More than 1.4 million copies of the Boy Scouts’ biannual “Voice of the Scout Survey” have gone out to parents, volunteers and former Scouts. This time, though, the BSA is asking what members think about its ban on openly gay scouts and leaders.
“The BSA is committed to dialogue on the topic of its membership standards policy, within the Scouting family at the local and national levels.,” says BSA spokesman Deron Smith.
The survey has pleased some of those who want the ban lifted: “They come at it from all sides and I think that’s good. I don’t see it as any kind of a biased survey,” Steve Gates a Scoutmaster who supports changing the policy, told NBC.
But, setting aside the idea of having the majority vote on the civil rights of a minority (which hardly ever goes over well), at least one the questions would seem to inspire gay panic among uninformed parents.
“Bob is 15 years old, and the only openly gay Scout in a Boy Scout troop,”the survey asks. “Is it acceptable or unacceptable for the troop leader to allow Bob to tent with a heterosexual boy on an overnight camping trip?”
Um, guess what: Bob is already sharing a tent with a heterosexual boy on an overnight trip. He’s just not out about his sexuality.
It’s the same story we had in the military—this isn’t about allowing gay members to join the Boy Scouts—clearly, they’re already there.
Other questions raise hypothetical scenarios, mostly where an anti-gay church is the sponsor for a Boy Scout troop.
David, a Boy Scout, believes that homosexuality is wrong. His troop is chartered to a church where the doctrine of that faith also teaches that homosexuality is wrong. Steve, an openly gay youth, applies to be a member in the troop and is denied membership. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for this troop to deny Steve membership in their troop?
Presumably Jewish, Hindu and Muslim boys join church-sponsored Boy Scout troops all the time—are they booted out because they don’t believe in the tenets of their sponsor? It feels like a straw-man dilemma.
Here are the other questions on the survey relating to the ban:
A gay male troop leader, along with another adult leader, is taking a group of boys on a camping trip following the youth protection guidelines of two-deep leadership. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for the gay adult leader to take adolescent boys on an overnight camping trip?
A troop is chartered by an organization that does not believe homosexuality is wrong and allows gays to be ministers. The youth minister traditionally serves as the Scoutmaster for the troop. The congregation hires a youth minister who is gay. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for this youth minister to serve as the Scoutmaster?
Tom started in the program as a Tiger Cub, and finished every requirement for the Eagle Scout Award at 16 years of age. At his board of review Tom reveals that he is gay. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for the review board to deny his Eagle Scout award based on that admission?
Johnny, a first grade boy, has joined Tiger Cubs with his friends. Johnny’s friends and their parents unanimously nominate Johnny’s mom, who is known by them to be lesbian, to be the den leader. Johnny’s pack is chartered to a church where the doctrine of that faith does not teach that homosexuality is wrong. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for his mother to serve as a den leader for his Cub Scout den?
The surveys are due in April 4, and the Scouts are expected to make their decision in May, when the National Council will convene.
Do you think the survey is a good idea? Or are the Boy Scouts just looking for fodder to maintain their bigoted policy? Voice your opinion in the comments section below!