Why is sexual orientation a deal-breaker for Boy Scouts?
Recently there has been coverage of the story of Ryan Andresen, the 18-year-old California Boy Scout who has been denied the Eagle Scout award that he earned because that he is gay. The official position of the Boy Scouts of America is that the young man is no longer eligible for membership in the organization because his philosophy regarding sexual orientation conflicts with the Scouting principle of “Duty to God.” This basic issue is not a new one to the Boy Scouts of America. The organization has a longstanding policy of zero tolerance for members and leaders who do not meet its standards for sexual orientation. With the Eagle Scout Program now in its 100th year, the BSA leadership has decided to double down on the bigoted policy instead of moving forward into the 21st Century.
The challenge with the Ryan Andresen debacle is that the young man has been a Scout since he was 6. He has performed with honor and distinction which is the core requirement for reaching the highest level of the organization. For his Eagle Scout project, he created a “Tolerance Wall” which he worked on with school children. It contains 288 tiles which represent various acts of kindness and are focused on anti-bullying principles. The project itself was impressive enough to satisfy the requirement for the Eagle Scout Award but when coupled with the issue of sexual orientation, it became a deal-breaker.
This travesty has led to many supporters of Andresen signing an online petition asking that he not be denied his Eagle Scout Award. More than 400,000 people have signed so far with a goal of reaching 500,000. Dozens of Eagle Scouts have also returned their badges and membership cards in protest of this action. The Boy Scouts of America also face the loss of many corporate sponsors such as the United Way and Intel. All of this seems to be of no consequence in the group’s decision making process. Officials are laser-focused on this one issue and show no indication of a willingness to open up a dialogue on the issue.
So why the fear and loathing? As the son of a former Scoutmaster, I know that when children enter this phase of their lives, they have no agenda. You are recruited into Scouting at church or school or because your aunt is a Den Mother. It’s a rite of passage like T-ball and summer camp at the YMCA and you do what humans do out of instinct: you join the pack for a sense of belonging and security. Very few six-year-olds are able to articulate the more complicated issues that will arise in their teen years or in young adulthood. I was a progressive child and would rather have stayed home and watched reruns of “I Love Lucy” than go to Scout meetings but my dad had other plans. In his endless quest to toughen me up, I suffered through archery, shooting and camping trips that seemed like a punishment for some unknown offense.
I have to question the thought process of any organization that rewards you for meritorious conduct and lauds your achievements up until the point where they discover you are different. What does it say about the character of the people who enact and enforce these policies and refuse to consider that there may be room for growth? I think they are more fearful of introspection than they will ever be willing to admit.
Character can never be determined by anything as random as religion or race or sexuality. By denying someone an achievement they have earned though years of sacrifice and hard work based on such an arbitrary factor is nothing more than pure discrimination. It seems logical to ask the leaders of BSA to look at the world around them and see the progress made in other areas of life by LGBTQ persons and to ask why they seem so determined to wallow in their abysmal ignorance. If our military and our religious institutions can move past the issue of sexuality, then why can’t the Scouts?
I’m certain there are litanies of people who will decry the fact that progress has been made in the military in the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and that the recent court rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act are all steps in the decline of American morals. But at the core of all of this we are still considering one thing: character. What better basis is there for judging the actions of others?
I don’t have an Eagle Scout Award to send back to the BSA with a letter of protest over its actions against this young man. I escaped the Scouts long before that phase and segued into other areas of interest. However, I do believe that Andresen is an honorable young man whose integrity and valor exceed anything that the Scouts could ever instill in anyone. Perhaps that is what the officials at the BSA fear the most.
OUT & ABOUT
Sunday, Nov. 11 – Rainbow House Bar & Grill will host a Pot Luck Dinner and Fundraiser starting at 6 p.m. to benefit the employees of Time Out!. Everyone is asked to bring a covered dish and to make a donation of $5 per plate. All proceeds will go to the employees of Time Out! to assist them with their loss of revenue due to the fire that ravaged the downtown bar in the wee hours of Oct. 15 For additional information or for upcoming events, visit www.rainbowhousemyrtlebeach.com or Rainbow House Bar & Grill on Facebook.
Rainbow House Bar & Grill is at 815 N. Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach.
Have a thought, comment or Out & About event? Send Drew Levy-Neal an e-mail to Drew.Levy.Neal@gmail.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @Drew_Levy_Neal.