The Boy Scouts Are Surveying Members About Their Gay Ban—Is That Good Or Bad?

boy scoutsMore 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!

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  • Cam

    So they are sending out a non-anonymous survey to huge numbers of people raised Mormon or Catholic and asking them to weigh in on gays? Yeah, sounds like they already know which outcome they want.

  • Spike

    Err, it’s pretty historically documented that whenever you survey a majority as to the rights of a minority, the majority ALWAYS sides against the minority. Shock and awe when the results come back exactly as the Christian/Mormon Boy Scout leadership wants.

  • 1EqualityUSA

    The scouts are training for anti-terrorism, headed by FBI. The little militants, deemed, “Explorers,” will earn merit badges for counter terrorism, illegal immigration, guns on campus. Yes! Just what I want to see, a Mormon lead, militarized group having control over “the enemy.” 35,000 scouts, ages 14-21, are participating in the “law enforcement training” program. Dressed in combat fatigues, they’ll raid marijuana fields, rescue hostages, and deal with assaults. Joe Smith is quaking with anticipation! These tiny fighters will use guns with plastic pellets to learn to wage assaults on buses! Mighty, mighty, Mo-Mo-Mormons! Who’s laughing now? And these are the tots filling out a survey on “homosexuals,” mind you. Our tax dollars are going to help these little warriors. Ideal age for brainwashing into the spurious cult. I can just see the specifically trained LDS alpha males in the tents, working the weaker members up into a frenzy. (Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be boy scouts…..)

  • dkmagby

    Those questions are disgustingly biased. They are worded to spark concern of safety that is based off perception rather than fact. Here’s the only question they needed. “Should the BSA quit discriminating against homosexuals?” End.

  • IzzyLuna

    This is ridiculous. The questions steer you to say no. It makes ME wanna say no and I’m a gay man!

  • jwrappaport

    That’s rich – ask the majority if they want to treat the minority equally. May we all live to see the day when all the conservative schmucks pay lip service to how progressive they were when gay equality was still up for political debate.

  • 2eo

    It’s akin to a Fox News poll.

    Today at Fox we are wondering what you think about the GOP proposed “[email protected] is awesome” bill proposed by Glenn Beck, so we have a question as to whether you support it.


  • jwrappaport

    @2eo: Better yet, Google the Anschluss ballot from 1938 with a giant JA and a tiny little nein.

  • 2eo

    @jwrappaport: Isn’t it sad there are direct and absolute parallels between that bullshit Nazi annexing and the annexing of the BSA by the religious.

  • EdWoody

    “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?”

    Oh for fuck’s sake. Some of the gayest things I ever saw in my life took place in scout tents. This is precisely the time and circumstance when boys do their sexual exploring – away from parents, nothing but other boys around, what stays in Vegas etc.

    They could end up gay, they could end up straight, they could end attracted to bicycles. It doesn’t matter. Boys will play around, flash what they’ve got, see what the others have got, and satisfy their curiosity whether “gays” are allowed in or not.

  • Seth

    The whole beginning of that first scenario, up to “Steve” is irrelevant in the face of existing policies held by an outside group like the BSA. Does the BSA allow chartering groups to impose additional restrictions on their Scouts? Identifying Steve as an ‘openly gay youth’ is, to bigots, equivalent to establishing a long list of moral flaws, uncontrolled impulses, and dangerous potentials which are not itemized here. Don’t let that slide under your radar when you unpack the word problem.

    It actually doesn’t say why Steve was rejected. It’s a meme trap that is read very differently by bigots who know the code, than it is by the victims of homophobia. Phrased as it is, it tends to suggest that homosexuals feel they carry a trump card and must always be accepted. The bigot decodes that as a challenge which must be bluntly put down, while others, skimming over it, assume an injustice which must be eliminated. Maybe Steve lived too far away, had a criminal record, didn’t show enough enthusiasm for scouting or was identified as a bully by some of the other youths; we really don’t know.

    Let’s rewrite it in a way that makes it kind of obvious: “David, a Boy Scout, believes that people can be possessed by demons. His troop is chartered to a church where the doctrine of that faith also teaches that demons can take over the bodies of the weak and practice evil. They believe this is incurable, and such people should be shunned. Steve, an openly epileptic youth, applies to be a member in the troop and is denied membership for reasons not specified. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for this troop to deny Steve membership in their troop on any basis?”


    This is just a way for the BSA to “test the waters” for their new policy. If the survey results come back saying that the members do not want the ban lifted, then the BSA can say “our members have spoken” and put the blame on the members and not on the organization. Let’s see what happens…

  • loren_1955

    The Scouting organization has put itself into a very awkward position as being the pinnacle of morality, saying that allowing gays or not is based on the moral code of Scouting. Strange, the obsession of the organization on where a person put’s his penis. There is so much more to a moral code than that.
    Having seen the questions being posed, I don’t see similar questions, should little Johnny share his tent with another boy that is having heterosexual sex? should Scouting allow leaders that are having sex out of wedlock or with people not their spouse? and on and on. Seems very hypocritical to being a bastion of morality, yet only be concerned about one facet, ignoring all others.

  • oldgayvermonter

    The whole idea of a “poll” is a farce. The BSA national leadership is about two things…1) money and 2) numbers. Since the Catholic and LDS churches sponsor the largest number of troops it is a forgone conclusion that their discriminatory policy will stand. Any glimmer of hope to the contrary is from inhaling pixie dust. And this is from a 20+ year (ex)scout leader – who couldn’t re-up if I wanted to.

  • D9W

    This is like asking all the whites in the south back before the civil war if they want to let the blacks* to have equal rights and give them the right to vote and marry. I guess the Boy Scouts of A are the new KKK.

    *Yes, I know it’s African American, but they had other words back in the 1890- 1950’s that, lets say, were less then PG than Black.

  • EGO

    The Mormans have plenty of gay people, check out the Fall of ’55 in Boise, Idaho.
    The problem is that a lot of people, gay included, have been misinformed over the years about gays, demonizing them with falsehoods. The majority of gay people do not force themselves on non-gay people. More likely, the jockey type heterosexual guys are likely to force gay guys to satisfy them. I saw it when I was in the military.

    Just like science has proven the Earth is not flat, they have also proven that gays are not abnormal and are part of the human race as are those animals in the animal kingdom.

    It is time for the BSA to move up to modern times and leave the dark ages behind.

  • MarvelUs

    I happen to know that Baptist kids pee in the deep water baptismal pools and that even evangelicals have erections. The notion that somehow banning human behavior will make everything go toward some fictional religious ideal is bunk. There are more men and women conscious of and comfortable with their sexuality in our times than ever. That is a blessing, it can’t be banned!

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