With the recent change in the policies of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) regarding homosexual members, many people on both sides cry foul for varying reasons. As commentator Shad Engkilterra pointed out in the previous print issue of The Globe, the BSA change in policy appears to be half-hearted. However, there’s a layer of politicking at work when it comes to the decision the BSA has made, a practice that has been used throughout history by our government.
As part of their code of ethics, Boy Scouts are not allowed to engage in sexual activity outside of the institution of marriage, so the worry that gay Boy Scouts will turn other boys gay via “fooling around” is thrown out the window when you realize that having sex before marriage, even if you’re heterosexual, will get you kicked out as it’s a violation of the rules.
The next rationale people use to argue for the full lifting of the ban is that the Scoutmaster Handbook explicitly states that “no Scoutmaster should undertake to teach Scouts, in any formalized manner, about sexual behavior.” As such, the argument is that the BSA is overstepping its bounds by implementing such a ban.
Now the lifting of the ban on homosexual scouts only applies to scouts and not scout leaders. The obvious question is why not lift the ban on leaders as well, since many of the incoming scouts will eventually turn 18 and be considered adults. Here’s where the strategy comes into play.
Many of the organizations that support the BSA are religious organizations, including the LDS Church. As such, the BSA doesn’t want to risk losing a great deal of their monetary support. Since much of their support also comes from the government, there’s the looming pressure that if they don’t do something, they will lose the kickbacks they get from the government as a non-profit organization.
The BSA has essentially solved part of the issue and kicked the rest down the road. This tactic was used in the past with the Compromise of 1850 when the balance between the slave states and the free states was at risk because the U.S. acquired new territory from France and Mexico.
The compromise introduced the idea of popular sovereignty where a state could decide whether or not it was a slave state by voting on the issue in a state poll, but the complexity of the bill only allowed it to apply to the territories of Utah and New Mexico, whereas the new state of California was admitted as a free state by default. The compromise only prevented secession and sectional conflicts for a short time before the nation broke out into civil war.
Looking at that same scenario as applied to the BSA, its change in policy is only a temporary compromise, as it makes it look like the BSA is changing begrudgingly in an attempt to keep the favors of the various religious organizations that support them.
On that same note, the idea that the gay members of the Scouts will eventually become adults is merely the tool that pushes the issue down the road until the time comes that those scouts will want to become Scoutmasters, thus appearing to “force” the BSA’s hand into lifting the ban in its entirety.