader is not fine is an odd one, because on some level you’re training scouts to be leaders, and so if you’re training gay scouts to be presumably gay leaders, but then you don’t want gay leaders in the scouts, that’s sort of an odd message to send.

POTTER: Some troops undoubtedly will leave the Boy Scouts of America if the new policy is approved. But the organization faces a possible economic backlash if it retains the ban. Measures are under review in several states to withhold funding or tax breaks from the scouts unless the ban is lifted.

For Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, I’m Deborah Potter in Washington.

Boy Scouts reciting Scout Benediction: “May the great Scout Master of all great scouts be with us until we meet again.”

  • Screamin Eagle

    What other states than California are considering the withholding of funds and tax breaks?…it says several in the article…

  • cd

    Since when has the boy scouts been about sexuality. It’s about helping boys transition into men not discover their sexuality! That’s what this is turning into, I don’t care what anyone says. It is what it is. The principles that were set up by the boy scouts AREN’T outdated. Just because they aren’t the ideals of certain groups doesn’t mean they are wrong ideals and that’s what every issue is coming to now. That’s the problem nowadays. If you have a problem then create your own group (just like the original groups) have done and let it suit your needs. What gays/lesbians are trying to do is to corrupt a well known group into excepting them so that they don’t have to start from scratch.

  • Brady Mitchell

    I agree with Parker’s statement that to allow openly gay Scouts to advance in Scouting and not to allow openly gay leaders would send a mixed signal, which must be avoided. Any decision that is made must be across the board. I must also acknowledge his statement regarding membership numbers as being true, but this statement is completely irrelevant to the issue. The only issue for consideration is what does it mean to be morally be straight. Tessier’s statement that your sexuality does not effect your morals shows a certain selectiveness regarding morality which is a quality that I would have to bring into question in a Eagle Scout board of review. Morality holds many different facets, and one of those facets is sexual morality. This is an area that the organization has neglected to define clearly in most ways because it relied on the Church to do so. Whatever decision is made in the upcoming vote, the organization must make its reasons clearly defined and backed by something more solid than public opinion. It is time for the Boy Scouts of America to determine what it will provide as a true moral compass for our future leaders.

  • Marco Luxe

    Please, please, please stop stating that “as a private organization, the right to exclude gays was upheld by the Supreme Court”. The premise that the private status of an organization creates the right to exclude is a popular fallacy that misleads the public.

    Private organizations are not exempt from public accommodation and anti-discrimination laws. These laws would have little societal effect if they did not directly apply to private entities, as most businesses are private. Specifically, restaurants, hotels, clubs, sporting venues and nearly everything else that serve the public are subject to general anti-discrimination laws even though these entities are privately owned. We as a society have decided that people can not be excluded based on invidious classifications, and that these are the general rules we all must live by when we conduct business.

    The Supreme Court’s ruling in Dale had nothing to do with the claimed “private” status of the BSA. SCOTUS upheld the Boy Scouts’ right to existential self expression under freedom of speech principles.

    An analogy may help simplify this concept. If the KKK had a youth group like the Boy Scouts, they could still exclude black boys because the essence of the KKK’s message is the inferiority of blacks. This racist message is consistent and clear in every KKK publication. If a state anti-discrimination law stripped the KKK’s right to exclude blacks, the essence of the KKK would evaporate. SCOTUS teaches us that such a law would be an impermissible intrusion into the KKK’s ability to speak its core message which is protected by 1st Amendment.

    In Dale, the lawyers for the BSA convinced five Supreme Court justices that the BSA’s prime message was analogous to the KKK’s : the essence that defines the Scouts is its condemnation of homosexuality. That is, without this anti-gay message put into practice, there would be no authentic Scouting. Thus the BSA’s 1st Amendment rights override the public accommodation law they were fighting.

    Ironically, recent statements by national BSA leaders reveal that they never had such a strident message; it was all just ginned up for the high court.

    Since the pretense of an essential anti-gay message will be exposed by any change in policy, the BSA will no longer be able to use a 1st Amendment argument to avoid compliance with anti-discrimination laws.

  • Bike Guy

    Pastor Hall and his ilk seem to have forgotten that the BSA is not and has never been a Christian organization. BSA is non-sectarian.

    “Morally straight” means something quite different to a Southern Baptist, a Hindu, a Unitarian, a Muslim, a Reformed Jew, and a Buddhist. Should Orthodox Jews insist that those who eat pork leave? Muslims those who drink alcohol? What about living with your girlfriend? Birth control? Driving a gas guzzler? Who is to say what is “morally straight” in a non-sectarian organization?

    Scouts remain non-sectarian and do not discriminate against gays or any group in other leading Scouting nations, such as France, Canada, Mexico, Australia, or the UK, where Scouting was founded.

    I was a Scout in NYC in the 60s and 70s and tolerance ruled. We were Jews, Chinese, Protestants, Blacks and we didn’t meet at a church. The focus was on nature and the outdoors. I never thought of the Scouts as a particularly religious group and there was no ban on anyone, including gays.

    The ban was put in place only in 1992 under Mormons pressure. Mormons are less than 2% of the USA but today control more than a third of troops. Mormon Scouts rarely form mixed groups and often meet in churches and hold religious services, completely against Scouting’s non-sectarian founding principles.

    Christian conservatives have seem bent on destroying the American branch of the Boy Scouts by insisting it be a sectarian, religious organization. Most Mormons troops are 100% Mormon. Mormon and Baptist troops often hold religious services, effectively making the Scouting experience a church. This is contrary to Scouting’s non-sectarian mission.

    The overwhelming majority of all Americans (55% to 33%) want to end the ban on gay teens and gay adults. They understand that fairness and inclusion are American values. They are also Scouting values. I quote Scouting’s English founder, Lord Baden Powell:

    “Buddha has said: ‘There is only one way of driving out Hate in the world and that is by bringing in 
Love.’ Scouting’s aim is to produce healthy, happy, helpful citizens, of both sexes, to ERADICATE the prevailing narrow self interest, personal, political, SECTARIAN and national, and to substitute for it a broader spirit of self-sacrifice and service in the cause of humanity.”

    If BSA does not lift the ban I ask that they give up the hallowed name of Boy Scouts of America, leaving that to an inclusive, truly American organization. They can call themselves the Boy Scouts of Christian Conservatives, the 33%, and be done with it.

  • William Holahan

    The Boy Scouts: The pledge “morally straight” means: sober, honest, and trustable. It doesn’t mean heterosexual. As soon as the Boy Scouts realize that whether gay or straight, all the codes of conduct are the same, all this nonsense of banning gays will die away.

    Boys don’t know the final word on their future sexuality. Having leaders of both gay and straight orientations will help growing minds to feel less fearful in expressing their honesty. All the rules of polite and respectful conduct remain the same for people of all ages and gender.

    IF churches withhold their funding for the Boy Scouts, there will be many other organizations that will lend support in their absence. Will churches eventually see a clearer picture of sexuality and ethics? I pray so.

  • Channah

    Boy Scouts reciting oath: “To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.“

    And, who exactly is to decide what is morally straight? Too often religions demand that their code of conduct be followed by those who do not belong to their faith and opinions—–and their moralities.

    Even if some change comes, if I had a son in the right age bracket, I am not so sure I would want him to join Boy Scouts. I have too many ill feelings toward them and their ideas of what is right and what is not. My respect is gone and it will take a lot of change to earn it again. Leaders and boys should be accepted, no matter their Sexuality.

  • Ron Faust

    On today’s show (5/19) you had a Methodist Pastor comment on the issue of gays in Scouting. The Pastor admits that the Scouts are wrestling with this issue. Then the Pastor says that :” and if they really want to communicate to a new generation of folks, my son is not going to understand bigotry towards homosexuals and wouldn’t be part of a group that was bigoted.”. Gee with a parent like that I am sure his son would not think the scouts are fair. If the scouts allow gay scouts but deny gay scout leaders, it may not be a perfect solution.. but it WOULD be a compromise. Is trying to achieve a compromise something a bigot does? This Pastor says his son will think scouts are bigots doesn’t sound like he is seeking a solution as much as he is looking to throw mud. Calling the scouts bigots was totally out of line. Especially from a man of God.

  • Jerry T. Souta, Jr.

    This segment on Boy Scouts and Gay Ban was censored by WYCC in Chicago which did not broadcase this report, but did broadcast the rest of todays Religion and News Ethics weekly show.

    What accounts for this censorship?

    Please contact WYCC in Chicago (6258 S. Union, Chicago Il 60621) (773) 224-3300

    Please let us know on the 5/26/2013 Religion and Ethics Newsweekly what WYCC tells you about their censorship of the segment Boy Scouts and Gay Ban.

  • stevegregory

    Why is it so important that I know that someone is gay, why is it so important that I condone it and except it. This is so wrong, what about rights. Bigots hell what about bullying.

  • Pastor Robert Hall

    Ms. Potter,

    I have seen the show and article you did for PBS on the dilemma facing the scouts over acceptance of those involved in homosexual behavior. I appreciate your using some of the words I spoke on the interview in this piece, but believe, based on the limited amount of time I had to express our position on the FRC interview, you might be well-served to have a little more information from my point of view. I did notice that in your piece you slanted the presentation toward the pro-change side, giving them over ¾ of the time; and so you may not be interested in what I have to say. But if you would like to understand where we are coming from, here goes:

    You should know that BSA’s policy right now essentially is “don’t ask, don’t tell” (from my point of view) as this is in fact what happens in most troops. In our troop we extend love and acceptance to all young men and their parents who participate, and WE NEVER ASK ABOUT SEXUAL ORIENTATION! We have strong guidelines and rules in place which cover the protection of our boys and the restraint of ALL sexual activity during events and meetings.

    What this rule change proposes is to force us to accept those who are bringing their sexual preferences to the forefront of their lives – to the point that it is defining them as a person – rather than being defined as a scout. We object to any young man entering into our troops with an “in your face openly gay and proud of it” attitude; thus forcing us to accept and condone his chosen form of sexual behavior. Accepting and condoning any form of “sexual” behavior outside of marriage publicly undermines the scout moral code which seeks to teach that sexual activity needs to be kept within the context of marriage. Again, ANY sexual behavior outside of marriage for young men 12-18 is totally unacceptable under the BSA moral code (and an estimated 70% of the troop-founding organizations) and especially if it is publicly announced and “thrown in the face” of Troop leadership. The same standards apply to our leaders as well. This rules-change would force each troop to accept a culturally driven moral standard that is contrary to the scout oath (“morally straight”) and the thinking that originally went in to the oath. Thank you for reading this and trying to understand where we are coming from. Sincerely, Pastor Robert Hall

  • Bruce Robinson

    The culture is in a continuous state of flux. As the civil rights movement succeeded in the last century, being anti-Black slowly became socially unacceptable and became recognized for what it was: racial bigotry. As the feminist movement took hold, being anti-women slowly became unacceptable and became recognized as sexist bigotry. And now, being anti-gay is becoming socially unacceptable and being recognized as homophobic bigotry. Some conservatives fought back, justifying slavery in the 19th century and racial discrimination in the 20th, based on the “Curse of Ham.” They fought back against female equality with biblical quotes from St. Paul. Both failed. They are fighting back today with the six “clobber passages in Leviticus 18, Leviticus 20, 1 Corinthians 6, Romans 1. Etc. But again, they are failing.

    The amount of pain necessary to achieve “justice and liberty for all” is heartbreaking. But there appears to be no other way . I wish there were.

  • Paul Renick

    After viewing your piece on sequestration, I find myself unable to stay silent. First, while not directly related to the segment, everyone should remember the sequestration was the brainchild of the protectors of those less fortunate; the Obama administration. Second, only in government does a decrease in the rate of increase count as a “cut.” If your boss increased your salary $10.00/hr last year and only $5.00 this year, by no definition (but your segment’s) does this count as a decrease. Third, perhaps if the government stopped funding partisan journalism such as this there would be plenty of funding available for those less fortunate. I have been a small business owner through the Great Recession and Super Storm Sandy and my family’s sacrifices have been monumental. While I sympathize with my fellow working class citizens, it is a struggle to work up much sympathy for a decrease in the rate of increase. I have been personally dealing with an increase in the rate of my decreasing bottom line.

  • Russell T. Leuck

    To those National Council of Boy Scouts of America ( council members)
    I a former Gay myself and a past Boy Scout do simpathys with the Homosexuals . I am a firm believer in the equal rights of all persons . Reguardless of race,gender,color,religious believes and / or creeds . I believe that anyone to whom would like to be a part of a group like scouting (not scouting) that is a Homosexual should be given the oppertunity to do so . However i can not agree that they should take it upon themselves to change the ban Homosexuals in the scouting program . For it would truly go against the true values of the foundation of the scouting program.
    That first started though the Salvation Army in England as a christian values filled program for boys . To help them grow up to be fine outstanding young men.
    Therefore i most strongly urg all of the council members of the ” National Council of Boy Scouts of America ” to seriously concider upholding the ban on Homosexual particapation with – in the scouting program . For such a policy would truly be in direct violation of the very moral values of both the scout law & oath .
    Yours Truly : Russell T. Leuck

  • Kathy Collins

    There is always someone out there whining about this or that. I raised 2 sons, seen them in the scouts, watched them as they learned, grew in the scouts. I love the boy scout program, And I stand behind it. Why should they change because some people do not want to abide by the rules. There are rules we all must follow in our life’s. It is like when we TRUE PROUD AMERICAN S pledge our allegiance to this great country and then as we do so, turn spy.. Well there will be hell to pay. The Boy Scouts have standards either you follow the standards or you will no longer belong. It is that simple. Who will whinnnnn next Transvestite’s girls?? Hell when will it end? WHIN WHIN WHIN you can not please everyone. It is The Boy Scout’s rules, you either follow their rules and be apart of them Or not, No court should ever even be a part of it. I belong to many groups. Each one has RULESSSSS if I do not follow their rules I am out.. No matter how much I whinnn and call them unfair. I knew the rules going in and I follow them.It is not up to me to tell them they need to change their way of thinking, or their rules because I no longer like it.So get the HELL over it people. WHY should The Boy Scouts have to fight this.This whinnnnnnning fit some of the people are doing I say.. WHIN away for all the good it will do you..

  • Shadi

    Pascal Tessier says, “Your sexuality doesn’t affect your morals.”

    I beg to differ. While the morals of society may be relative to any given day and age, God’s moral standard is not! The scouts own oath states, “On my honor, I will do my best, to do my duty, to God and my country…” There is no ambiguity as to which God and His moral code we honor.

  • Ashley H.

    @ Shadi

    I was going to post something very similar….just scanning through what I have been reading and listening to on other news sites….people are forgetting who has BEEN set the standards as regards morality and worship….thousands of years ago…people are just choosing to ignore it and feel that if they make up a different set of rules that its acceptable….

    and thats another point….whose approval are we trying to gain? That of ourselves or God? If we all as individuals do as the scriptures say
    (Ephesians 5:10, 11) . . .Keep on making sure of what is acceptable to the Lord; 11 and quit sharing with [them] in the unfruitful works that belong to the darkness, but, rather, even be reproving [them],

    we wouldn’t have these debates about what should be acceptable and whose rights are being trampled on.
    Has anyone stopped to think about the God’s rights being trampled on?

    He has the ABSOLUTE RIGHT to be worshiped in truth without any defilement…but we all somehow feel that he will take whatever is thrown at him and he is expected to bless us.

    If we all stop and think about what it is that GOD wants then all of these conversations wouldn’t have to exist.