Earlier this week I had the privilege of conversing with a Boy Scout executive who is a friend and fellow Rotarian. As an Eagle Scout and Explorer who received my God and Country Award, I have a deep, lifelong appreciation for Scouting.
When I asked my friend this simple question, "How are you handling the reaction?" he understood perfectly the nature of my query and expressed his exasperation over the proposed compromise the national Boy Scouts of America is floating regarding acceptance/rejection of gay scout participants and leaders.
Current BSA policy forbids gay boys or men to become a Boy Scout as either participant or leader. This policy has come under fire from various quarters, mirroring the divisiveness of this subject in every area of American life. Many businesses, non-profit organizations and churches have embraced a far more open, accepting stance towards gay and lesbian people. The Girl Scouts of America, for instance, does not list sexual orientation as a bar to membership or leadership in that fine organization.
The Boy Scouts of America, under increasing pressure, has so far steadfastly refused to change their policy. This refusal has created protests, not only from outside organizations and donors (as conservative groups would have us believe), but also from many current and former Boy Scouts and their leaders. This dual pressure has led to a soon-to-be voted on compromise that will allow gay teenagers to become Boy Scouts, but continue to reject gay men from serving as Scout Masters or volunteers.
This proposal has united the opposing sides in agreement that the compromise is a gutless attempt to mollify everybody. Both sides want complete victory and recognize that this proposal as nonsense.
My friend pointed out that his geographical region is 70 percent in favor of retaining the current exclusion policy. Most of the sponsoring agencies are churches that either oppose homosexuality or want a "don't ask, don't tell policy." Although I sympathize with his dilemma, I told my friend that this pastor and Eagle Scout believes, for many reasons, that the Boy Scouts should make a clean break with their current policy. Sexual orientation has nothing to do with whether a boy can be a good scout or a man an outstanding scout leader.
One of the 12 Scout laws is courage: "being brave and doing what is right regardless of ... fears ... difficulties ... consequences." Those who want to continue the exclusion policy cast it as a courageous decision in the face of a shrinking donor base and inside and outside pressure. Those who advocate for change are cast it as a courageous decision based on justice and compassion at the risk of losing members and sponsors.
I have the highest regard for this fine organization. The Boy Scouts face a tough decision; I hope they'll do the right thing, either next week or eventually. This compromise cannot hold. Either way, my good friend is extinguishing many fires, but maybe not the kind for which Boy Scouts are usually trained.
Contact the Rev. Creede Hinshaw at Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church in Savannah at creedewesleymonumental.org.