Boy Scout Oath
On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.
HOUSTON, Texas, U.S.A. – As former Boy Scouts, we know the Scout Oath by heart, but over our six years spent in scouting, its meaning faded for us.
Many other boys don’t have the choice we did whether to put on the Boy Scout uniform – the tan Scout shirt, the muddy olive green Scout pants – or have a chance to say that Oath themselves.
The Boy Scouts of America recently announced that they would review their long-standing policies – unwritten rules to some – forbidding gay boys from becoming members, and gay men or lesbians from becoming adult leaders.
At first this may seem a breath of much-needed fresh air for the Boy Scouts, who have seen their membership dwindle during the last few years, in part because of these discriminatory policies.
But then you realize – it’s not enough.
The Boy Scouts have only said they will consider a partial ban on gays joining the organization – partial because they would delegate the responsibility of deciding whether or not gays can join to the religious, civic, or educational organizations that oversee local scouting programs. That means allowing gays or not would be up to each individual council, district or troop.
This idea may sound good in theory, but there are some fatal flaws with the reasoning. The troops and area councils could institute policies which would ban gays from joining that particular troop or area council or district.
Some, obviously, wouldn’t do so, welcoming gays happily, with arms wide open; some are more progressive than others.
But there would still be those troops who stopped gays at the door. Mormon troops, for example, could be among those troops that would forbid entry to potential gay Scouts. According to The New York Times, every Mormon boy is automatically enrolled in Scouting, and most participate.
Mormons account for a third of all Boy Scouts, after all, and as such they have more clout than most Scouting sponsors do.
We joined the Boy Scouts of America as Cub Scouts when we were about eight years old, second graders in elementary school.
Being a Cub Scout was fun. We made Pinewood Derby cars, went on camp outs and made many friends along the way. Then we bridged over to Boy Scouts. We had a good time for a while, but as we learned that the organization’s leaders wouldn’t change its policy and allow gays, we gradually had second thoughts about being Boy Scouts.
If the Boy Scouts of America want to increase their membership potential to its fullest extent, they should grant full membership options to gay boys, men, and women, regardless of which organization sponsors them, be it civic or through a church or other house of worship.
Those on the more conservative side of the spectrum might disagree with this, but we only grow more and more progressive as time goes by. It wasn’t until 1974 when the NAACP sued the Boy Scouts and as a result, the Scouts said they wouldn’t discriminate.
Asians had to start troops of their own as they endured similar membership-related ordeals.
Now it’s difficult not to let Scouts of all ethnicities join the ranks. While we come from a predominantly white, Jewish troop, we have many friends of all ethnicities who are Boy Scouts.
The Boy Scouts of America is open to all religions. It is not just Catholic or Protestant, not just Muslim or Jewish. They let boys of every faith join. If they don’t care about which God you believe in, then why do they care about who you’d like to marry?
There’s no reason why a boy of any faith or race should not be given the choice to join the Boy Scouts and gays deserve that same privilege.
We have a good friend who is a Boy Scout and who is gay. He didn’t come out to his troop because of fears that he would be forced to leave. No one should feel that kind of anxiety from doing something they enjoy. No one deserves to feel that worry.
It doesn’t feel right to deprive a boy of the chance to become a Boy Scout simply because they have a different sexual orientation. It is a double standard.
To grant membership to boys who are straight and not allow the same for gays is unethical, and is simply wrong.
The Boy Scouts of America are carrying fire in one hand, water in the other.
Sadly, the Boy Scouts are considering partially removing their ban on gays, yet they’ve said nothing of their unspoken agreement to ban atheists and agnostics from the organization. Not all troops follow this rule, and our troop was and continues to be on the progressive side of the Boy Scouts of America, but it’s a policy that should be entirely revoked.
Our growing conviction that the Boy Scouts should open their ranks to gay boys played a major role in our decision to leave.
The Boy Scouts could stand to take a look at the Girl Scouts’ example. They desegregated their units fully before the Boy Scouts did and in 1956, the great civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. even called the Girl Scouts “a force for desegregation.”
They have programs, such as “Girl Scouts Behind Bars” for girls whose mothers are in jail. The Girl Scouts also welcome girls who are in juvenile delinquent programs and don’t discriminate against lesbian members or leaders.
The Girl Scouts also allow girls to substitute a word for “God” in their oath if they so desire.
They’re doing just fine.
The Boy Scouts, meanwhile, have seen their membership decline for years. Reforming their policies to make them more inclusive to all boys who wish to join would make their members grow steadily.
After all, if the two of us can have the chance to join the Scouts and walk away after a good six years, our gay brothers should be allowed that same opportunity.
Eli Winter is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International. Isaac Winter is a Junior Reporter.