When I was a young man, some 70 years ago, I wanted to be in the Boy Scouts. My parents, who were atheists, were not enthusiastic about the idea because the Boy Scouts met in the facilities of churches. Also, there was an emphasis, in my parents’ minds at least, on religion. To them, that was the Boy Scout dilemma.
The truth is that many of the merit badges were on morality, faith, worship, and leadership in spiritual matters. I avoided those so not to irritate my parents. In retreats and camping, there were talks and classes on issues of concern to a young teenage boy. Those included sexual matters and the concept of keeping “purity” as a virtue. Our leaders were men who demonstrated how to live as good citizens, fathers, and husbands.
In the past five years, the Boy Scouts have eroded most of that. Openly gay and transgender boys can become Boy Scouts. The ban on openly gay adult leaders has been thrown out. Now the word “Boy” is being dropped, and the organization will admit girls.
Recently, one out of every five Boy Scouts was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). The Mormon Church has announced they are ending their partnership with the Boy Scouts and they are forming their own youth program. I have friends who are active in the Boy Scouts who say they are refusing to continue camping trips or summer camps because they cannot control the dynamics of a sexually mixed group in a wilderness setting. The Boy Scout dilemma today is much different from what it was in the past.
It is likely that lawsuits will ultimately come from this debacle. The question arises of whether any group has the right to exclude anyone from any activity on the basis of gender or morality. That could have implications for the Church.
–John N. Clayton © 2018