Sometimes I’m quite proud of my adopted state in the South: Arkansas. With regard to natural values, personal support and professionalism in my field, the state was wonderful. But those are all very classic values. Unfortunately, when it comes to more modern perpectives, like equal rights and diversity, some parts of the state can be well-known for setting the bar for narrow-mindedness and pettiness. This is one of those times. Please understand that although there isn’t much from Arkansas that makes the international news, what does is the more extreme edge and does not represent everyone.
I’m sure many of my readers have heard the news about the Boy Scouts. The Boy Scouts of America recently (May 24, 2013) voted to overturn the century-old ban on gay scout members, which caused significant concern in churches and conservative watering holes. Among the many comments and concern that preceded the vote, many were predicting “mass defections” of scouts from their groups (Charisma News, 2013). I’ve heard none of that yet: most of what I’ve been able to find has been adult leaders mad about the possible change to “their” scouting groups (which cannot have many gay members in less than a week) being ousted from their sponsor-homes because they might one day have gay scouts. As in Jacksonville, Arkansas, where First Baptist Church of Gravel Ridge “has opted to terminate its charter of a local Boy Scout troop, effective immediately, after Boy Scouts of America decided to lift a ban on openly gay troop members last week” (Fox News, 2013).
“It’s not a hate thing here, it’s a moral stance we must take as a Southern Baptist Church,” according to Senior Pastor Tim Reed (NWA Homepage, 2013). I think that’s a rather subtle point for youngsters to understand, and that as a pastor Mr. Reed should probably reconsider his definitions. I’m sure what he’s hoping will happen will be that because he’s associating the loss of the troop with homosexuality, the young men will grow up hating gays as much as he does. But I expect it will backfire. As one who still has ties to the conservative church in the U.S., it is hard to watch that institution literally lose relevance to young people as I watch.
I understand that they believe it when they say that “homosexual behavior is incompatible with the principles enshrined in the Scout Oath and Scout Law” (Baptist Press, 2013). I do understand that. But it makes me wonder. Can they not see that this statement is, fundamentally, one of discrimination? This statement is incompatible with any sense of morality, Scout-ish or otherwise: it tells us that judging a person based on the stereotypes that are upheld about his or her community is not only okay, it is right and good and worth fighting for. I mean, look at those kids in that picture above. Most of them hardly know what homosexuality is. They are following the hatred that has been instilled in them by their parents.
Probably the most interesting thing about this discussion is the lack of an international context. Scouting is an international organization, and Scouts Canada has received LGBTQ scouts for years: since before the turn of the millennium. Indeed, in 1999, the first all-gay troop was formed: “And not only will this Boy Scout troop be gay; it looks to be half female, as well, under the coeducational policy adopted by Scouts Canada in 1998. According to [one of the troop members], of the 12 people who have signed up for the troop, seven are lesbians” (Washington Post, 1999) Has scouting in Canada degenerated as a result?
I must say that I was impressed by one aspect of this story: Fox News, which I normally consider to the a one-sided and bigoted news agency, did a decent job of covering the story. I referenced them above. They even, at the end, provided the connection information that a group might need if they wanted to sponsor this particular troop. I truly hope that someone is able to use that information and to provide a new home for the boys.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, another comment on the subject read: “Any parent that allows their kid into the new degenerate BSA better not come crying when their little one comes home molested. Not one shred of sympathy from me. Cowards and deviants… that’s what the organization has now defined itself as. Only fit for scum. I spit on them. May they burn in hell, the bastards.” (Free Republic, 2013) And they say we’re the immoral ones.